THE BLOG
10/22/2012 07:08 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2012

$30 Million? So the Speed Cameras Were About Raising Revenue?

Mayor Emanuel has been widely praised for his new budget, and there have been relatively few complaints about his eight billion dollar proposal. But on this week's Chicago Newsroom, CAN TV's local news discussion program, Ben Joravsky and Miguel Del Valle say $30 million dollars may be a lot to expect from speed cameras in the first year.

Here's host Ken Davis' description of the show:

Miguel Del Valle was very pleased with Barack Obama's performance on the second presidential debate. The first one, not so much.

"Having served with Barack for eight years, the individual who showed up for the first debate was State Senator Barack, not President Barack," he tells us.

Del Valle' also concerned about the "safety zone" signage he sees being installed around his community on Fullerton, Central and Kedzie Avenues, presumably in preparation for the new speed cameras.

"We didn't need these cameras from the very beginning," he says. "I think to a great extent the media really failed to scrutinize the original proposal. When the mayor's people presented the so-called evidence that there was a need -- there wasn't a need, we already had our speed bumps and school zone speed limits. This is strictly a revenue-generator."

The Reader's Ben Joravsky adds that this is a way to raise revenue without the hot-button issue of raising property taxes. "Politically the way it works is, as long as taxpayer A doesn't have to pay the bill, he or she doesn't care about taxpayer B. So it's like, you know you ran the light, so leave me alone," he says.

Joravsky tells us about some recent work he's done at the Reader in which he compares traditional pubic schools with charters.

"I don't like using standardized tests as a benchmark, he explains. "But since the charter school advocates are using them as benchmarks and feel no compulsion to be accurate in the use of these scores, I had to weigh in. And the reality is that unionized schools in Chicago by and large are outperforming charter schools. You have to go through 40 unionized schools before you reach a charter school in the ranking of these test scores. So I feel the public has been misled into believing that charter schools have a magical formula because they fire teachers."

"I don't understand why you'd be creating new charters at a time when you're claiming you already have too many schools," Joravsky adds. "It's just a basic way of diverting money away from unionized schools to non-union schools. I think that's ultimately what this fight is about."

In fact, Joravsky, well-known for his crusade against Tax Increment Financing, says he almost regrets Mayor Emanuel's decision to declare $25 million in TIF funding as surplus, providing as much as $10 million to the city and several millions more to CPS and other entities. "I almost don't want them to start returning TIF dollars to the schools because I don't trust them to spend that money prudently."

Miguel Del Valle, who voted against the charter authorization bill when he was in the Legislature, says he nevertheless agrees that there is a place for charters and some are working. But he strongly disagrees with the current rush to build more and more of them.

"When you starve Chicago Public schools in neighborhoods for the purpose of using dollars to create this dual system, that's wrong," he asserts. "When you say that you're going to close schools because you have too many seats, you're under-enrolled, but at the same time you open up a charter, then how do you reconcile those two? It's a dishonest approach. It's obviously an approach being led by individuals who want to privatize public education.

"One of the things about the rush to privatize is that we're sacrificing quality. We really are. And the sad thing is we're not going to find this out, we're not gonna be able to document this until years from now."

Del Valle and Joravsky both say they don't have serious disagreement with Toni Preckwinkle's proposals to increase taxes on guns, bullets, slot machines and golf course admissions, but Ben admits that he'll probably have to start buying his bullets in Indiana.