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Red-Light, Speed Cameras Not Going Away Yet

By  Mike Brockway and Ted Cox | March 18, 2015 5:57am | Updated on March 19, 2015 8:05am

 A speed camera on Archer Avenue would disappear in three years if an ordinance proposed by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) can make it through the city council on Wednesday.
A speed camera on Archer Avenue would disappear in three years if an ordinance proposed by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) can make it through the city council on Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CITY HALL — A group of aldermen failed to force a vote at Wednesday's City Council meeting on a plan to eliminate both red-light and speed cameras by 2018.

The ordinance, introduced by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) in early October, has been languishing in the council's Committee on Transportation and the Public Way since then.

Ald. John Arena (45th) tried to raise the matter directly in Wednesday's City Council meeting. Citing public "mistrust," he said the move to "phase out red-light and speed cameras" over the next three years "does so in a responsible way."

Yet Ald. Edward Burke (14th) said eliminating the cameras constituted "throwing the baby out with the bath water" and called the maneuver an "affront" to Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Aldermen then voted 34-14 to postpone consideration of the issue.

The 14 aldermen on the losing end of the vote were:

• Arena

• Bob Fioretti (2nd)

• Leslie Hairston (5th)

• Toni Foulkes (15th)

• Ricardo Munoz (22nd)

• Scott Waguespack (32nd)

• Nicholas Sposato (36th)

• Willie Cochran (20th)

• Michael Chandler (24th)

• Mary O'Connor (41st)

• Brendan Reilly (42nd)

• Michele Smith (43rd)

• James Cappleman (46th)

• Ameya Pawar (47th).

Sawyer was sick and absent from the meeting.

Arena, Foulkes, Cochran, O'Connor, Smith and Cappleman are all facing runoff elections on April 7.

Mike Brockway discusses the plan:

"We were hoping we would go through the committee process," said Brian Sleet, Sawyer's chief of staff, before the meeting. "While were talking about these other ideas for reforming the cameras, we should discuss a realistic way to address these policies. We want to discuss it and see where our colleagues stand."

Sleet said Sawyer's plan is a responsible way to rid the city of the unpopular automated traffic cameras by giving the city time to find alternative streams of revenue to replace the tens of millions of dollars in fines generated every year and allow vendor contracts to expire as scheduled. The aim is to end both the red-light and speed camera programs by 2018.

 Skeptical Aldermen Bob Fioretti, John Arena and Scott Waguespack discuss the vote to table the traffic-camera ordinance with Law Department attorney Jeffrey Levine (back to camera) after the meeting.
Skeptical Aldermen Bob Fioretti, John Arena and Scott Waguespack discuss the vote to table the traffic-camera ordinance with Law Department attorney Jeffrey Levine (back to camera) after the meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

"That's enough time to find other revenue sources. Instead of making it a political football, just let it sunset," Sleet said.

Waguespack, who's been highly skeptical of the red-light cameras and voted against the speed cameras, said the plan also helps the city avoid paying millions of dollars in penalties for early termination of the camera contracts.

"I think it's a good idea," Waguespack said. "Because it allows the camera contracts to run their course."

Mark Wallace, who heads up the anti-camera group Citizens to Abolish Red-Light Cameras, said he had mixed feelings about the proposal.

"I'm glad to hear they're thinking of ending the program," Wallace said. "But I'm unhappy to hear it would continue for another three years. They should vote to end this program right away."

Red-light cameras and speed cameras have been political fodder during a heated election year for both aldermen and the mayor's office.

While Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Chicago) said he wants to eliminate the cameras immediately if elected, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who supports the cameras, announced recently the city has decommissioned 50 red-light cameras at 25 intersections across the city.

City speed cameras near parks and schools issue $35 tickets for exceeding the speed limit by 6-9 mph and $100 for drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more.

Chicago has red-light cameras at 174 intersections, issuing $100 tickets that have generated close to $600 million since 2003.

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