The Chicago City Council voted 18 to 26 on Wednesday to reject an effort to overturn a law hitting drivers who drive past Chicago parks and schools monitored by speed cameras driving between 6 mph and 9 mph over the limit with $35 bills, a win for Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The vote capped months of parliamentary shenanigans and came after a concerted effort by pedestrian and cyclist advocates to convince undecided members of the city council that the tickets were an effective way to reduce headline-grabbing and heartbreaking crashes. .
Drivers traveling 10mph over the limit still received a $35 ticket, while drivers exceeding at least 11mph over the limit near parks and schools monitored by speed cameras installed under the former mayor Rahm Emanuel will continue to face a $100 note, unchanged from the previous one. years.
The vote was a defeat for Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward), who has been one of Lightfoot’s most frequent critics. He blasted the increased fines as a cash grab by the mayor, and said the cameras were disproportionately targeting black and Latino Chicagoans.
Lightfoot said the city needs the $40 million to $45 million generated by park and school radars to fund vital programs, including the Chicago Police Department and after-school programs for children and teens. , while giving lead-footed drivers funding. incentive to slow down.
In 2021, traffic crashes killed 174 people in Chicago, a 15% increase from 2020, according to data from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Lightfoot called the data “punchy” and said it was “surreal” that the city council would consider taking action that would increase those deaths.
But Beale said the increased fines were not designed to keep Chicagoans safe, but to fill the city’s coffers at the expense of its poorest residents, including black and Latino Chicagoans.
“My people cannot afford these fines and fees,” Beale said. “Don’t fall for the oke doke – it’s not a matter of safety.”
Almost all of the progressive city council members voted to keep the fines as they have been since January 2021, backing the mayor with whom they have often disagreed on a high-profile issue.
However, the issue split the city council’s Democratic Socialist caucus with Alds. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd arrondissement) and Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th arrondissement) do not vote, in defiance of council rules. Aldus. Jeanette Taylor (20th arrondissement) was absent on Wednesday
Aldus. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) read the names of those killed in traffic accidents in recent months before urging his colleagues to reject Beale’s proposal
“I cannot sit here in good conscience and vote to add more names to this list,” said Socialist Caucus member La Spata.
Aldus. Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th Arrondissement) voted to keep the fines unchanged, but said he was frustrated with the debate.
“Our city lacks the infrastructure for our cars, our pedestrians and our drivers to co-exist,” said Socialist Caucus member Sigcho Lopez. “In the absence of protected cycle paths, this is a way of ensuring the safety of people.”
The mayor’s decision to prevent a vote on Beale’s proposal last month appears to have paid off, with Ald. André Vasquez (fortieth district) and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th arrondissement) said they would have voted to cancel the fines last month.
Beale said last month he had the votes.
“It’s the classic Chicago way,” Beale said after the meeting.
City officials credit Chicago’s 162 speed cameras with reducing the number of serious crashes by 13% in 2021, compared to 2020, preventing 36 people from being seriously injured or killed. But that data doesn’t isolate changes in crash data attributable to Lightfoot’s decision to start issuing tickets to drivers traveling 6 mph over the limit near parks and schools with speed camera.
After taking office, Lightfoot pushed through a series of reforms that prohibit the city from suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid parking tickets while reducing penalties and providing debt relief to the city’s poor.
Lightfoot said Chicagoans who choose to speed should be penalized.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]