CHICAGO - One alderman’s move to roll back Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s policy of using speed cameras to ticket cars going as little as 6 mph over the limit advanced Tuesday, while another said he hopes to partially rescind her change.
The council Rules Committee voted to move Ald. Anthony Beale’s ordinance to the Finance Committee for further consideration, though Beale doubts he will get a hearing on his plan.
Beale, one of Lightfoot’s most outspoken critics, wants to stop $35 tickets for cars caught by the cameras going 6 to 9 mph too fast — the lower citation threshold Lightfoot started as part of the city’s 2021 budget.
Beale would keep $35 tickets for cars caught going 10 mph too fast, and $100 tickets for those busted at 11 mph or more over the limit, the rules in place before this year.
Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney, meanwhile, said he wants to find a way to meet the mayor’s stated goal of improving safety around schools and parks with a lower ticket limit, but not so low that it hits drivers so close to the posted speed.
“I want to see the budget implications of going back up to 8 miles over the limit for ticketing, maybe find some happy medium without having such high revenue implications for drivers,” Tunney said. “But then we get into the talk about, ‘Well, that’s $20 million less for the budget. Where is that money going to come from?’ So we have to see, and have those discussions.”
Beale introduced his measure in March, but it was stuck since then in the Rules Committee, where the mayor and her allies send ordinances they don’t want to grant hearings. Beale tried to force a City Council vote on the ordinance last month, but the mayor ruled him out of order.
The Rules Committee on Tuesday also moved to the Budget Committee a Beale ordinance to give the City Council its own attorney, separate from the corporation counsel who’s chosen by the mayor.
On Tuesday, Beale tried to vote both ordinances directly from Rules to the full council, but colleagues rejected that, sending speed cameras instead to the Finance Committee.
Beale said he doubts Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack, a Lightfoot ally, will give it a hearing. Beale said he would then use another parliamentary maneuver to force it to the floor.
A Tribune investigation in August revealed that the number of tickets issued by the cameras around Chicago skyrocketed in the first few months since Lightfoot’s change took effect.
The Tribune found cameras across Chicago issued 322,447 of the $35 tickets during March and April, the first two months of the new policy, which would bring in $11.3 million to city coffers if violators pay all the fines.
That’s a nearly 17-fold increase over those same months in 2019, when the city was only hitting drivers with $35 citations for going exactly 10 mph over the limit and 19,480 such tickets were issued. Drivers caught on camera at higher speeds receive $100 tickets.
In justifying the lower threshold for tickets, Lightfoot — who campaigned on a pledge to end Chicago’s “addiction” to fines and fees — argued last year that with fewer cars on the street during the pandemic, remaining vehicles were driving faster and fatalities were up.