WBEZ | Chicago speed cameras http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-speed-cameras Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emanuel budget avoids pension woes http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-budget-avoids-pension-woes-110944 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP580286472422.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-f04d8a28-15c2-c46d-badf-148104888658">Just months before facing voters at the polls, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday unveiled a 2015 budget plan that boosts popular city services and closes an estimated $297 million spending gap with a menu of revenue increases.</p><p>But the $8.9 billion spending blueprint does not address what is arguably the city&rsquo;s most pressing financial challenge: a $550 million balloon payment to the city&rsquo;s drastically underfunded police and fire pension funds, due in 2016.</p><p>Instead, Emanuel spent much of his election season budget address to the City Council highlighting his past accomplishments, rather than getting into the details of his spending proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;We are making real progress, but we still have a long way to go,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;For the fourth year in a row, we will balance our budget and hold the line on property, sales and gas taxes.&rdquo;</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal does close the projected deficit, in part, with $54.4 million from what his administration calls &ldquo;closing tax loopholes and revenue enhancements.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes $10 million in new money from an increase of the tax levied on paid parking garages; $4.4 million by cutting a tax exemption for people who who rent skyboxes at Chicago sports venues; $12 million by eliminating a tax break for cable TV companies, effectively raising their tax burden; $15 million by increasing the lease tax on cars and office equipment; and $17 million by cracking down on companies who rent office space in other towns to avoid paying city sales and use taxes.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s bean counters are also relying heavily on an improving economy to help balance the books. They&rsquo;re estimating a $75.4 million take from growth in the number of building permits and inspections as the construction industry improves, and from a big boost in revenues tied to consumer behavior, such as the sales tax.</p><p>City Hall is also expecting to find nearly $81 million next year through various cuts and belt-tightening measures, but an Emanuel spokeswoman says there will be no city worker layoffs. Another $60.5 million comes from &ldquo;improved fiscal management,&rdquo; including declaring a surplus in some of the city&rsquo;s tax increment financing districts, and $26.1 million comes from cracking down on people who owe back city fines and fees.</p><p>But ahead of the Feb. 24 city elections, Emanuel&rsquo;s spending proposal does not neglect the city services that have long been the currency of Chicago politics. The mayor wants to double the number of pothole crews that repair pock-marked city streets, and boost spending for graffiti blasting, tree-trimming and rat-baiting. He also wants to increase funding for youth summer jobs, early education and after school programs.</p><p>Emanuel made only passing mention of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329" target="_blank">city&rsquo;s $20 billion public worker pension crisis</a>, leaving open the possibility that voters won&rsquo;t know the mayor&rsquo;s plan until after the Feb. 24 city elections.</p><p>After decades of shorting its pensions, City Hall will finally have to bring its pension payments up to speed in 2016 with an estimated $550 million spike in its state-mandated contributions for police and firefighters&rsquo; retirement funds. Emanuel has already <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306" target="_blank">brokered an overhaul</a> of the pensions for city laborers and municipal workers, but he still hasn&rsquo;t revealed how he plans to deal with the public safety pension problem.</p><p>&ldquo;Unfortunately, due to difficult economic times and decades of deferral, we still have a lot of work to do,&rdquo; Emanuel said Wednesday. &ldquo;But by everyone giving a little, no one has to give everything.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel initially proposed a property tax hike to pay for the higher contributions to the laborers&rsquo; and municipal workers&rsquo; pensions. But facing political pushback, he struck a deal with Gov. Pat Quinn to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicagoans-could-help-close-city-pension-deficit-through-increased-phone-tax-110407" target="_blank">raise the city&rsquo;s telephone taxes</a>, buying him a year before he&rsquo;d have to turn to even more unpopular tax hikes.</p><p>City Council budget hearings are set to begin Monday, and aldermen must approve a 2015 budget by the end of the year.</p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-budget-avoids-pension-woes-110944 Big bark, small bite for speed cameras so far http://www.wbez.org/news/big-bark-small-bite-speed-cameras-so-far-109485 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/speed cameras WBEZ Alex Keefe_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s growing network of speed cameras so far has issued more than a half-million warnings to lead-footed drivers, but it brought in just a tiny fraction of the money that Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration had expected in 2013, according to new numbers released this week.