Lightfoot fights city council effort to limit $59M speed cameras

Lightfoot fights city council effort to limit $59M speed cameras

Chicago aldermen were ready to repeal the lower speed camera tolerance that generated $59 million in fines last year, but the finance committee chairman called off the meeting. Mayor Lori Lightfoot will use the delay to ‘twist peoples’ arms’ and keep the threshold low and lucrative.

Chicagoans nearly saw a repeal of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s lower automated speed camera ticketing policy June 16, but the chair of the city’s finance committee pulled a fast one to delay the vote.

Finance Committee Chairman Scott Waguespack reportedly recessed the panel after a two-hour hearing on speed cameras in anticipation that council members would vote to repeal the mayor’s policy.

The lower limit led to $59 million in tickets for going 6 to 10 mph over the limit and $89 million total for all speed camera violations in 2021, an Illinois Policy Institute investigation found. The cameras churned out more tickets than the city has residents.

Waguespack delayed the vote until 2 p.m., June 21, citing many questions his colleagues had that still need to be answered before the vote.

But Ald. Anthony Beale, the former head of the city’s transportation committee and a longtime opponent of the mayor’s lower threshold policy, said the tactic is about buying time to influence members behind the scenes.

“The administration wants time to twist peoples’ arms to vote against the ordinance,” Beale told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They were working the phones while we were in committee.”

Beale has argued against Lightfoot’s stricter speed ticketing policy since before March 2021, when cameras started issuing drivers a $35 ticket for going six to nine miles over the limit and a $100 ticket for speeding 11 mph or more over the limit.

A University of Illinois-Chicago study found the cameras issued tickets at disproportionate rates to minority communities.

The Illinois Policy Institute investigation also found traffic fatalities increased by 13% in the year after the policy went into effect, despite cameras issuing a ticket every 11 seconds. That casting further doubt on Lightfoot’s claim speed cameras were about improving safety rather than boosting city revenues.

Alongside Beale, Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza and Budget Committee Chair Pat Dowell voiced opposition to the stricter speeding standards at the hearing.

“I don’t believe in speed cameras. Never did,” said Garza … “They prey on people. ... It doesn’t change the way people drive. ... I have one camera that generated over $1 million dollars in a six-month period. It’s not making people go slower. We don’t have any traffic crashes around where the cameras are at. I have more traffic crashes on 130th, where there’s no cameras at all.”

The city has 160 speed cameras, with 27 each generating $1 million or more in fines. Two cameras topped $3 million each, both on the city’s impoverished South Side.

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