Chicago City Council Members Wave Caution Flag on NASCAR Race, Say Mayor Hasn't Consulted Them on Challenges of Event

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While Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is touting the positive impacts that the announced NASCAR street race in the city will have, some members of the City Council are pushing back, saying that they weren’t consulted and that they have been shut out of discussions about the event.

The race is set to take place on July 1 and 2 of 2023, and will feature a 2.2-mile circuit through the streets of Chicago.

Cars are set to race down Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive, and the racing association has announced a three-year deal with the city.

The news was met with excitement in some circles, but several members of the City Council that represent wards impacted by the race have said that they were not given the opportunity to weigh in on any of those plans.

“No member of the City Council has been engaged with any conversations about NASCAR,” Ald. Brendan Reilly said.

“There has been no communication with the impacted aldermen, even though the city has been negotiating this for months,” Ald. Pat Dowell added.

Ald. Brian Hopkins says that the mayor’s office has not provided impacted alderpersons with materials about the event, and emphasized that he just learned about the race’s proposed routing on Tuesday morning.

“They really didn’t even inform us,” he said. “I just found out about it this morning. I’ve been given no briefing material, no background information. She’s been doing this unilaterally.”

Critics of the race have also pointed out the irony of its announcement coming during negotiations over stronger penalties for illegal street racing. In addition, Lightfoot is still battling with the City Council to keep in place stricter parameters for speed camera violations, with her office trying to keep the lower limit at six miles per hour over the speed limit.

The City Council, meanwhile, wants to restore that lower threshold to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

“Just like the sugar tax, you’re seeing elected officials see a large backlash from constituents. They’re getting calls around the clock from people saying ‘why am I getting a ticket for going 6 mph over the speed limit and you can’t catch a person who committed a homicide down the street,’” Austin Berg of the Illinois Policy Institute said.

The mayor’s office says that NASCAR officials will meet with them prior to the race, but it is unclear whether any changes will be made to the routing, or the timing, of the event, with the green flag set to drop in less than a year.

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