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance says the cameras, situated in so-called &ldquo;children&rsquo;s safety zones&rdquo; near city parks and schools, issued nearly 574,000 warnings through last week.</p><p>But a combination of installation delays and lenient enforcement meant to give drivers a break resulted in just 17,901 actual tickets and $337,452 in revenue for City Hall last year, according to numbers obtained by WBEZ through the Freedom of Information Act.</p><p>That&rsquo;s two percent of the roughly $15 million take the city <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888">had predicted</a>.</p><p>State lawmakers okayed Chicago&rsquo;s speed camera program <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/ill-lawmakers-approve-chicago-speed-cameras-93919">back in 2011</a>. But the project faced long installation delays and the first cameras didn&rsquo;t actually <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888">go live</a> until this August.</p><p>Aside from the delay, Finance Department spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said the rollout &ldquo;has been designed to give motorists opportunities to change their behavior.&rdquo;</p><p>Through Jan. 5, the city issued roughly 487,000 warnings during each camera site&rsquo;s 30-day grace period, designed to give drivers time to slow down. It also generated 86,587 &ldquo;freebie&rdquo; warnings, issued once to each driver after a grace period ends. All told, Quinn said that would have generated $17 million worth of tickets so far.</p><p>&quot;We wanted to roll the program out in a thoughtful manner that wasn&#39;t tied to revenue, but instead safety,&quot; Quinn said in an email to WBEZ. &quot;Additionally, the program has been implemented to give motorists every opportunity to change behavior.&quot;</p><p>The 2013 shortfall from the speed cameras was covered by better-than-expected hotel, sales and personal property replacement tax revenues, Quinn said.</p><p>Emanuel is still banking on the new speed cameras to bring in between $65 and $70 million in 2014, despite the dramatically low take last year.</p><p>The speed cameras work a lot like the city&rsquo;s existing network of red light cameras: Speeders who get their car photographed automatically receive a ticket in the mail.</p><p>For now, the city has only been issuing fines to the fastest speeders - $35 for those caught going 10 mph to 11 mph over the posted limit, and $100 for those caught cruising faster than that.</p><p>The Emanuel administration announced it would go a bit easier on speeders after early speed camera data,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893"> first reported by WBEZ</a>, suggested City Hall could be in for a windfall.</p><p>The city Department of Transportation says it will eventually lower the speeding threshold so that anyone snapped driving between six and 10 mph over the limit will get the $35 ticket, but it has not publicized a timeline for when it plans to crack down.</p><p>Some critics of Emanuel&rsquo;s speed camera plan, including several Chicago aldermen, have maintained the system is more about making money for a financially strapped city than protecting kids. But the administration and its backers point to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893">steep drop</a> in speeding at existing sites to say that the cameras are doing their job.</p><p>There are currently 48 speed cameras up and running at 22 sites around the city. Of those, 31 cameras are now issuing fines, while 17 are still issuing grace period warnings. Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has said it&rsquo;s aiming to install 105 speed cameras at 50 locations early this year.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 10:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/big-bark-small-bite-speed-cameras-so-far-109485 Mayor Emanuel warns of pension 'cliff' in 2014 budget speech http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-warns-pension-cliff-2014-budget-speech-108993 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP168520649673.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s 2014 budget heavily relies on an improving economy to help fill city coffers and close a near-$339-million budget deficit. But the spectre of the city&rsquo;s pension crisis loomed large as Emanuel unveiled his $8.7 billion spending plan to the City Council on Wednesday.</p><p>The mayor touted the fact that he will close next year&rsquo;s &ldquo;inherited deficit&rdquo; without increasing sales, gasoline or property taxes. However, about $34.2 million worth of revenue in the form of higher taxes, fines and fees will hit everyone from motorists to smokers to cable-television providers.</p><p><strong>Pension &lsquo;fiscal cliff&rsquo;</strong></p><p>But with a relatively painless 2014 budget, the city&rsquo;s future pension problem took center stage.</p><p>&ldquo;Should Springfield fail to pass pension reform for Chicago, we will be right back here in the council early next year to start work on the city&rsquo;s 2015 budget -- a budget that will either double city property taxes or eliminate the vital services people rely on,&rdquo; Emanuel told aldermen Wednesday.