CHICAGO - Mayor Lori Lightfoot blocked a Chicago City Council majority from voting Wednesday to change the rules for automated speed cameras. It provoked a theatrical showdown on the floor with two frequent critics.
The mayor and her allies employed a parliamentary maneuver to delay the vote until the next council meeting. The tactic is called "Deferring and Publishing" and can be used by any two members. A few moments later, Ald. Anthony Beale and Ald. Ray Lopez began using the tactic to block votes on matters Lightfoot wanted to pass.
After Beale blocked several measures by declaring, "Me and Ald. Lopez wish to defer and publish," Lightfoot shot back.
"So, just so we're clear and maybe we can save some time. Are you guys going to play this game on every item that comes out of finance?"
Beale, who took offense at Lightfoot’s use of the word "game," responded, "Yep!"
Beale said his long campaign to raise the threshold at which automated cameras issue a $35 speeding ticket is not considered a game in his South Side community.
"I’m representing 60,000 residents that are being hit upside the head with these fines and fees by these $35 tickets," Beale said.
Beale's proposal would increase the threshold for an automated camera ticket from the current six miles per hour over the speed limit to 10 mph over. Unchanged would be the rules for a $100 ticket, issued for driving eleven or more miles an hour above the speed limit.
The mayor has insisted for months that anti-speeding cameras are only about safety. She said Chicago did see 173 fatalities last year blamed on speed-related incidents. But the mayor now says police and other popular programs need the revenue, which totaled nearly $60 million in just 10 months last year.
"We also can't be in a situation where we're not supporting our police department by taking away funding," Lightfoot said. "We can't be in a situation where we're not supporting infrastructure around parks and schools. We don't want to be in a position where we're not supporting needed, vital after school programs. And the last thing we don't want to be in a position to do is take away funding for the safe passage workers who are our eyes and ears in the neighborhoods."
By delaying the vote today, Lightfoot buys time to win over the two or three council members she appears to need to defeat the speed camera proposal. But a half-dozen members who have been Lightfoot’s allies were ready to vote against her on the issue. It’s yet another sign of the political peril she faces with the next city election eight months away.