Mayor Lori Lightfoot Wednesday blocked an effort to roll back a law hitting drivers who zip past Chicago parks and schools monitored by speed cameras traveling between 6 mph and 9 mph above the limit with $35 tickets.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) led the push to prevent a vote on the measure Wednesday, using a parliamentary procedure to delay a vote until the City Council’s next meeting, scheduled for July 20. That tactic is often used by members of the City Council to push back an up-or-down vote when the outcome is uncertain.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward), a frequent critic of Lightfoot who has been trying to strike down the additional fines since they were approved as part of the city’s 2021 budget, accused Lightfoot of violating the City Council’s rules to block a vote Wednesday.
Lightfoot rejected his appeal after a tense exchange.
After the meeting, Beale said Lightfoot was acting like Chicago is a “dictatorship” and blasted her for what he said was preventing the democratic process from taking place.
“I felt confident that we had the votes,” Beale said, vowing to keep pushing for a vote.
In retaliation, Beale and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) blocked votes on nearly a dozen measures advanced by the Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee, prompting a clearly frustrated Lightfoot to briefly recess the meeting and leave the rostrum.
That brought a rebuke from Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward), who proclaimed himself “thoroughly embarrassed” by the hostility that marked Wednesday’s meeting.
The 16-15 vote of the Finance Committee late Tuesday to advance Beale’s proposal came over Lightfoot’s vehement objections. After the vote, Lightfoot threatened to retaliate against those who voted with Beale — urging Chicagoans to “remember their names,” even though six of those votes came from members of her City Council leadership team.
Even if the measure gets 26 votes and passes the City Council, there would not be enough votes to override her veto. In 2006, former Mayor Richard M. Daley issued the last veto by a Chicago mayor. Beale acknowledged he likely did not have enough votes to override a Lightfoot veto.
Drivers snapped traveling 10 mph over the limit have always gotten a $35 ticket, while drivers going at least 11 mph over the limit near parks and schools monitored by speed cameras installed under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel will continue to face a $100 ticket, unchanged from previous years.
Beale accused Lightfoot and her administration of using the speed cameras to generate between $40 million and $45 million “off of the backs of Black and Latino Chicagoans.”
Beale called it an “injustice” that there are no speed cameras near parks and schools in Lincoln Park and very few downtown and along the lake.
Lightfoot said that revenue was needed to fund vital programs, including the Chicago Police Department and afterschool programs for children and teens, while at the same time giving lead-footed drivers a financial incentive to slow down.
In 2021, traffic crashes killed 174 people in Chicago, a 15% increase as compared with 2020, according to data from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
City officials credit Chicago’s 162 speed cameras with reducing the number of severe crashes by 13% in 2021, as compared with 2020, preventing 36 people from being seriously injured or killed. But that data the does not isolate changes in crash data attributable to Lightfoot’s decision to begin ticketing drivers traveling 6 mph over the limit near parks and schools with a speed camera.
After taking office, Lightfoot pushed through a series of reforms that prohibit the city from suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid parking tickets while reducing penalties and offering debt relief to the city’s poor.
Lightfoot has said Chicagoans who choose to speed should be penalized.
In other action, the City Council unanimously confirmed the appointment of Ald. Monique Scott (24th Ward) to replace her brother, former Ald. Michael Scott Jr., who resigned earlier this month.
Scott appeared to indicate that she will run for a full term in February’s election, telling her new colleagues she was prepared to work hard for the “next four years” in a brief address.
Scott recused herself from one of her first votes as a member of the City Council, which voted unanimously to sell two lots to her sister-in-law, Natashee Scott, the wife of the former alderperson.
The City Council also voted unanimously to approve a measure authored by Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward) that would require all apartment complexes with more than 100 units and those designated for residents older than 55 that do not have air conditioning to cool and dehumidify all indoor common areas to give residents a respite from their sweltering apartments.
The measure was prompted by the deaths of Delores McNeely, 76, Janice Reed, 68, and Gwendolyn Osborne, 72, on May 14 in a Rogers Park senior apartment complex that did not have air conditioning during a mid-May heat wave.