</p><p>A massive spike in city pension costs will hit in 2015, when a state law requiring higher city contributions to police and fire retirement funds kicks in. The law, passed in 2010, was designed to get the city&rsquo;s chronically underfunded pension funds back on track by 2040.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has said it would cripple the city with a more than $1.07 billion payment in 2015, up from an estimated $483.4 million next year.</p><p><p">&ldquo;Let me be perfectly clear: The pension crisis in Illinois is not solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that stand on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities,&rdquo; Emanuel explained.</p"></p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel didn&rsquo;t offer specifics on what kind of pension changes he wants, but acknowledged it will likely require new revenue and that his &ldquo;door is always open.&rdquo;</p><p>Leading Illinois lawmakers have indicated they want to solve the state&rsquo;s pension problems before dealing with those of local governments.</p><p><strong>Cuts &amp; revenue</strong></p><p dir="ltr">To balance the 2014 budget, Emanuel is betting on $101.1 million in rosier-than-expected revenue from things like the hotel, sales and real estate transfer taxes, thanks to a growing economy and a rebounding housing market. The mayor is also counting on $66 million in cuts and efficiencies. He expects another $137.4 million from &ldquo;improved fiscal management,&rdquo; including $53.4 million from previous budget surpluses and unearthing $35 million in so-called &ldquo;zombie funds,&rdquo; which had been laying untouched.</p><p dir="ltr">But Emanuel did not spend much time Wednesday talking about the higher taxes, fines and fees that will help him balance next year&rsquo;s budget.</p><p dir="ltr">The city&rsquo;s motorists could feel the pinch in several ways.</p><p dir="ltr">The mayor is hoping to bring in about $50 million to $55 million off the city&rsquo;s existing network of red-light cameras, and another $65 million to $70 million from its new network of speed cameras. &nbsp;A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893">WBEZ analysis</a> found the first nine speed cameras alone would have brought in $13.9 million dollars in just the first six weeks of operation, and some aldermen have said they expect a much bigger windfall from the new program.</p><p dir="ltr">Higher parking violation fines and towing fees account for another $11.2 million in projected new revenue next year, Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Tuesday. The charge for illegally parking on a street during rush hour would jump from $60 to $100, while parking on residential streets during street cleaning days would mean a $60 ticket, up from $50, among other increases. The cost to store a city-impounded car after it is towed would double, from $10 a day to $20 a day.</p><p dir="ltr">The mayor&rsquo;s proposed 75-cent-per-pack hike in the city&rsquo;s cigarette tax, which would give Chicago the most expensive cigarettes in the country, seemed to raise the most concerns among aldermen. Some feared it would increase black market cigarette sales, while others simply said smokers would head to the suburbs to get their fix.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel is also relying upon $9 million to come from a hike in the city&rsquo;s amusement tax which is tacked onto cable-television bills. Cable-TV companies would see their amusement tax exemption cut, thereby raising their effective tax rate from four percent to six percent.</p><p dir="ltr">The nine-percent amusement tax added to ticket prices for big concerts and sports events, and a smaller tax for mid-sized venues, would not change.</p><p dir="ltr">Developers could feel the sting too: Emanuel is also banking on $4 million in new revenue next year from higher fees for big developers who apply for building permits in person, rather than online.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Public safety</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The mayor also said he was working to end the &ldquo;tale of two cities when it comes to public safety.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">His budget includes money to graduate 741 cadets from the Police Academy next year, all of whom will be put on foot patrols in Chicago neighborhoods.</p><p dir="ltr">But the new cops will only keep pace with attrition in the department, it will not result in a larger number of cops on the street, despite Chicago&rsquo;s notorious violence. Emanuel did, however, use Wednesday&rsquo;s speech to pressure lawmakers to pass a state law requiring a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for people caught with illegal guns, despite <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/researchers-say-emanuel-should-hire-cops-not-push-mandatory-minimums-108967">skepticism</a> from some crime experts.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about putting more people in jail. It&rsquo;s about putting the right people in jail,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel is also hoping to save about $26 million on health care costs, part of that from his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-sticks-plan-phase-out-retiree-health-care-payments-108881">phase-out</a> of healthcare subsidies for about 30,000 city retirees and their families.</p><p dir="ltr">The City Council will begin budget hearings for individual city departments next week. Aldermen must approve a budget by the end of the year.