Lightfoot, City Council Spar As Law Changing Speed Camera Ticket Procedures Blocked

A move to loosen rules on when a speed camera ticket can be issued hit a procedural roadblock in the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, with several members of the council sparring after a vote on the measure was delayed.

Using a parliamentary procedure called “defer and publish,” by which two alderpersons can delay a vote on an ordinance, the speed camera bill vote was delayed by Ald. Jason Ervin. The move means that the ordinance won’t be voted on until at least the July City Council meeting.

The new measure would eliminate 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.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had spoken out forcefully against the vote, but was dealt a legislative defeat when the measure narrowly passed the Finance Committee by a 16-15 vote on Tuesday, setting up a potential full council vote on Wednesday.

Instead it was Ervin, who voted against the measure in committee, that 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, 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.

“(Are you) going to play this game on every item that comes up?” Lightfoot asked.

“Yep,” Beale replied.

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.

“The City Council Committee on Finance voted to sanction higher speeds around schools and parks when it seems that every day that there is another traffic fatality because of speeding and reckless driving,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “It is simply unconscionable that, after losing 173 Chicagoans to speed-related traffic fatalities in 2021, some Aldermen are acting with so little regard for public safety.”

Lightfoot said 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.

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