Chicago Speed Camera Plan Awaits City Council Vote Amid Doubts About Mayor's Statistics (VIDEO)
Rahm Emanuel's speed camera plan is expected to be considered Wednesday by Chicago's City Council -- an anticipated vote that arrives amidst a cloud of doubt surrounding the statistics that the mayor referenced to sell his proposal to the state legislature and Chicago residents.
The Chicago Tribune, whose reporter David Kidwell locked horns with the mayor during a dramatic exchange about the cameras last month, reports that an in-house survey Emanuel's office conducted about the cameras was not very accurate. The mayor's office claims speed cameras have had a significant impact on reducing traffic deaths, but traffic data Kidwell analyzed shows less dramatic results.
While Emanuel claims that the cameras are responsible for a 60 percent reduction in traffic-related deaths nearby, the Tribune arrived at a reduction of 26 percent -- a number on par with broader accident trends, observed both citywide and nationwide.
Scott Kubly of the Chicago Department of Transportation told the Tribune the misleading numbers were "an honest mistake" on the administration's part.
The development arrives the same week that the Tribune broke the story that Greg Goldner, a lobbyist who helped the mayor win his first congressional term, now works with Redflex Traffic Systems, the city's red light camera provider. Goldner and Emanuel's office both claim that they have not spoken about the speed camera plan.
The developments have contributed to a growing sense of doubt among some alderman who question whether the plan is, as the mayor claims, about public safety rather than generating another revenue stream for the city, while also benefiting an mayoral political ally.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) told The Expired Meter that the council was briefed on the proposal in a closed-door session on Monday. Waguespack said that, while the speed cameras are initially slated to be installed at the city's existing red-light camera intersections, the long-range goal involves 1,800 intersections located near schools and parks citywide. The cameras will enforce speeding laws during limited hours, but will be filming 24 hours a day similar to the city's blue-light cameras.
The Chicago Sun-Times notes that the fresh criticisms appear to have led the mayor toward scaling back his plan by reducing the hours that speed cameras would operate around school and park "safety zones" and giving aldermen more say when it comes to where the cameras would be installed.
The mayor also told the Sun-Times that Redflex will not be granted any advantage over other companies bidding for the speed camera contract -- a process Emanuel said will be "very open, very transparent, very competitive."
Governor Pat Quinn signed off last month on the mayor's plan even while his office admitted that more than 90 percent of the calls they fielded on the matter were against the proposal. The measure was approved by the state legislature last fall and the City Council's approval is the final remaining obstacle to its implementation.
WATCH a "Chicago Tonight" report on the new questions being asked of the mayor's speed camera plan: