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Quinn Putting ‘Finishing Touches’ On Speed Camera Legislation

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A city of Chicago red light camera (Credit: CBS)

A city of Chicago red light camera (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged him to sign legislation allowing cameras to catch speeders near Chicago schools, Gov. Pat Quinn said he would act soon, but hinted he might have some changes in mind.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the governor said he expects to announce action on the proposal in about a week, shortly before the deadline for him to act before it goes into law automatically.

Quinn said he first had to work on his State of the State address, which he will deliver in Springfield on Wednesday.

He also said he had to “put the finishing touches on that particular piece of legislation,” referring to the speed cameras measure. The mayor said Tuesday that he’s made his case to Quinn to sign the measure, which lawmakers approved late last year.

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.

The governor downplayed reports that the vast majority of public input on the measure has been negative.

The Expired Meter website issued a Freedom of Information request on all calls, emails and letters from the public to the governor’s office about the legislation and found that of 224 calls, letters and emails about the speed camera bill, 91 percent were opposed to it.

“You may get letters, perhaps emails. You know, you study each communication, but … I’m not sure that’s a scientific sampling of all the people of Illinois,” Quinn said. “I think there are some people who are for the bill and some aren’t for it and, you know, that happens in a lot of situations.”

The governor also noted he signed legislation legalizing civil unions for same sex couples in Illinois, despite vocal opposition from opponents of gay marriage.

The mayor also has brushed off reports that most of the public is opposed to the push for speed cameras, insisting he’s concerned only about improving safety, not that he’s seeking another major revenue source for the city by issuing speeding tickets through automated cameras.

“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 Emanuel began his push for speed cameras last fall, 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.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel 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.

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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