The Chicago City Council passed 33-14 today a proposal to install automated speed cameras near schools and parks, with aldermen portraying the once hotly contested measure in the same manner in which Mayor Rahm Emanuel has: A simple way to enhance children’s safety.
“This is about the safety of our kids,” said Ald. Ray Suarez (31st). “There are so many idiots out there who refuse to slow down because they only care about themselves.”
As laid out in a substitute ordinance Emanuel wrote last week, the cameras would be in effect in school zones between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by parks during park hours, which are typically 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Speeders who travel between 6 miles per hour (MPH) and 11 MPH over the speed limit face a $35 fine after a warning, and those who go more than 11 MPH over the limit must pay $100 following a warning.
The city will limit itself to a maximum of 300 cameras installed citywide, with aldermen to be notified when a camera is placed in their ward. Aldermen, however, do not have veto power over the cameras, which rankled Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th).
“We are being chipped away at and giving up authority to say what happens in our wards,” Hairston said.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said that he was voting yes with reservations about aldermen not enjoying veto power. Tunney hoped the city would, nonetheless, consult aldermen. “I am cautiously optimistic that I will have a final say,” Tunney said.
Hairston, one of the 14 “no” votes, also lamented another reason for more cameras for the city, which already uses cameras to ticket people that run red lights. “My ward will be covered 90 percent with cameras,” Hairston said. “The ten percent that is not covered is a cemetery.”
Despite assurances from Emanuel – and aldermen at today’s meeting, the city offered no studies that directly correlate speed cameras near schools and parks with a reduction in child injuries and fatalities. Hairston pointed out that one study the mayor’s office provided found child fatalities from automobiles are more likely to happen on Lake Shore Drive than schools or parks.
It is not known what private company will install and operate the cameras, though the city promised a competitive bidding promise.
Besides children’s safety, aldermen spent time during their remarks reminiscing about times they were caught speeding. Before Ald. Joe Moore (49th) spoke, Emanuel joked, “You don’t have to confess to any speeding tickets before you talk.”
Moore then described the council session as “group therapy” for ex-speeders – and proceeded to relay two anecdotes about getting caught speeding.