Chicago Ald. George Cardenas (12th) spoke out Monday against the activation of a controversial speed camera in his ward.
The speed camera is located in the McKinley Park neighborhood at 3200 S. Archer Avenue, near the Mulberry Playlot Park at 3150 S. Robinson St.
On Monday, the photo enforcement device began issuing warnings to speeding drivers. After a 30-day warning period, tickets will be issued, and drivers caught going 11 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit will face $100 fines.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and proponents of speed cameras say the devices, located near parks and schools, enhance children's safety. But opponents argue that speed cameras are less about safety and more about generating revenue for the city.
"There's no justification whatsoever for this camera being here except (for) ticketing people on their way home, or on their way to work or from work," Cardenas said at a morning press conference in front of the Archer Avenue speed camera near Paulina Street.
The Mulberry Playlot Park, which is not visible from Archer Avenue, is a few hundred feet away from the speed camera, the alderman noted.
"If you're saying to me we need a speed camera because people are speeding, I get it. That's not the reason this camera was put here," Cardenas said. "They said because there was a playlot and there was park across the street, that's the reason for the camera being here. And that just can't be the case."
The alderman said he wants the speed camera taken down and would also support efforts to move the park to another location. The speed camera would essentially be unnecessary if the current park closes, the alderman maintains.
"If we have to petition that the park be replaced or put someplace else, then we should do that," he said. "Because there is no reason, again, for this camera to be here."
Anti-speed camera activists with Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras protested Monday with Cardenas.
The Archer Avenue speed camera "puts an exclamation point on the fact that this is not about safety. This is truly about placement and locations where there would be high revenue-generating cameras," Mark Wallace, director of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, told Progress Illinois. "There is no park. There is an industrial area. You don't really see any type of speed signs to warn people of what the speed limit is here. It really is more of a trap than it is anything about public policy of public safety."
Here's more from Wallace:
In a statement, the city's transportation department said speed cameras have been installed across the city in "children's safety zones" within one-eighth of a mile from schools and parks "in an effort to increase safety and reduce speeding."
Revenue generated by the city's speed cameras is to be put toward "critical safety initiatives and youth programs such as early childhood education, after-school programs and summer jobs programs for teens," the department said, adding that there are currently no plans to expand the city's speed camera program.
The city on Monday also activated a speed camera near Humboldt Park's Keystone Playlot Park, 1653 N. Keystone Ave. The city previously delayed that camera's activation due to park construction, according to the transportation department.
The Archer Avenue speed camera was first installed in September 2014, which prompted backlash from Cardenas, community members and Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras. Its activation had been delayed, according to the transportation department, due to construction at Mulberry Playlot Park.
Cardenas discussed the events leading up to the camera's activation on Monday.
"This was last year, really, when this camera was supposed to go up. We protested it before. They shut the camera down. They increased the speed limit from 25 to 30. Everything to accommodate for this camera to be here," Cardenas explained. "Now, I'm told that the park, the little playlot, they put some money in the playlot to make it look like a playlot, I guess. Again, justifying that this camera should be here."
"I didn't even know that they were improving the park until a couple days ago when I was told that improvements had been completed in the park, and now the camera will go live," the alderman added.
Veronica Vicenteno, who lives on Archer Avenue near the speed camera, spoke to Progress Illinois outside her home. Vicenteno believes the speed camera has made the busy street safer and does not want it removed.
Since the speed camera was installed, Vicenteno said "cars have really slowed down, so it is a lot safer for me to cross the street."
"It's not only about the kids. It's about us adults trying to cross the street late in the evening and during the daytime," she added. "Because it's just crazy. (The cars) fly through."