Welcome to Chicago: America's Largest Speed Trap - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Welcome to Chicago: America's Largest Speed Trap



    Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he doesn’t like politicians’ names on signs, I have an idea: Let’s replace the sign that says “WELCOME TO CHICAGO -- RAHM EMANUEL, MAYOR” with a sign that reads “WELCOME TO CHICAGO -- AMERICA’S LARGEST SPEED TRAP.”

    Because that’s what the city will become if the City Council votes to install speed cameras near parks and schools -- a vote, needless to say, that is as foreordained as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 request that Congress declare war on Japan.     

    Ald. Scott Waguespack, one of five aldermen who voted against the parking meter deal, also plans to vote against speed cameras.

    “I like the sense they’re trying to protect schools, but there’s a much longer list of things you can do before you throw in speed cameras,” Waguespack said, citing speed bumps, barricades, and, peer pressure, in the form of letters and meetings, to encourage parents to slow down when dropping off their children.

    Once these cameras are in place, what suburbanite in his or her right mind would drive in Chicago unless it’s absolutely necessary? One slip up can result in a $100 ticket -- enough to throw off an average person’s monthly budget.

    It’s been argued that higher parking rates, red light camera tickets and speed camera tickets will encourage more people to ride public transportation. I think this is true. I’ve been riding public transportation more often since I got caught by a red light camera at Cicero and Lawrence. The trains to Wrigley Field and the Shedd Aquarium may be more crowded. But the L won’t take you to Beverly or Roseland or Norwood Park or Galewood. The border neighborhoods that depend on business from the suburbs will be hurt most by turning the city into a speed trap.

    At Monday’s press conference, Gov. Pat Quinn was finally forced to answer a question Ward Room has been asking for weeks: if speed cameras are about safety, why won’t violators be issued a moving violation? Quinn, who looked shifty-eyed throughout the entire interrogation, answered by shifting responsibility to the General Assembly.

    “That’s not what the legislation said,” the governor said. “I think it’s important that people understand that around schools and parks, it is important to slow down, and I think the law will encourage all of to slow down around schools and parks. We don’t want any tragic accidents that cause harm to children or anyone else.”

    No one does. But making the city undriveable is not the solution.

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!