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Oct 2013 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayor-emanuel-warns-pension-cliff-2014-budget-speech-108993 Ahead of mayor’s budget speech, aldermen question higher taxes, fines http://www.wbez.org/news/ahead-mayor%E2%80%99s-budget-speech-aldermen-question-higher-taxes-fines-108986 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/budget door.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hoping an economic upswing will help close a nearly $339 million dollar city budget shortfall next year, though some aldermen are already raising concerns about the host of higher taxes, fines and fees the mayor is expected to lay out in his annual budget speech to the City Council on Wednesday.</p><p>New budget details trickled out of City Hall on Tuesday, as Emanuel&rsquo;s budget officials spent the day in closed-door briefings with small groups of aldermen, allowing them to circumvent Illinois&rsquo; open meeting laws.</p><p>The officials said the budget will rely upon about $100 million in better-than-expected revenues from hotel, sales and real estate transfer taxes, thanks to improvements in the housing market and the larger economy, according to aldermen in the briefings. Roughly $34 million more will come out of so-called &ldquo;zombie funds&rdquo; - that is, money that had been sitting untouched in various city accounts.</p><p>Emanuel also wants to declare a roughly $48 million surplus in the city&rsquo;s tax increment financing districts, known as TIFs, according to aldermen and the mayor&rsquo;s budget office. State law dictates how that money would be divvied up. That means about $8.7 million for city coffers, and about $24 million for the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools system.</p><p>But some aldermen already had concerns about Emanuel&rsquo;s spending priorities next year.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re hearing some increases in tree trimmers, and graffiti [removal], which is good, &lsquo;cause we definitely need that,&rdquo; said Ald. John Arena, 45. &ldquo;But nothing for mental health.&rdquo;</p><p>Several aldermen also said that they were told Chicago Police Department hiring next year would simply keep pace with attrition, at a time when the city&rsquo;s gun violence problem has drawn national attention.</p><p>The news from aldermen helped round out the picture of how Emanuel plans to close next year&rsquo;s projected $338.7 million budget hole. Over the last several days, bit by bit, the mayor&rsquo;s office has released details about proposed tax, fee and fine increases that total about $34 million.</p><p>Illegal parkers and lead-footed drivers would be hit especially hard.</p><p>Higher parking violation fines and towing fees account for another $11.2 million in projected new revenue next year, Emanuel&rsquo;s office announced Tuesday. The charge for illegally parking on a street during rush hour would jump from $60 to $100, while parking on residential streets during street cleaning days would mean a $60 ticket, up from $50, among other increases. The cost to store a city-impounded car after it is towed would double, from $10 a day to $20 a day.</p><p>Aldermen also said the mayor&rsquo;s office expects to take in $60 million from a controversial new network of speed cameras, which the city is greatly expanding over the next few months. A WBEZ analysis found the first nine cameras alone would have brought in $13.9 dollars in just the first six weeks of operation, had they been issuing tickets instead of warnings. Another $60 million is expected to come from the city&rsquo;s existing red light cameras, aldermen said.</p><p>&ldquo;On top of red light cameras, on top of all these other fines, you&rsquo;re basically telling motorists, &lsquo;You&rsquo;re not welcome in the City of Chicago,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd.</p><p>Aldermen also raised questions about the mayor&rsquo;s proposal to raise the per-pack city cigarette tax to 75 cents, from 68 cents. If approved by the City Council, the hike would give Chicago the highest cigarette prices in the country, with an average pack costing $7.42.</p><p>Aldermen like Brendan Reilly, from the downtown 42nd Ward, worried the higher tax could drive down in-city cigarette sales by a third.</p><p>&ldquo;It could have a negative impact on the retailers, especially those retailers who are in the areas of the city that share a boundary with a suburb,&rdquo; said Reilly, who is himself, a smoker. &ldquo;You can simply, literally, drive across the street and avoid paying that tax.&rdquo;</p><p>Other aldermen worried the higher cigarette tax would prompt black marketeers to jump the border and buy cheaper smokes in Indiana, thereby boosting the illegal sale of so-called &ldquo;loosies&rdquo; - that is, individual cigarettes - on Chicago streets.</p><p>The mayor is also relying upon $9 million to come from a hike in the city&rsquo;s amusement tax that&rsquo;s tacked on to cable television bills. Cable TV companies would see their amusement tax exemption cut, thereby raising their effective tax rate from four percent to six percent.</p><p>The nine percent amusement tax that&rsquo;s added to ticket prices for big concerts and sports events, and a smaller tax for mid-sized venues, would not change.