Aldermen seek to limit speed-camera ordinance

February 15, 2012 2:47:47 PM PST
Some Chicago aldermen are blinking as they consider Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to install speed cameras near schools and parks.

Several aldermen want some limits on when during the day the cameras will be used before they will vote for the cameras. In addition, other aldermen are opposed to installing the speed cameras anywhere in the city.

Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston says she will be an "absolute no vote" on the mayor's plan to install speed cameras in Chicago.

"We just keep coming up with fine after fine after fine and we want to turn around and say, 'but we didn't raise taxes," said Ald. Hairston.

Hairston, one of the few no votes on Mayor Richard M. Daley's controversial parking meter deal, is among the small group of aldermen who won't rule out similar citizen anger later this year if drivers begin receiving computer-generated speeding tickets.

"If you talk to people out there on the street -- neighborhood residents, businesses -- they don't think this is the right approach to making neighborhoods safer," said Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward.

"I didn't take this on because I thought it was popular," said Mayor Emanuel. "I took it on because I thought it was the right thing to do."

For Mayor Emanuel's administration the speed cameras could raise tens of millions of dollars in new revenue to help close projected deficits in 2013.

"I do think it's an opportunity for the city to make money, but at the same time I think it's an opportunity to make sure that young people are safe around their schools and their parks," said Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward.

Still, other aldermen want more details before they'll support speed cams.

"It really depends on how this is enacted, where the money is going before I can sign on," said Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st Ward.

"There's no reason for people to be ticketed after four o'clock if it's around schools," said Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th Ward.

In what could be a related action, the council voted to join a plan allowing the Illinois comptroller to deduct from tax refunds past due fines and fees.

"How else do we collect our debt that is owed to us?" said Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th Ward.

The mayor again explained his emphasis on collecting fines levied in the past and the future.

"We all decided no to taxes but yes to responsible behavior," said Mayor Emanuel.

"We are fining the heck out of people and at some point they're going to say, 'why don't you raise taxes already,'" Ald. Hairston said.

A speed-camera ordinance is still being drafted at City Hall, presumably by the mayor's office. No matter how soon the measure is approved it cannot be implemented in Chicago until July 1st. The mayor's floor leader, Alderman Pat O'Connor, said if the ordinance is approved, the speed cameras will be introduced slowly in selected areas.