Threshold for speeding tickets stalls due to Lightfoot’s party pushing off final vote

(CBS)—Chicago (CBS)—At least one person was killed and several others Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her allies delayed a final vote on the proposal to raise the threshold for issuing Chicago speed camera tickets because they knew they would lose.

The City Council was expected to vote on Wednesday, a day after the Finance Committee voted 16 to 15 to raise the speed camera ticket threshold from 6 mph over the limit to 10 mph over the limit.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and six other aldermen, however, moved to “defer and publish” the ordinance, delaying a final vote until the next City Council meeting in July.

“Being a leader in the council means doing things that may not be popular with everyone. Of course, no one wants to be in trouble with the law, but given what’s going on in so many of our neighborhoods these days, I don’t think this is the best course of action “Ervin said this.

In the ninth ward, Ald. Anthony Beale, who has been fighting for more than a year to raise the threshold for speed camera tickets, objected to the delay, saying his item had been deferred before and could not be delayed again..

“You cannot defer and publish twice, based on our laws,” he stated.

Since that previous deferral occurred while moving a measure from Rules to Finance Committee, Ervin says the latest delay is a different matter altogether. After reading from a section of state law that allows two aldermen to request that a committee report be postponed, Mayor-elect Lightfoot concurred.

Beale and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) moved to delay the final vote on virtually every other ordinance presented by the Finance Committee after the speed camera ordinance was delayed, apparently in retaliation for the delay of the speed camera showdown, including tax funding for repairs at several CTA stations and bonding for a West Side affordable housing project.

Beale and Lopez’s actions have left Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) “embarrassed,” he said, and he pleaded with them to stop thwarting every other piece of legislation, but they refused.

A five-minute recess called by Lightfoot gave Beale and Lopez a chance to stop their obstruction of other bills after the report of Finance Committee chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) had been completed.

Unless Beale and his allies can arrange a special meeting before July 20, the final vote on Beale’s bid to raise speed camera ticket thresholds back to 10 mph will not take place until the next regular City Council meeting on July 20.

It’s “truly unconscionable” for aldermen to consider lowering the lower speed camera ticket threshold, Mayor Lightfoot said in an interview.

After the meeting, she said, “A few miles per hour can make the difference between life and death, quite literally.”. “Deaths rise in direct proportion to increases in speed limits and speeds.”

“This is a crisis that needs to be addressed because we are losing Chicagoans – it seems like every other day – due to speeding drivers. Anyone, including myself, can’t accept that as the status quo “She went on.

Lowering the speed limit to 6 mph was approved by both the mayor and the City Council as part of the city’s 2021 budget plan, and Lightfoot has repeatedly argued that it’s about public safety, claiming it would reduce traffic accidents and fatalities, but the CBS 2 Investigators found that they’ve actually gone up since the 6 mph threshold went into effect last year.

There were 142 traffic deaths in the city in the 12 months before the change, and 181 in the 12 months after – including 13 fatal accidents and 13 deaths near speed cameras.

The mayor and her allies have thwarted Beale at least three times in the past when he has tried to get a full City Council vote.

After the city’s speed cameras began issuing tickets in March of last year, his ordinance was introduced, but a public hearing on his proposal was not held until last week.

Drivers who are caught in the crosshairs of speed cameras while traveling 6 to 9 mph over the speed limit will no longer be subject to citations, and only those who are traveling at speeds greater than 10 mph will be. Those who exceed the speed limit by ten miles per hour or more will still receive a $35 fine, and those who exceed the limit by eleven miles per hour or more will still receive a $100 fine.

As part of the city’s 2021 budget plan, Lightfoot and the City Council reduced the ticket speeding threshold from 10 mph to 6 mph on March 1, 2021. After the new, lower threshold went into effect, the number of speeding tickets issued quickly increased, resulting in fines totaling tens of millions of dollars last year.

Even though Beale’s ordinance was introduced within weeks of the new lower threshold taking effect, his proposal was stalled for more than a year as Lightfoot’s allies successfully blocked at least three of his attempts to force a vote by the full City Council during that time.

“Speed kills,” Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi told aldermen when the measure finally came up for a Finance Committee vote on Tuesday. “We’re seeing here in our city and other cities across the country,” Biagi said in a statement to aldermen.

There was a 15% increase of traffic deaths in 2021, compared to 2020, according to Biagi, and that increase has been attributed to speeding. Her estimate of 174 traffic deaths in 2021 was the highest in the previous decade, according to her.

As Biagi noted, “people are driving fast and furious and distracted. They’re driving drunk and they’re not wearing a seatbelt.” “We want to do everything we can to encourage people to slow down in our city. It will save a lot of lives.”

After a three-year period of 2016-2018, a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that Chicago’s speed camera program prevented 208 injury collisions, a reduction of 12 percent when compared to the years 2010-2012, before speed cameras were installed in Chicago. There were also 15% fewer serious crashes, which translates to 36 fewer people who were seriously injured or killed, according to the researcher.

Chicago’s 15th Ald. Raymond Lopez, however, pointed out that the UIC study didn’t take into account how the lower 6 mph threshold would have affected traffic accident statistics in his city.

I think we’re mixing apples and oranges in our attempt to show that this is in fact connected to what happened, says Lopez.

They said they’re working on it, but it’s going to be a challenge because schools were shut down for part of the year due to a pandemic, so many speed cameras weren’t operating because they’re only used in school zones that are currently operational.

To his credit, Lightfoot, who had previously insisted that lowering the speed limit was solely for reasons of public safety, finally admitted as much earlier this week, saying that returning to the 10-mph limit would eat up nearly $45 million in city funds earmarked for public safety programs, infrastructure upgrades, and the employment of Safe Passage workers in neighborhoods close to schools and parks.

Mayor Beale told CBS 2 earlier this week that she’s now trying to change her argument because her first argument didn’t work. “This is what we’re dealing with, no doubt about it. A huge money grab, and it sounds like now she’s willing to admit it, but it’s been about public safety the whole time. It’s a tough choice.”

The ordinance’s future is still up in the air. The mayor has the authority to veto any ordinance that passes, and Beale almost certainly does not have the votes to override a veto if the final vote is delayed, despite the fact that the delay signals that Lightfoot and her allies do not have the votes to defeat Beale’s ordinance.

By raising the speed camera ticket threshold from 10 to 20 mph, Chicago’s aldermen are “acting with so little regard for public safety,” Lightfoot said in a statement.