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Emanuel To Quinn: Sign Bill To Allow Speed Cameras Near Schools

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 01/30/12 – 4:48 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel is urging Gov. Pat Quinn to sign legislation that would allow the city to use cameras to catch speeders near city schools and parks.

As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the mayor says it’s all about saving lives.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

The legislation would allow red light cameras near schools and parks to be used to ticket people who speed through those areas.

The Illinois House and Senate approved the measure last fall, but Quinn has yet to sign it, saying he is still studying the idea. He has until early next month to take action on the proposal or it will automatically become law.

On Monday, the mayor said, “I’ve made out the case. The Legislature has voted on it. I’m hoping the governor signs it, because it’s the right thing to do for the city of Chicago – which has a unique set of issues – and it only applies to Chicago.”

Emanuel said a study shows the legislation could reduce fatal accidents.

“We have seen all the data that show when you put the cameras in – actually – traffic, people comply, and it’s the right thing to do,” Emanuel said. “I didn’t think it was going to be popular. The question is can I save lives.”

As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, Chicago was already at or near the top of the list of cities with the most red light cameras. The proposal would allow the city to use existing red light cameras and mobile cameras to catch speeders in the act within 1/8 mile of schools and parks in Chicago.

The cameras would ticket cars going more than five miles per hour over the speed limit.

The mayor said, “If it wasn’t for the fact that both the police chief and the heads of schools came to me and said, ‘We have a problem distinct from other cities,’ I would not have pushed something forward, just because I’m looking for another unpopular issue to tackle.”

The mayor cited accident and injury statistics to justify enabling 79 red light cameras to clock speeds at intersections within 1/8 of a mile of city schools and parks from just before to just after their hours of operation.

But the city’s own study indicated more than 50 percent of all children struck by cars are hit in the middle of the block, not at an intersection.

Self-professed “Parking Ticket Geek” Mike Brockway, who runs “The Expired Meter” website, said, “If the mayor really wants to something about the safety of children coming to and from school, then they should concentrate on the side streets and not at the intersection.”

While the tickets mailed for speed cam violations would range from $50 to $100 dollars and add millions to city coffers, Emanuel said his proposal wasn’t a matter of money.

“I hope I get no revenue out of this,” Emanuel said after announcing his proposal last year.

Three months later, it appears most people remain skeptical. A Freedom of Information request that Brockway issued to the governor’s office might explain Quinn’s apparent reluctance to sign the bill.

Of 224 calls, letters and emails to the governor about the speed camera bill, 91 percent were opposed to it.

“If popularity or perception were my only issue, I’d be sitting in my office, just doing a lot of nothing,” Emanuel said. “That’s not what I’m worried about. I’ll let people take care of that and I understand why people are questioning and they’ll an ability to see how we implement it. My goal is the safety of our children.”

Before enforcement with speed cameras could begin, the city would conduct a 30-day public education campaign to inform drivers of the new speed cameras. Intersections with the cameras would also have signage informing drivers that the speed cameras are there.

The mayor has called the speed cameras just one part of a strategy to increase safety near schools, in addition to deploying more crossing guards, increasing safe passage funds, enforcing a curfew and new cameras inside schools.

Right now, the city has red light cameras in 79 locations within a 1/8 of a mile of a school or park. Those are the cameras Emanuel has said he wants to modify to catch speeders and they cover about 3 percent of the city.

But a published report said the proposed legislation to allow speed cameras in the city showed the legislation would allow at least 47 percent of the city to be covered by the cameras – not including areas around colleges and universities.

Any motorist busted by a camera would be sent a ticket in the mail. Sponsors said the tickets would be sent to the owner of the car caught speeding. The cameras would only take photos of the speeding car’s license plate, not the driver.

The owner would be subject to a fine of up to $100 and five unpaid fines would result in the loss of the owner’s driver’s license.

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