CHICAGO NEEDS MONEY SPEED CAMERAS UPPED

CHICAGO NEEDS MONEY SPEED CAMERAS UPPED
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to start issuing speed camera tickets for cars going 6 mph over the limit

CHICAGO NEEDS MONEY SPEED CAMERAS UPPED

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who campaigned on a pledge to end Chicago’s “addiction” to fines and fees, is counting on a big increase in city collections from speeding tickets and other violations to balance her 2021 budget.

And she wants part of the boost to the bottom line to come from speed cameras across Chicago issuing speeding tickets to drivers caught going as little as 6 miles per hour over the posted limit.

Under the mayor’s proposal, as part of her 2021 budget package, anyone caught by a camera driving from 6 to 9 mph above the limit would get a warning. Getting caught on camera a second time would prompt a $35 ticket in the mail.

Currently, only those caught driving 10 mph above the limit get the $35 tickets. Tickets of $100 are issued to drivers caught speeding by 11 mph or more above the posted limit. The city has the authority to issue the tickets at lower speeds, but has never used it.

Mari Castaldi, director of policy and advocacy at the Chicago Jobs Council, which has helped push fines and fees reform, blasted Lightfoot’s proposal.

HAS CRITICISED TICKET REVENUE IN THE PAST

“Mayor Lightfoot has repeatedly cited the urgent need for our city to break what she has called its ‘addiction’ to relying on revenue from regressive fines and fees, and stop balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it. This proposal does the opposite,” she said. “This proposal is likely to send economically struggling Chicagoans further into debt while offering questionable benefits to public safety.”

According to budget documents released this week as the mayor unveiled her spending proposal for next year, the city expects to bring in $381.5 million in 2021 from fines, forfeitures and penalties. That’s about $38 million more than Lightfoot’s administration projected for 2020.

This year’s actual take from fines, forfeitures and penalties is likely to come in around $230 million, according to budget documents. The $110 million shortfall compared with earlier city projections is due to lower ticket revenue because of the pandemic, according to Budget Office spokeswoman Kristen Cabanban.

MAYOR HAS TOLD THE PUBLIC PREVIOUSLY THEY WILL GET A BREAK

That’s in spite of the fact the city issued more than 35,000 parking tickets during a period this year when Lightfoot told the public they’d be getting a break on ticket enforcement because of the COVID-19 outbreak, as the Tribune has reported.

The big hike in 2021 will come thanks to speed enforcement and the city ticketing more for “safety-related issues” such as cars double parking and blocking loading zones, along with better collection of outstanding fines, Cabanban said

CHICAGO NEEDS MONEY SPEED CAMERAS UPPED

Lightfoot campaigned against the city’s system of fines and fees, frequently criticizing the city for balancing its budget on the backs of taxpayers using regressive penalties on tickets.

Within months of taking office in 2019, the mayor shepherded through the City Council a series of reforms to the city’s fines-and-fees system that ended the practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who haven’t paid parking tickets, reduced vehicle sticker penalties and created a six-month payment plan to give those with ticket debt more time to pay.

CHICAGO NEEDS MONEY SPEED CAMERAS UPPED

Now, Lightfoot wants to start ticketing drivers going just a few miles over the limit at a time many Chicagoans are struggling to make ends meet thanks to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Asked how the mayor’s proposal squares with her promise to fight regressive fines, Cabanban made a distinction between “fines related to safety and fines related to compliance.”

“We continue to focus on reducing reliance on fines related to compliance, like not having a city sticker, or not returning a library book on time,” Cabanban said. “But as we’ve seen some increased risk to public safety, as speeding has increased for example, fines are an important and necessary tool to help improve safety.”

And Cabanban noted the city speed camera statute has allowed for the $35 tickets for cars going 6 to 9 mph over the limit since former Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the system near parks and schools in 2013. The city has never enforced it, however. “Now, given the data, we need to follow through on enforcing it,” she said.

Kyle Whitehead, a spokesman for the Active Transportation Alliance, said the group favors efforts such as speed cameras to slow traffic. “Even an incremental reduction in the speed of cars lessens the likelihood of a fatal crash, especially when a car strikes someone who’s walking or biking,” Whitehead said.

OTHER GOUPS FEEL THERE ARE OTHER ALTERNATIVES

But he also said the organization would prefer a sliding ticket scale based on ability to pay so struggling Chicagoans don’t get “buried in fines.”

Lightfoot also wants to add 750 parking meters to spaces around the city as part of her 2021 budget. While a private company controls the meters through a much-reviled 75-year lease, Cabanban said the new meters will help reduce by about $2 million the annual “true-up” payment the city must make to the company each year for the cost of spaces taken out of commission for things such as roadwork and street festivals.

The speed camera program has been controversial from the moment Emanuel introduced it. He pitched the network of cameras to catch speeders around parks and schools as a way to keep children safe, but critics painted it as a cash grab, pointing out many of the cameras were only tenuously connected to Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools properties.

There are currently a total of 88 speed cameras operating in Chicago, 72 in the vicinity of parks and another 16 near schools. Many school cameras were deactivated when CPS opted to go with an all-remote school day in the spring because of the pandemic, according to CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey.


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1 Comment

  1. SNAFU in all liberal areas where it’s only free money. Is this another incidence of the sheep being shorn?

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