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Alderman Opposed to Park's Speed Camera Says Get Rid of Camera...and Park

By Casey Cora | October 2, 2014 5:28am
 The Southwest Side alderman has a novel idea for eliminating a controversial camera.
The Southwest Side alderman has a novel idea for eliminating a controversial camera.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

MCKINLEY PARK — If there were no park, there could be no speed camera.

That's the thinking by Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who is hoping to close Mulberry Playlot Park in an effort to kill the controversial Archer Avenue speed camera.

"I think that make a lot more sense to me than having a playlot nobody uses and nobody can find," he said.

The alderman has been trying to quell howls of protest from Southwest Side motorists who call the camera's placement — blocks away from the tiny park — particularly egregious.

Casey Cora says getting rid of the park is just one of a few priorities of the alderman:

In a letter to ward residents, Cardenas said he wants to delay the start of the camera's ticketing, raise the speed limit on Archer Avenue and "rezone" the small park, which is tucked away on Robinson Street and invisible from Archer and nearby Ashland avenues.

Cardenas said he'd like to move the park equipment elsewhere in the ward. But the eventual demolition of the park would in theory eliminate the need for a speed camera altogether.

The city has controversially installed about 150 cameras at some 70 locations as part of a citywide program to curb speeding outside parks and schools.

Cardenas said he's already petitioned city transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld to bump up the speed limit along a stretch of South Archer Avenue where the camera's located to 30 miles per hour, up from 25 mph.

The transportation department is "in agreement" with the move but it's pending City Council approval, Cardenas said.

If the measure is approved, the cameras would have to be recalibrated to adjust to the new speed limits.

Cardenas said the camera will go into a "blackout period" beginning Sunday and lasting for two weeks. During that time, no tickets will be issued.

Cardenas, who voted for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's speed camera plan in 2012, has called the Archer Avenue camera "nothing more than a money maker" because of its location along the busy thoroughfare.

The city says the area surrounding the park ranked fairly high in its study of speeding and crash rates near school and park zones, 135th out of 1,500 such zones.

Still, the alderman said he's heard an earful from residents ever since the camera started spitting out warning tickets on Sept. 5. Respondents to a ward office survey overwhelmingly opposed the speed camera, with 23 percent thinking it should be moved to Ashland Avenue and 67 percent believing it should be removed altogether.

Meanwhile, some angry motorists are taking it to the streets with a protest that's planned for 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at Archer Avenue and Paulina Street.

"We're going to find more and more situations where these cameras go up and [Cardenas] is not going to be able to destroy every park. He's not going to be able to weasel his way out of every speed camera," said 12th Ward aldermanic candidate Pete DeMay, who's helping organize Thursday's rally.

"He voted for the cameras. He owns those votes."

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