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Aldermen: Emanuel Counting On Speeding, Red-Light Camera Revenue To Balance 2K14 Budget

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 22, 2013 10:10PM

Image via NBC Chicago screen grab.

More details of Mayor Emanuel’s 2014 budget continue to be leaked to media. Expect to be pinched to the breaking point, Chicago.

The latest information on Emanuel’s budget comes courtesy of the Sun-Times, which reports aldermen were told Tuesday the mayor is all but counting on revenue from red-light and speeding cameras to balance his nearly $7 billion budget. The party line out of the Fifth Floor still holds that the cameras are a public safety matter but, if the nearly 205,000 warning citations at the first “safety zones” are an indication, the city’s coffers will fill with money in short order.

If the cameras in the nine “safety zones” at four parks were issuing tickets those cameras would have generated nearly $14 million in revenue, making the Emanuel administration’s projection of $40-$60 million in the first year of operation a gross underestimation. How low? Emanuel is counting on $120 million fines from red-light and speed cameras and an extra $10 million from higher parking fines and impounded vehicle storage fees. It’s enough to have some residents consider buying bicycles and braving the dead of winter to get around the city.

Ald. Scott Waguespack told the Sun-Times, “You’re basically telling motorists, `You’re not welcome in the city of Chicago.’ It’s pretty onerous on drivers.” Emanuel is proposing on hiking the storage fees on impounded vehicles from $10 to $20 per day and lifting freezes on for parking illegally on streets being cleaned (currently $60); parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant (now at $110); raising the fine for RVs, taxicabs and trucks parked on residential streets to $75; a $100 fine for parking illegally during rush periods and $250 for parking in spaces designated for people with disabilities.

This and proposed hikes in the cigarette tax and the amusement tax on cable television bills is what Emanuel has at his disposal in lieu of a property tax hike, which no one wants. Ald. Patrick O’Connor, Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, calls the myriad hikes “sparing (Chicagoans) from the major taxes that can be the bane of every citizen’s existence,” while Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) gave propers to the mayor’s budget team for “showing creativity in trying to spread the pain as equitably” as possible.

Reilly, however, questioned whether Emanuel should expand programs such as summer jobs and after school programs, Chicago Park District’s “Night in the Park” series and health and vision programs for children when the mayor’s priority should be stabilizing the budget.