After a contentious battle, the Chicago City Council voted not to raise the threshold to trigger tickets from the city’s speed cameras, handing a victory to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration.
By a 26-18 vote, the council voted to reject an ordinance that would have required motorists to be observed exceeding the speed limit by 10 or more miles per hour before receiving a camera citation, rather than the 6-mph threshold that was enacted by Lightfoot as part of the 2021 budget agreement.
The new measure would have eliminated a $35 citation for drivers who are photographed going between six and nine miles per hour over the speed limit, and would instead set the threshold for receiving tickets at 10 miles per hour over the limit.
Lightfoot had spoken out forcefully against the proposal, but was dealt a legislative defeat earlier this year when the measure narrowly passed the Finance Committee by a 16-15 vote on Tuesday.
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The measure could have gone up for a vote in June, but Chicago Ald. Jason Ervin, who voted against the measure in committee, used the “defer and publish” maneuver to delay a vote on the bill.
Ald. Anthony Beale, who had introduced the ordinance, objected to that move during the June City Council meeting, saying that since a vote had already been delayed once that it could not be delayed a second time.
Lightfoot allowed the “defer and publish” maneuver to proceed, saying that it was within council rules.
In response, Beale and Ald. Raymond Lopez began to act to “defer and publish” several other measures that came up during the council’s meeting, leading to an exasperated Lightfoot to confront the two lawmakers.
The arguments over the new measure have sparked heated debate among lawmakers, with Lightfoot sending out a press release criticizing all 16 City Council members that voted in favor of raising the ticketing threshold.
Lightfoot argued that the fines generated by the cameras help pay for infrastructure, after-school programming and other budget items.
Beale says that the measure would help Black communities in the city, which he says are disproportionately impacted by the speed cameras.
“The majority of that money is off the backs who can least afford it in the Black and Brown communities,” he said.
Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza says that there is a camera in her ward on Indianapolis Boulevard that has raised thousands of dollars alone, and she has noted no change in driving habits despite the threat of speeding tickets.
“That one camera generates over a million dollars a year and it’s not going down,” she said. “If it was changing people’s driving habits, we would see that revenue go down.”
Still, there was plenty of opposition to the move, including from 38th Ward Ald. Nicolas Sposato.
“I’m very passionate about this, and I’m very concerned about the safety of kids in my community,” he said.