</p><p>Developers could also feel the sting. Emanuel is also banking on $4 million in new revenue next year from higher fees for developers who apply for building permits in person, rather than online. The in-person filing fee for a 100,000-square-foot building would total $9,500, compared to $500 for electronic filing. Emanuel had phased out in-person filing altogether, but is bringing it back at the request of large developers who file complicated permit requests, according to spokeswoman Kelley Quinn.</p><p>Despite the hours of briefings on Tuesday, some aldermen said they still didn&rsquo;t have a handle on exactly how the mayor plans to close out next year&rsquo;s budget gap.</p><p>&ldquo;This was the briefing where they give us all the good stuff,&rdquo; said Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd, after a briefing Tuesday morning. &ldquo;Now we gotta wait &lsquo;till tomorrow, go through the budget, and see if there&rsquo;s some things that we can and cannot support.&rdquo;</p><p>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>.</p></p> Tue, 22 Oct 2013 16:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ahead-mayor%E2%80%99s-budget-speech-aldermen-question-higher-taxes-fines-108986 Aldermen want reparations for Burge torture victims http://www.wbez.org/aldermen-want-reparations-burge-torture-victims-108946 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/burge 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Victims of torture at the hands of Chicago police under former Commander Jon Burge would receive reparation payments, free counseling and community college classes, and a formal city apology, under a proposal introduced to the City Council on Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">The ordinance would set aside $20 million to pay for those services to criminal suspects who were allegedly tortured by Burge and cops under his command on the South Side between 1972 and 1991.</p><p dir="ltr">The city has already paid about $84 million in settlements and legal fees stemming from the police torture scandal, according to the city law department. But there still could be 30 or 40 alleged victims who might be eligible for reparations, said Joey Mogul, an attorney who has represented Burge victims.</p><p dir="ltr">Anthony Holmes is one of them.</p><p dir="ltr">Holmes, now 57, spent three decades in prison after confessing to a 1973 murder he said he didn&rsquo;t commit. Holmes gave his confession only after being repeatedly suffocated and electrically shocked by Burge during an interrogation, Mogul said.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;And what hurt me the most is the fact that I couldn&rsquo;t do nothing about it,&rdquo; Holmes told reporters Wednesday. &ldquo;You know, I was handcuffed and everything. And even if I coulda fought, I woulda felt better. But what good what it do?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Holmes, who once went by the nickname &ldquo;Satan,&rdquo; was one of the first victims to allege being tortured by Burge. He <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/burge-trial-enter-anthony-satan-holmes">testified</a> at Burge&rsquo;s federal trial in 2010. The former police commander is now serving a 4 and a half year prison sentence for lying to investigators about the abuse.</p><p dir="ltr">Holmes was released in 2004, but has had a hard time getting back on his feet. He now delivers newspapers for a living, and does not have health insurance, according to his lawyers.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I live with this nightmare every day, every night,&rdquo; Holmes said. &ldquo;My family, they suffer from it, too, because they know what I went through.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Under the proposal, introduced by 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno and 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins, reparation money to torture victims would be awarded by a newly-formed city committee. The ordinance would also require the city to issue a formal apology for the torture, and it would mandate history lessons about the decades-long scandal in Chicago Public Schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Victims, whose claims would be vetted by the committee, would also get counseling, health care and job training a new community center on the South Side, where most of the alleged torture took place. The ordinance would also provide the victims and their family free tuition at the city&rsquo;s community colleges.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s unclear where the $20 million funding would come from, although Brookins suggested dipping into revenues from the city&rsquo;s new network of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893">speed cameras</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Let&rsquo;s remember that we set aside millions - tens of millions - of dollars every year to settle these cases and to pay attorneys,&rdquo; Moreno said Wednesday. &ldquo;I think $20 million is fair if we look at what we&rsquo;re setting aside.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-09-11/news/chi-city-council-settles-burge-torture-cases-for-123-million-20130911_1_burge-victims-burge-era-torture-era">apologized</a> to Burge torture victims at last month&rsquo;s City Council meeting, when aldermen approved another set of multi-million dollar lawsuits relating to the scandal.</p><p dir="ltr">The mayor didn&rsquo;t speak to reporters after Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, and his office did respond to a request for comment regarding the reparations ordinance.