Proposed speed cameras in Chicago school zones and parks might do more than protect kids -- they also could keep Mayor Rahm Emanuel from raising taxes in 2013.
Emanuel reportedly budgeted $30 million from speed-camera revenue to fund the budget, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The mayor maintains the purpose of the cameras isn't to raise revenue, though, and told the paper the money made from speeding fines will benefit Chicago children through after-school programs and summer activities. It's a message Chicago has heard before.
"Since day one as mayor, my top priority has been to ensure that Chicago’s children can focus on their studies, not worry about their safety," Emanuel said in February after Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on legislation to retrofit red-light cameras with speed sensors.
Before the ordinance went to Chicago's city council this spring, the mayor softened the proposal and said fines will climb from $35 (instead of the original $50) for cars traveling 6-10 miles over the posted limit in the safety zone to $100 for cars traveling 11 miles or more over the limit.
He also capped the number of cameras in a given area, all along denying they're a smokescreen to raise more money. In the end, aldermen approved the idea.
"I'm hopeful that the people slow down, and they avoid fines and the tickets," Ald. George Cardenas (12th) told NBC Chicago Thursday. "I'm for safety, the kids."
Emanuel on Wednesday presented his 2013 budget to the council and promised not to raise taxes or create new fees. He didn't mention the cameras in his speech, but it's clear to some how the cameras play into the city's budget gap.
"Speed cameras will help with the budget crisis we're in," said Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th).
The cameras aren't in place yet as a debate continues over their legality, but they're expected to go up sometime soon.