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A Petty Day In City Hall: After Lightfoot’s Allies Stall Speed Camera Vote, 2 Aldermen Block Everything Else On Finance Agenda

An irritated Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked Alds. Lopez and Beale if they intended to keep preventing votes on major issues. They did.

Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CITY HALL — Tension flared at City Council as two aldermen repeatedly stopped votes on major issues after a vote on their own proposed ordinance was blocked.

Alds. Anthony Beale (9th) and Raymond Lopez (15th) spearheaded the move, which was criticized by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and some other alderpeople.

The scene unfolded after alderpeople allied with Lightfoot asked to defer and publish a proposed ordinance that would stop fines for people driving 6-10 mph over the limit. The proposed ordinance has been the center of controversy and was expected to face a tight vote at the meeting, but the defer-and-publish technique prevented the council from voting on it.

Beale fought with Lightfoot, saying the ordinance could not be deferred and published because it had already faced that — but Lightfoot decided against it, allowing for the proposed change to be stalled.

Beale and Lopez then repeatedly moved to defer and publish other proposed ordinances coming from the Finance Committee.

An irritated Lightfoot asked the aldermen if they intended to keep moving to defer and publish. Beale and Lopez did.

“The games continue, Chairman Waguespack,” Lightfoot said to Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) at one point after Beale and Lopez made another defer-and-publish request.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) called for the two aldermen to stop.

“I’d like to be recorded as thoroughly embarrassed and ask our colleagues to cease and desist so we can continue proceedings,” Vasquez said.

Lightfoot recessed the meeting for several minutes. Afterward, as the council began to consider issues from other committees, Beale and Lopez stopped moving to defer and publish — but they had already delayed votes on nearly all major items that were supposed to go before the council.

The city’s budget office then shared a statement Beale made in 2012, when he supported an ordinance to fine drivers at least $35 if they went 6 mph or more near schools.

Beale’s proposal to stop fining people driving 6-10 mph over the limit had generated controversy in recent weeks, especially as a number of Chicagoans — including at least three children ages 2-11 — have been killed by drivers in recent weeks.

“Speed is not our friend in a car or outside of a car,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said before a vote on the ordinance was delayed. “Speed kills.”

Bicycle and pedestrian advocates gathered outside City Hall to block the area in protest of City Hall’s lack of action amid the deaths. Advocates had also spoken out against the proposed ordinance, saying they worried it would “let people off the hook.”

RELATED: City Council Might Roll Back Speed Camera Fines For Drivers — As Transportation Groups Plea For Folks To Slow Down

Beale previously said the ordinance was meant to provide financial relief to Chicagoans as they struggle with high inflation and gas prices.

But Lightfoot — who was accused of “nickeling and diming” residents when she championed the fines for speeders in 2020 — had said ending the fines would mean the city would lose $45 million from speed camera fines that could be used for infrastructure upgrades and safe passage workers. She also said she worried the change would lead to more people speeding around schools.

Lightfoot was expected to veto the ordinance had it gone to a vote and passed.

Other alderpeople also raised concerns about the proposed ordinance, saying it could lead to people speeding — and more fatalities.

Chicago’s speed cameras issued about 2.3 million tickets in the first 10 months of 2021, the first year the threshold for ticketing was lowered to 6 mph over the limit. That’s nearly as many tickets as the city issued in 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined.

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