CN August 15, 2013

Driven along South Kedzie or West Foster lately? How fast were you going? Mayor Emanuel’s speed cameras already know, and they could be mailing you $100 speeding tickets very soon.  And if it was a school you sped by, between 7AM and 4PM when the speed limit is 20, you could be welcoming a $100 ticket if you were doing as little as 31miles an hour.

The City has been testing cameras for the past month, and has just selected a vendor to install the new devices. So the Tribune wanted to know how the tests went.

“We learned that four test cameras, up for a month, nabbed 93,000 potential speeders,” says the Trib’s Bill Ruthhart, who’s been working on the story. “And that’s not just going one mile an hour over the speed limit,” he explains.  “This is six miles an hour or more, which is the threshold to receive a ticket…22 % of the speeders were going more than 11 mph, so that ticket’s a hundred bucks.  So you add it up, these four cameras, if they were live and issuing tickets it would’ve been about 4.7 million dollars for four cameras in just one month.”

“This year they want to do fifty of the speed cameras,” adds WBEZ’s Alex Keefe. “State law allows for 300 eventually. And it’s not in the intersection. It’s a whole s stretch of road…So I think as these begin to roll out people could begin to feel the effect much more than the red light cameras.”

“These can be within one-eighth of a mile of any school or park in the city,” says Ruthhart. “We’ve done previous stories – it could cover almost half the city. And there’s a provision for them to have mobile units on a van, so there’s – we don’t know how many of those there could possibly be.”

Keefe tells us that the city is projecting 40 to 50 million in revenue from the cameras next year. “But” says Ruthhart,  “These four test cameras alone, it’s 56 million for four cameras.”

The City explains that the revenue won’t be anywhere near as high as the tests indicate, because at some locations 10% of the speeders are emergency vehicles, or the camera doesn’t catch the license plate. Also, only about 75% of the fines are ever collected, and people will learn to drive more slowly over time. “But still,” he says, “it’s a good chunk of change when you get up to 300 cameras.”

Ruthhart tells us that he had an interesting discussion with 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale, who had voted in favor of the cameras. “Immediately after we told him what these numbers were he told us he was changing his mind, he no longer supported it, he was going to do everything he could to put the brakes on this. Good luck, it’s a five year contract – and he’s talking about putting up aldermanic signs in his Ward that say ‘warning, speed trap ahead.'”

Speaking of South Side elected officials, there’s been some chatter lately about Kwame Raoul, and whether the 13th District State Senator might run against Pat Quinn and Bill Daley in the Democratic governor’s race.

“I’ve had my eye on him for a while because politics-wise and policy-wise he’s been someone who seems to be on the make,” says Keefe. Raoul has been chairing the high-profile joint committee in search of a bipartisan pension solution, and has been quite visible in the news lately. “So he seems to be doing all the right things to try to jump up to higher office,” Keefe says. “Whether he’ll actually pull the trigger, I don’t know.”

There’s a reason that he’s being scrutinized, says Ruthhart. “The unions don’t really have anybody to fall behind yet. They’re angry with Quinn. They look at Daley and see the architect of NAFTA, Commerce Secretary, they’re not in love with either one of them.”

Because he might be able to energize African-American and possibly younger voters, he might be a better candidate against well-heeled Republicans like Bruce Rauner, who could argue that it’s time for a level-headed, fiscally conservative businessperson to take charge. But Raoul still has to navigate the special committee, which could vote out a punishing pension solution that’s anathema to organized labor. Says Ruthhart: “I’d be a little surprised if he jumps in at this point, but there’s definitely been some whispers lately.”

And finally, “Welcome to Chicago” was the sentiment expressed in New York City media after the federal court struck down NY’s “stop and search” laws. Many commentators and politicians jumped on Chicago, saying that NYC’s low crime and murder rate can be credited to Stop and Search, and without it, New York would become another Chicago.

Ruthhart shrugs it off. “When you’ve been getting the national headlines that Chicago has for the better part of two years because of your homicide numbers, you’re going to be the negative poster child wether you like it or not.”


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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