This has been a challenging few weeks at City Council. Two controversial ordinances, the Speed Camera Ordinance and the Infrastructure Trust Ordinance were introduced by the Mayor and generated substantial discussion and negotiations. I am happy to say that real progress was made on both ordinances.
In my last newsletter I asked what you thought of the proposal to install speed cameras within 1/8 mile of schools and parks. I received emails from almost 400 of you which substantially guided my work on this topic. The majority of you opposed the proposal on grounds such as size of fines and a fear of revenue-driven decision-making. Supporters believed that it would decrease accidents and increase pedestrian and driver safety.
Along with other aldermen, I raised your concerns. In response, the City presented extensive testimony at a hearing last week. I learned:
- From 2005-2010, the 43rd Ward had the 17th highest number of pedestrians injured in traffic crashes in the City with 260. Over 3,000 of the total number of crashes in the 43rd Ward had speed as a primary or secondary cause. All the data is presented here.
- There will only be 300 cameras installed in the City
- A map of traffic accidents in the 43rd Ward from 2010 demonstrates that there is no large concentration in any one place.
- There will be a posted 30-day warning period before a camera is activated, and a warning for each first violation. In addition, the location of every camera will be identified online and by signs at the site.
- Commissioner Klein testified that the speed cameras contract would not link payment of the vendor to the number of tickets generated.
The amended ordinance lowered the fines from $50 to $35 for 6-10 mph over the limit and requires aldermanic notification of placement of zones. That, along with data provided by the Commissioner of Transportation about the number of accidents in each ward, alleviated my concerns on your behalf and I voted for the ordinance. The data presented is available on my website.
The Mayor's proposed "infrastructure trust" creates a process for allowing private investment in city infrastructure. I spoke on WTTW about my concerns, which centered around 4 things: transparency, ethics, criteria for the evaluation of proposals, and adequate City Council review. As a result of intense conversations with the Mayor's office, I and other aldermen reached a compromise with the Mayor's office.
Under the compromise ordinance, and an Executive Order issued by the Mayor:
- The Trust will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the Open Meetings Act, and the Ethics laws.
- A member of City Council will be a member of the Trust.
- City Council has explicit powers of approval over any transaction involving City assets.
- Members of the Trust are explicitly recognized as fiduciaries, meaning that they have legal obligations to make decisions in the best interests of the Trust.
- The 15 day waiting period for sales or leases of assets that was enacted after the Parking Meter Deal is explicitly applied to Trust activities for City transactions.
- An independent financial analyst will evaluate each transaction for risk and cost, and will compare it to alternative financing arrangements. This step was missing in the parking meter deal, and might have resulted in a different outcome.
I am very pleased the Mayor has worked with City Council and me to strengthen the Infrastructure Trust ordinance. Our goal has always been to make sure that the transactions we enter into to improve infrastructure also provide transparency, accountability and proper oversight on behalf of Chicago taxpayers. I'll continue to subject proposed transactions to intense scrutiny as we move forward.