Once again, one of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s programs has been found to be not working properly while being incredibly costly to Chicagoans. And once again, Emanuel has responded to problems with his program with self-praise of the program and attempting to politicize the situation. Most recently, Emanuel’s much-criticized speed camera program has been found to be extremely faulty – again. Rather than apologizing to the many persons – literally thousands of persons who have paid $35 and $100 tickets before the latest problem with one of Emanuel’s programs has been legally realized – Emanuel continues to blindly praise the program, according to a Chicago Tribune report on Tuesday.
It has been written publicly since Emanuel first mentioned his speed camera program that it was going to be problematic. I, myself, have written numerous times about the speed camera lights that are flashing and issuing tickets along Ogden Avenue along Douglas Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side – as well as other locations – where children are not found walking! One would be hard pressed to find any adults walking along those sidewalks at any time of day or night! Yet, the speed cameras continue to spit out tickets to unsuspecting drivers because they are allegedly supposed to know that the speed limit is drastically dropped from early morning until late night along all streets in Chicago that pass a school or a park. To this day, Emanuel – who has sped past schools himself and been issued tickets – says the program is all about the safety of the children.
Now, according to the report, a woman named Lasheena Hall has finally said enough is enough. The 30-year-old single mom went to the Chicago city offices to appeal of her ticket. The hearing officer actually threw out two of her tickets involving speed cameras. The reason that her tickets were thrown out is based on Illinois laws that have been on the books for ages – long before Emanuel started this speed cam money-grabbing farce in the name of children’s safety. The bottom line with the dismissal of her tickets was that Chicago simply does not follow the law.
The Illinois law clearly states that Illinois prohibits the enforcement of a reduced speed limit near schools except on school days when school children are present. This Illinois law should do more than throw Emanuel’s speed cam farce out of court, it should also throw Emanuel’s speed cam farce off the streets of Chicago. The results of a lengthy and in-depth speed camera investigation performed by the Chicago Tribune reveals that Emanuel’s speed cam operation has cost Chicagoans – and others who travel to the city – millions of dollars when the city does not have enough proof to assert that there were children present when the tickets were issued. As many witnesses traveling the streets of Chicago can attest, those cameras are flashing and apparently issuing tickets when no children are on the sidewalks near schools. The investigation accuses the Emanuel administration and the vendors who profit off the cameras of using broad interpretations of what is defined as a school day, says Ars Technica. Also, they are said to use a broad interpretation of who actually looks like children – the people the program allegedly serves. Common sense should have told Emanuel that this money-grab called speed cameras is going to turn into a bigger, more time consuming, costly headache than it is worth.
Incredibly, some 110,000 tickets were issued to motorists without a speck of proof that children were in danger. The law says that this must be done before a person is ticketed and needs to pay the fine. The estimate is that the tickets could easily add up to as much as $4 million for the city of Chicago. Beyond that, another 62,000 tickets appear to have been issued during summer months when the schools’ doors are locked and no students are present.
Sadly, the extremely unpopular 2-year-old program – which now looks like it never should have been initiated with all the problems it has produced for the city’s travelers – has many problems with its management and oversight. The program – which has issued more than 2.1 million tickets, including warnings, at 146 cameras near parks and schools – appears to be a bigger problem than the failed red light camera program that Emanuel also has his fingerprints all over. That program ended up in the courts with people being found guilty of all sorts of illegal money-making crimes. The most recent problem, involving the speed cameras, has cost drivers more than $81 million in fines since it started.
There are 72 cameras near 28 Chicago schools. They have garnered some 500,000 tickets and brought in about $20 million in fines! The fines are $35 for vehicles moving 6-to-10 miles an hour over the limit and $100 for vehicles moving 11 miles per hour or more over the limit. Cameras are turned on early morning and stay on until 7 PM. The speed limit when children are supposedly present is 20 mph while other times it is 30 mph. Of much greater concern among motorists who believe they have been unfairly ticketed are the speed cams near parks. The parks’ speed cameras are in operation many more hours and along streets that are much busier – which equates to more questionable tickets being issued – even when no one is present on the sidewalks. And with streets such as Ogden Avenue along Douglas Park, the sidewalk and the street aren’t even close to one another. There is an inner drive on both sides of Ogden which keeps any potential pedestrians very far from the traffic. It’s appears incredibly criminal that such a location would even have a flashing speed cam all day and well into the night.
Two years ago, options to the speed cameras which would make the streets around schools absolutely safe were made available to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others, but they have been totally ignored. The options involve speed bumps and closing off streets around schools during the school day. The only problem with this option, obviously, is that it wouldn’t generate any money for the city of Chicago!
Emanuel’s Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, as one could expect, is defending the program by saying that there is accuracy in ticketing. Apparently, many citizens and hearing officers are saying she is quite incorrect. Beyond her incorrectness, one of the problems, naturally, is that when a person feels he is unfairly ticketed, he must fight the ticket which involves taking off work and standing in line for his turn to get justice at a hearing. Of that, Emanuel simply shrugs off his constituents’ concerns by saying that there is a process in place for people to follow if they choose to fight tickets. While this may be true, he obviously should be able to figure out that the common people he represents in Chicago can’t take a day off work as easily as he attempts to make the process sound. They have to stand in line to get justice much differently than he can. He dismisses this latest problem for Chicago travelers by sounding totally uncaring as well as out of touch with his constituents – a strong criticism he has faced throughout his entire time in the mayoral office in Chicago.
Furthermore, Emanuel blatantly politicizes the program in the midst of the controversy by insisting again that it’s all for the safety of the children – rather than caring about what the impact of the tickets has had on people – people who should not have been ticketed. Again, if he gave a damn about the safety of the children, there would be speed bumps around every school and wooden horses blocking all streets around schools from an hour before it opens until an hour after it closes. But no, those logical and child-safety solutions do not get a response – let alone action. Other reports blasting the speed camera program include the Sun-Times which is calling for a complete review of the program.