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 16 Oct 2013 14:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/aldermen-want-reparations-burge-torture-victims-108946 Chicago speed cameras catch 234K leadfoots in opening weeks http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5f27a295-a526-eab2-207c-4398f3e0b89b">New data show Chicago&rsquo;s nascent speed camera system is already lightening the city&rsquo;s lead feet, but the numbers are also prompting critics to wonder whether City Hall is in for a massive revenue windfall at taxpayers&rsquo; expense.</p><p dir="ltr">Cameras in nine so-called &ldquo;safety zones&rdquo; near four Chicago parks logged 233,886 speeding violations between Aug. 26 and Oct. 9, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request.</p><p>The cameras are not yet churning out actual tickets, but had they been, those nine alone would have generated nearly $13.9 million worth of citations in just 45 days, according to WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis. For now, the cameras are generating only warnings to give drivers time to learn where the cameras are - and tap the brakes - before getting walloped with fines.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-205k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893#map"><strong>MAP: Where are the new speed cameras?</strong></a></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">And Chicagoans already seem to be riding the steep learning curve city transportation officials had hoped for: Speeding violations have dropped an average of 50 percent at the four sites since Aug. 26, data show.</p><p dir="ltr">Those numbers surprised even Scott Kubly, the Chicago Department of Transportation official who&rsquo;s in charge of the fledgling speed camera program.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The fact that there&rsquo;s that many warnings that have gone out is an indication of how big a speeding problem that we actually have in Chicago,&rdquo; Kubly told WBEZ Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">Some drivers could begin finding speed camera tickets in their mailboxes after Oct. 16, when the 30-day grace period for the Gompers Park cameras on the North Side runs out. Tickets for the other three speed camera sites - at Marquette, Mckinley Garfield Parks - hit the mail Oct. 21. Drivers photographed going between six and 10 mph over the posted limit will get a $35 fine. Get caught cruising any faster than that, and the fine jumps to $100.</p><p dir="ltr">In order to &quot;ease the transition,&quot; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s administration said in a Friday press release that the city would only issue tickets to drivers caught going faster than 10 mph over the speed limit. It&#39;s unclear how long that will last.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration estimates the city will make between $40 million and $60 million from speed camera tickets next year, when Chicago government is facing a nearly $339 million budget shortfall. But the high number of speed violations so far - and the big potential for revenue - has reignited criticisms that the program is more about making money than protecting kids.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I can not deny that, if those cameras are there, people are gonna slow down,&rdquo; said 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, who voted against allowing the speed cameras. &ldquo;But call it what it is. Don&rsquo;t try to sell us on the safety of children and parks and schools.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">If speed camera violations continue at their current rate, the city&rsquo;s take could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. And dozens more cameras are on the way: The city is aiming to have a total of 105 installed at 50 locations by early 2014, Kubly said.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman John Arena, 45th Ward, who voted against the original speed camera plan, suggests the administration is low-balling its revenue projections, while overestimating the deterrent effect on drivers.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re still gonna get caught in the net,&rdquo; Arena said. &ldquo;I think $100 million is easy for the system.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is sticking to its earlier projections as it bets on a dramatic dropoff in speeding - between 75 and 90 percent - as drivers begin finding tickets in their mailboxes.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our number one goal is to slow traffic down, so if we never collect a dime on this, it&rsquo;s successful,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s absolutely not a cash grab. It&rsquo;s all about making our roads safer.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Each new camera the city installs will have a month-long grace period before it starts churning out tickets, and afterward, drivers get one freebie written warning after the cameras are online. The city also plans to put up 20 so-called &ldquo;speed indicator signs&rdquo; that tell drivers in real time how fast they&#39;re going, which also slows down traffic, Kubly said.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We wanna make sure that, no matter where you are in the city, if you&rsquo;re near a school or a park, that you feel like there could be a camera there,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;And the idea is to create a culture in which abiding by the speed limit is the understood way to drive and the norm.