A city council committee today passed a controversial proposal to install speed enforcement cameras near schools and parks – despite incomplete information on changes to the proposal, especially how the city might use speeding ticket revenue.
The legislation passed the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee by voice vote, and will be considered by the full City Council next week, April 18.
At the hearing, Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation and the city’s main witness, stressed that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the ordinance to increase children’s safety. “The Mayor is particularly committed to the safety of those who are least able to protect themselves – the children of Chicago,” Klein said.
The city, though, has not specifically laid out to the public – or City Council members – how installing cameras help children. For example, aldermen were provided statistics from the city that showed 800 children pedestrians were seriously injured or killed between 2005 and 2010 due to a motorist.
But Klein could not say – in the face of repeated questions from aldermen – how many of these motorists were speeding or how many of these accidents happened near schools and parks.
The ordinance Emanuel introduced last month would levy $50 fines for speeders caught going 6 miles per hour (MPH) to 11 MPH over the speed limit in so-called children’s safety zones with a speed camera.
The two zones include a school zone between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and parks while they are open. Speeders going over 11 MPH face a $100 fine.
The revised ordinance changes the $50 fine for 6 MPH to 11 MPH speeders to $35. Also, the city set a maximum of 300 cameras that are to be installed throughout Chicago for the ordinance's stated purpose.
The Department of Transportation will figure out where to put the cameras – and then tell aldermen when a camera is placed in their ward. However, Klein acknowledged that aldermen do not get veto power over camera placement.
Revenue from speeding tickets could go toward normal City Council spending.
But no one was at the hearing from the city budget department to explain what might become of the revenue. “I was expecting somebody from budget to be here – they’re not here,” said Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), the committee chairman.
Klein testified that while he could not say for sure how revenue might be spent, he was hopeful it would go toward public safety initiatives.
Aldermen complained that the substitute ordinance was presented at the last minute. “I didn’t get a copy of the new ordinance until 1:25 p.m. so they are questions that I have there,” said Ald. James Cappleman (46th). The hearing was scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
There were additional information issues as well.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) complained that she has been trying for more than a month to get information from the city that is relevant to the ordinance. Ald. Will Burns (4th) wondered how often the city ever tickets drivers going 6 MPH to 11 MPH over the speed limit – but Klein said he did not have the information currently available.
Another question is what company will install and maintain the cameras, particularly amid ties between Emanuel and Greg Goldner, a consultant for Red Flex Traffic System, Inc. – the company that installs Chicago’s red light cameras.
Klein explained that the contracting process for the speeding cameras would be separate from the red light cameras and that he expects five to eight companies to bid on the cameras. However, Klein acknowledged that the city Department of Procurement, and not the City Council, would control the contracting process.