Lightfoot reacts to record Chicago speed camera tickets with limited relief

Lightfoot reacts to record Chicago speed camera tickets with limited relief

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced relief for low-income residents just weeks after an Illinois Policy Institute investigation found her lower threshold for speed camera tickets created more fines in 2021 than Chicago has residents.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is tapping the brakes on aggressive speed camera enforcement, offering temporary ticket relief after an investigation found Chicago in 2021 issued over 2.8 million speed camera tickets – more tickets than the city has residents.

She is creating the “Clear Path Relief” program, offering select low-income Chicagoans limited forgiveness on red light and speed camera tickets, compliance tickets and parking violations. Lightfoot said the polices are a first step toward addressing the regressive fees.

“With these ongoing set of reforms, we hope to give Chicago motorists additional options to clear the slate and make payments appropriate for their income level,” said Lightfoot, who is seeking reelection in February 2023.

Lightfoot announced the programs just weeks after an Illinois Policy Institute investigation found Chicago issued more speed camera tickets in 2021 than the city has residents. The cameras issued $89 million in fines – more than double the revenue in previous years.

Of that amount, almost two-thirds, or $55.9 million, came just from the $35 tickets Lightfoot wanted issued starting March 1, 2021, for going 6 mph over the limit. The fines jump to $100 for going more than 10 mph over the limit.

The fine relief measures are in Lightfoot’s 2022 budget and give Chicago drivers a new one-time “fix-it” defense to void a vehicle compliance ticket issued by the city before Dec. 31, such as an invalid sticker or expired license plates. Motorists can dismiss the ticket fine by contesting the violation and purchasing a $95 vehicle sticker from the city.

Lightfoot campaigned on the promise of reforming Chicago’s fines and fees programs, calling the tactics regressive and more focused on generating revenue than safety.

But since taking office, she has repeatedly raised fines and fees on residents to cover shortfalls in city revenues. Reports find these tickets often take the largest toll on the lowest income Chicagoans.

The mayor has defended her 6 mph ticketing policy and “go-slow approach” to debt relief, noting vehicle fines account for $260 million in annual city revenue. She argued that is a budget shortfall that cannot be filled overnight, so proposed temporary relief.

Drivers enrolled in the Clear Path relief program who pay the original fine for tickets issued within the past three years will have all eligible debt older than three years waived.

New tickets issued and repaid within a year after enrollment will also be halved and penalties on “new unpaid eligible tickets” will be waived until Dec. 31, 2023.

To qualify, Chicagoans must already be enrolled in the “Utility Billing Relief” program or report a household income not exceeding “300% of the federal poverty guidelines,” roughly $82,250 for a family of four.

Drivers must also have an existing vehicle-related debt with the city of Chicago.

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