City Council passes bill for speed cameras

April 18, 2012 3:25:06 PM PDT
The Chicago City Council approved a bill Wednesday to allow speed cameras to be installed near parks and schools throughout the city.

The vote passed 33 to 14.

But aldermen put a vote on a second controversial ordinance on hold. They delayed action on allowing a private trust to fund infrastructure projects in the city. The vote on the controversial plan has been rescheduled for next Tuesday.

Chicago's infrastructure is crumbling, and people need jobs, so Mayor Emanuel says, when it comes to passing his controversial Infrastructure Trust plan, time is up on discussing it.

"It's time to go forward," Emanuel said Tuesday. Wednesday, even with the votes to pass the plan, the mayor pulled an about face and deferred the vote for six days.

"We will give that additional time," said Emanuel Wednesday. "We will give additional adjustment. But we will go forward."

The Infrastructure Trust plan is a public-private partnership that gives the mayor the authority to appoint a five-member board to oversee a $1.7 billion fund to pay for various projects.

The adjustments the mayor made include an independent annual report and a mission statement for every project. But alderman who were prepared to vote no Wednesday say those small changes do not address their concerns.

"I don't like the idea of an additional bureaucracy negotiating deals on behalf of the city," said 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz. "I think city should be negotiating its own deals."

"Nobody is saying 'We don't want public-private partnerships.' We do. We just need to make sure there is oversight for these deals," said 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack.

But, a bit more time and the slight changes are all the mayor is willing to give.

"I don't say my way or the highway," said Emanuel. "I adopt changes that make sense but never shortchange the goal."

The mayor did makes changes to his controversial speed camera ordinance. It passed, but 14 alderman voted against it, including 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston. Her concern is that aldermen do not decide where the cameras will go.

"The last time I checked," Hairston said, "I thought we were in a democracy."

A group called the Grassroots Collaborative held a rally on the second floor of City Hall Wednesday morning to protest the mayor's proposed Infrastructure Trust. The plan would use private investors to pump billions of dollars into a trust. That money would be used by the city for a variety of projects, such as CTA upgrades and fixing up public schools.

As for the speed cameras plan, the mayor insists that public safety is the reason behind the cameras, but some argue that research does not support the need, and it is just another source of revenue for the city treasury. Some believe speed bumps around schools and parks already do more to improve safety.

"It is a 'no' vote for me and for quite a few people in the city council today, based on listening to our constituents. They feel is a money grab," 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack said before the key vote.

"We need to modify behavior," said Ald. Munoz. "We need to slow down vehicular traffic around schools and parks."