Chicago Ald. Ed Burke wants to fine pedestrians up to $500 for ‘distracted walking’

Chicago Ald. Ed Burke wants to fine pedestrians up to $500 for ‘distracted walking’

The proposal would fine pedestrians $90 for checking their phone at city intersections and $500 for the offense of being distracted.

“Talking while walking” could soon become a punishable offense for the thousands of Chicagoans who use their cell phones on the go if two city officials have their way.

The proposal, co-sponsored by Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward, and Alderman Anthony Beale, 9th Ward, would stick pedestrians with a minimum fine of $90 for checking their phone at city intersections. The ordinance’s maximum penalty, if passed by City Council, would slap taxpayers with a $500 fine – for the offense of being distracted.

Illustrating the urgency of the law, the aldermen cited 27 pedestrian deaths tallied during the first half of 2017 – an increase of one death from the same time in 2016. The aldermen insist that the law would “increase safety by eliminating distractions for pedestrians,” according to the Chicago Tribune. However, they failed to provide evidence that phone distractions played a role in any of the cited deaths.

It’s not the first time the 14th Ward’s career alderman has ventured to restrict personal choice on flakey grounds. In August, Burke demonstrated the need to ban driverless cars with a movie clip from “Back to the Future.”

While there’s little real proof the ordinance would save pedestrian lives, it’s certain that public officials would enjoy the fruits of additional revenues from taxpayers’ already strained wallets.

Worse, it’s also yet another discouraging example of Chicago officials governing with misplaced interests.

Burke, while quick to saddle his constituents with punitive fines, simultaneously offers his law firm’s services to politically connected clients in the market for taxpayer-shouldered handouts. For example, Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke, currently has five lawsuits pending to refund millions of property taxes levied on Trump Tower. The alderman has already saved Trump properties $14.1 million in the past.

Working Illinoisans, who face some of the most burdensome tax bills in the country, have yet to enjoy such relief.

Beale boasts a similar pattern of overriding public demand with special interests. Despite the overwhelming popularity for ridesharing apps, the 9th Ward alderman has sought to drive up their costs while accepting campaign donations from pro-taxi groups.

In reality, the ordinance put forth by the aldermen has little to do with public safety and more to do with Cook County’s towering $139 billion of combined, local government debt. But taxes and fees are already, in large part, swallowing up Chicagoans’ incomes. Fining Chicago out of a crisis is simply unsustainable.

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