Speed ​​Camera Vote Today: Chicago Councilmembers To Try To Return Ticket Minimum To 10 Mph, But Mayor Lori Lightfoot Is Opposed And Will Likely Veto If Passed

Councilmembers will try to undo Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s unpopular speed camera rules at Wednesday’s City Council meeting after a long and winding battle.

At issue is an ordinance that would restore the minimum of 10 mph above the limit for speed camera tickets, compared to the 6 mph threshold enacted by Lightfoot as part of his 2021 budget.

It is an Ald proposal. Anthony Beale, 9th, has tried, month after month, to take to the City Council floor, most recently during a bitter showdown in June, that led the councilman to compare Lightfoot’s leadership style to a “dictatorship,” and the mayor responded with suggestions that he sounded like former President Donald Trump.

Beale had said then that he believed he had the votes to pass his measure and felt it was undemocratic for the mayor to delay consideration. When Lightfoot’s allies used a legislative move to stop the vote, Beale used the same parliamentary trick on subsequent Finance committee legislation, as the two had the equivalent of a schoolyard meltdown.

The issue of speeding citations has divided the City Council in unexpected ways, with supporters of Beale’s position hailing from across the city and including at least six allied mayors whom Lightfoot has put into leadership positions on the council. Many who agree with Beale argue that the issue is one of racial equity, with Black and Latino residents disproportionately fined.

But Lightfoot also has a coalition of councilmembers behind her who are concerned about a series of recent traffic fatalities that have killed pedestrians and cyclists, one of which was just 3 years. The mayor’s transportation commissioner, Gia Biagi, has noted that black and Latino residents are also the demographic groups most likely to die in traffic accidents.

Lightfoot and his administration have walked a fine line in rebutting Beale and other critics of the ordinance. For the most part, Lightfoot officials have argued that the 6 mph threshold is a critical public safety measure, but have also pointed to the revenue generated by the cameras as a reason to keep them in place.

He recently argued, for example, that Beale’s ordinance is “an $80 million proposition” because of the amount of money the city would lose this year and next. That point is potentially a powerful argument for the City Council since the next election is in February and councilmembers generally don’t want to vote on new fines or tax increases before the vote.

The mayor’s vigorous attempts to protect her policy include releasing a statement last month imploring residents to call their council members directly and ask them to vote no on rolling back the speed camera while it was still in the works. of the finance committee. when that didn’t worksent another statement criticizing the decision and listed the 16 councilmembers who voted yes by name, saying their election was “simply inconceivable.”

Lightfoot is also likely to veto the measure if it passes; that has been a rarely used tactic among Chicago mayors in recent history.

According to city data, 174 people died in traffic accidents in Chicago last year. That was an increase from 151 deaths in 2020 and 120 in 2019, although many of last year’s deaths did not occur in areas where speed cameras are present.

Lightfoot lowered the minimum speeding tickets as part of his 2021 budget, arguing it would make city streets safer and saying he didn’t do it to raise more money. Though she campaigned on a promise to end Chicago’s “addiction” to tickets and fees, the mayor said safety-related issues like speeding deserve tougher enforcement.

Still, the new standards have proven lucrative and drew sharp rebukes from Beale and others who say the mayor is trying to balance Chicago’s books on the backs of poor, working-class residents who can’t afford the new bus tickets. $35 each time they are arrested.

The city sent out more than 1.6 million $35 speed camera tickets in 2021, even though Lightfoot’s new rules didn’t go into effect until March. In the first two months alone, the city issued $11 million in tickets for those caught going 6 to 10 mph, a Tribune investigation found. Nearly 900,000 warnings were also sent to drivers caught going 6 to 9 mph too fast in the month before the lower threshold began.

Drivers are also charged $35 if cameras catch them going 10 mph over the limit, and $100 fines are issued to those caught driving 11 or more mph too fast. While in office, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel established those guidelines for speed cameras; Beale’s ordinance would return to the 10 mph ticket minimum.

The cameras are designed to focus near parks and schools, where people on foot, bicyclists and children may be present. And while pedestrian and bicycle safety organizations tend to support the 6 mph minimum fine on the grounds that it slows motorists down, many Chicago drivers resent yet another example of the city tempering them, and councilors complain the cameras in some cases aren’t really close to schools or parks.

Lightfoot included the change within his massive 2021 budget package, so councilmembers didn’t have to vote on it specifically at the time. Now they are forced to choose a side on a divisive issue shortly before many of them face voters.

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