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by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot and an overwhelming majority of aldermen on Tuesday turned aside an effort by Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) to repeal a lower threshold for speed camera tickets that went into effect earlier this year, resulting in a massive surge in tickets for drivers.
On March 1, the city’s network of speed cameras began issuing $35 tickets to drivers caught going 6 mph to 9 mph over the limit. Previously, only drivers caught going at least 10 mph over the limit were being ticketed.
Just weeks after the new lower threshold went into effect, Beale introduced a proposal to end the ticketing of drivers going 6 mph to 9 mph over the limit, and to resume ticketing only drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Those caught exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph would still receive $35 tickets, and those going 11 mph or more over the limit would still get $100 tickets.
However, his plan never got a hearing in committee, and on Tuesday the alderman tried to use a parliamentary maneuver to force a vote by the full City Council. However, after Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) noted that Beale hadn’t filed his motion with the City Clerk’s office at least five business days before Tuesday’s meeting, as required by City Council rules, Lightfoot ruled Beale’s motion out of order, and when Beale appealed, the City Council voted 35-9 to uphold the mayor’s ruling.
CBS 2 has documented how the number of speed camera tickets issued by the city has exploded since the new lower threshold went into effect.
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The CBS 2 Investigators looked at publicly available data as well as information received from a public records request for a 36-day period before and after the change took effect. We learned that citywide tickets went up from 35,784 in the five weeks before March 1 to 398,233 in the five weeks after. Those 398,000 tickets amounted to $871,035 in fines. Some of those tickets could have been first warnings that did not result in a fine owed.
Beale said the surge in tickets is proof that the decision to lower the threshold for citations was about bringing in more money for the city, not about improving safety on the streets.
“We were told during the budget process that the speed light camera was a safety issue, but I bring before you today that there were 150 fatalities – and that is entirely too many – but only one weas around a speed light camera,” he said. “This has nothing to do with safety. This has everything to do with revenue, revenue, and revenue.”
Before the mayor blocked his call for a vote on repealing the lower threshold for speed camera tickets, Beale urged his colleagues to support his proposal, saying it would ease the burden on drivers, especially poor people who can least afford the fines.
“I think it is something that our communities are asking for. It has been reported on over and over and over again. Our people are tired of being hit with these tickets by going just slightly over the speed limit,” he said. “Our people are struggling. They’re trying to make ends meet, and I think we need to give our people a little bit of relief by taking this ordinance back to where it was.“
The defeat of Beale’s proposal on Tuesday is not necessarily the end of the debate. He could still try to force a City Council vote at a future meeting if he files his motion at least five business days ahead of time.
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