With the Illinois House poised to vote on Chicago speed cameras, Mayor Rahm Emanuel turned up the pressure by personally lobbying lawmakers and holding a Monday news conference to highlight two recent South Side crashes involving children.
As live video displays of dangerous pedestrian intersections flashed behind Emanuel at the city's 911 center, the mayor recalled the Oct. 29 death of Diamond Robinson, 6. In a press release handed out before the news conference, the mayor's office cited the girl's death and a crash in which an eighth-grader was injured by a car at 79th Street and California Avenue on Wednesday.
In stressing those two crashes, Emanuel may have unintentionally underscored difficulties inherent in his plan to safeguard children with speed cameras.
Neither incident occurred under conditions where speed-camera monitoring would have come into play under the legislation Emanuel is pushing in Springfield. The Senate passed the proposal despite some lawmakers questioning whether the city wants speed cameras to generate more revenue from tickets.
Emanuel argues that installing speed cameras near schools and parks will help protect children from being run over. Under the legislation, the "safety zones" where cameras could operate would cover nearly half the city, the Tribune found.
In addition, a Tribune analysis of federal data on crashes showed that Emanuel's proposal would have a limited impact on reducing fatalities. Of the 251 pedestrian deaths in the city between 2005 and 2009, fewer than half occurred in the "safety zones" and less than one-quarter of those involved speeding.
Speed cameras, like their cousins the red-light cameras, would allow the city to use automated equipment to flag motorists for $100 violations. Red-light cameras generated $69 million for the city in 2010, and speed cameras likely would grow that number considerably.
On Monday, Emanuel said he cares only about safety, not money.
As the House vote on the plan nears, Emanuel has stepped up arm twisting. State Reps. Mary Flowers and LaShawn Ford, both Chicago Democrats, said the mayor approached them for support.
Ford said an Emanuel aide later asked him to stand with the mayor Monday. "I didn't even get the call to say, 'Are you supporting it?'" said Ford, who didn't attend.
Under the legislation, speed cameras could operate in 1/8 mile zones around schools and parks. Those near schools would have to shut off on weekends.
The crash that killed Diamond occurred on a Saturday night as she crossed 70th Street and Loomis Boulevard near Altgeld Elementary School. The driver was ticketed for "failure to reduce speed to avoid a pedestrian in the roadway."
The location of the second crash, at 79th and California, would not fall within a safety zone under the legislation sought by the mayor. The 13-year-old boy struck and injured there stepped into the path of an oncoming car, police said. No citation was issued.
Tribune reporters David Heinzmann and Ray Long contributed.
Speed cameras get mayor's hard sell
Emanuel focuses on kids hit by cars in push for plan
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