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Is City Hall Banking On Speed Cameras To Balance The Budget?

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Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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(CBS) – Newly introduced speed cameras may be the answer for Chicago city officials who struggling to plug a projected $300 million hole in the next budget.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

The fact is, the city’s take from those annoying red-light cameras is huge. CBS 2 began looking into it just as the mayor was starting the PR push for his new budget.

Look at the brake lights coming on as cars approach the brand-new speed camera on Foster Avenue — flashing every time it catches someone exceeding the speed limit.

For some residents, it’s about time.

“It’s like a drag strip,” John Hundrieser complains.

But for others, like the self-proclaimed “Red Light Doctor,” safety is secondary.

“It’s strictly cash, it’s all about creating more cash flow for the city,” Barnet Fagel says.

Mayor Emanuel was holding the first of three budget roundtables.

“I have one goal for the city: Every kid, every student, will be 100 percent college-ready and 100 percent college-bound,” he said.

But that, like many of his goals, takes money. And right now there’s a 2014 budget hole of $339 million. The mayor isn’t talking about how he’s going to bridge that gap, which he must, by law, other than a hiring freeze.

Barnet estimates the city could raise $250 million to $300 million annually through use of the speed cameras.

“We will still retain (the title) of photo enforcement capital of the country,” he said.

A spokesman for the mayor says speed camera revenue will be part of the budget but won’t say how much. Not huge, she says, disputing the findings of the Red Light Doctor, who is usually pretty accurate.

Right now though, only four locations are up and running; but there’ll be 50 by the end of the year and eventually as many as 300.

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