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kubly said the program is already having &ldquo;amazing&rdquo; success: Speed cameras photographed 7,397 violations on Sept. 10, the first day all nine cameras were up and running. By Oct. 3, violations had already fallen to 3,833.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, the city has installed more cameras at Douglas, Legion, Washington, Humboldt and Major Taylor parks, as well as Prosser Vocational High School, according to a CDOT spokesman.</p><p dir="ltr">Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Note: Calculations and figures in this story have been corrected and updated to reflect new data and information provided by the City of Chicago.</em></p><p><strong><a name="map"></a>Map of locations of Chicago&#39;s new speed cameras&nbsp; </strong><em>(Updated Oct. 10, 2013)</em><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/legend.PNG" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div> <style type="text/css"> #map-canvas { width:620px; height:900px; } .layer-wizard-search-label { font-family: sans-serif };</style> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false"> </script><script type="text/javascript"> var map; var layer_0; function initialize() { map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), { center: new google.maps.LatLng(41.83188268689178, -87.721698912207), zoom: 11 }); var style = [ { featureType: 'all', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { saturation: -99 } ] } ]; var styledMapType = new google.maps.StyledMapType(style, { map: map, name: 'Styled Map' }); map.mapTypes.set('map-style', styledMapType); map.setMapTypeId('map-style'); layer_0 = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer({ query: { select: "col1", from: "1jB8zYONZanMZHu5gGMIb9vJKtm-LRSrG7lSyXlY" }, map: map, styleId: 2, templateId: 2 }); } google.maps.event.addDomListener(window, 'load', initialize); </script><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 14:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893 Leadfoots, beware: Chicago to install new speed cameras this week http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/red light camera-Flickr_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago leadfoots, beware.</p><p>After a months-long delay, controversial new speed enforcement cameras are set to go up near four Chicago parks this week.</p><p>It&rsquo;s just the start of Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan to install automated speed cameras at 50 locations this year, to create what his administration calls &ldquo;Children&rsquo;s Safety Zones&rdquo; within an eighth of a mile of city parks and schools.</p><p>The system will function similar to the city&rsquo;s network of red light cameras: After one freebie written warning, the cameras will automatically send $35 tickets to people snapped driving between six and 10 miles over the speed limit. Drivers caught cruising faster than that face a $100 fine.</p><p>Cameras near schools would only be turned on between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and those near parks would operate during regular park hours.</p><p>A recent pilot program run by American Traffic Solutions, the company recently awarded a five-year, $67 million contract to run the speed cameras, found 51,701 potential violations at two test sites, accounting for nearly ten percent of the vehicles that passed through the area.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that, in and of itself, says there&rsquo;s a speeding problem in the city and we need to do something to slow that down,&rdquo; said Scott Kubly, the Chicago Department of Transportation official in charge of the city&rsquo;s speed camera program. &ldquo;If we never collect a penny because everybody starts abiding by the speed limit, the program will be a success.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s administration muscled the speed camera legislation through Springfield last year, citing safety concerns for Chicago children. But critics have maintained the move was just a cash-grab from a city government that&rsquo;s been struggling with budget deficits and mounting employee pension costs for the last several years.</p><p>The city initially projected it would take in between $25 and $30 million in revenue from speed camera tickets in 2013, but later cut that estimate about in half after installation delays, according mayoral spokesman Bill McCaffrey. The city expects to get between $40 and $60 million next year, when Emanuel is anticipating a $339 million budget shortfall.</p><p>The city has already named 12 locations for the new speed cameras. (Installations begin this week at the first four locations).</p><ul><li>Garfield Park, 100 N. Central Park Ave.</li><li>Gompers Park, 4222 W. Foster Ave.</li><li>Washington Park, 5531 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive</li><li>Marquette Park, 6743 S. Kedzie Ave.</li><li>Humboldt Park, 1440 N. Humboldt Dr.</li><li>Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento</li><li>Curie High School, 4959 S. Archer Ave.</li><li>McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Rd.</li><li>Jones High School, 606 S. State St.</li><li>Legion Park, 3100 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.</li><li>Abbott Park, 49 E. 95th St. Chicago</li><li>Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St.</li></ul></p> Mon, 12 Aug 2013 10:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/leadfoots-beware-chicago-install-new-speed-cameras-week-108888