Birmingham considering new amnesty program

By Ashley Nix

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – A plan is being pushed by one Birmingham City Councilor to bring in revenue and hopefully give citizens a break on fines.

Here's an example: You park downtown, get a ticket and forget to pay it.  That will mean more money and fines.  But a proposed amnesty program could mean if you pay the original amount, the additional money and fines disappear.  "When we did traffic tickets only, it was $1.5 million," City Councilor Carole Smitherman said.  "If it was that only, what kind of revenue could we generate for other cases that might be outstanding."

Smitherman says she would like to see an amnesty program for parking fines, library fines and any other money owed through the revenue department.  "Any of our revenue generating departments that people owe money to," Smitherman said.  "Let's see if we can't get them to come in and pay."

Attorney Marcus Jones represents many who owe the city and says it would benefit clients, many of which cannot afford the fines that keep building up.   "It would be a win for everybody," Jones said.  "Courts would take a lot of cases off the docket, it would loosen the court system, more money come in the city and help those people who can't pay and keep on accumulating fines or court costs."

Chuck Faush, Mayor William Bell's Chief of Staff says any legal, sensible idea to bring in revenue is a good thing.  "In 2008 there was an amnesty program that was very successful," Faush said.  "I don't see any reason why the mayor wouldn't entertain a suggestion to do it all over again."

There is one small snag in doing the program immediately.  Faush says an ongoing court case will prevent action right now, but as soon as the legal issues are resolved the city will work on implementing the amnesty.

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