For the record, I am not a fan of Rahm Emanuel’s. While I admit to being a liberal that doesn’t mean that I think that every person who came into contact with President Obama is suddenly imbued with super political powers. Everyone I know who has met the man, Emanuel that is, describes him as a foul mouthed bully. Watching him ram through privatization of the funding for public works, such as our railroads and sewers, a plan which is still missing key details such as who owns the city if the city can’t pay and the way he took after the parking meter contract as though the fact the he didn’t like it (no rational person does) could undo all the signatures on the bottom and make all the money paid just an afterthought, are all the signs of a bully who is used to getting his way. For their part, and I never thought I’d be writing this, the fun loving people at Chicago Parking Meters, LLC have simply, and wisely, taken to laughing at Rahmstein and then suing the city. Legally he has no dog in that fight. He has managed to make the firefighters union, one of the more racist in the country with almost 80% of its members being white, seem cuddly, vulnerable and threatened. The teachers’ strike exists solely because our mayor issued edicts from on high with no way to pay for, or staff, them. Everything that came after is just fallout. Yelling at a curb would have more effect and be far less detrimental to us all.
Keep in mind that he did all of this “for the children.” Yes, considering that he is pouring money into privatizing schools and staffing them with nonunion employees, even though there is no evidence that charter schools fare better than public ones, and considering that many of his campaign contributions come from the very people who profit off this particular quirk, you are allowed to call shenanigans.
You are allowed to call it loudly and often.
Things have gotten so far out of hand that the mayor’s office was forced to release an official statement that the mayor does not like Nickelback despite what one teacher had written on a protest sign. For those unfamiliar with Nickelback I can sum them up with this popular tweet, “If you play a Nickelback song backwards you’ll hear messages from the devil. Even worse, if you play it forwards you’ll hear Nickelback.”
Now all I have to do is meet someone who actually plays songs backwards. You see, unlike when I was a kid and you could just spin the vinyl backwards to hear that nothing was there, now you need actual audio editing software to do the trick. No one I know has that kind of free time.
But, even with his unending displays of ham-fisted arrogance, the one thing no one has ever accused the mayor of is being stupid.
For a lot of legal reasons that actually make sense, Emanuel was forced to tie his school zone cameras into the existing laws governing speed limits in school zones.
So far, so good.
However, as the Chicago Tribune reports, no one at City Hall actually took the five minutes required to actually read the law. The law that will render every ticket written in a school zone invalid.
A quirk in Illinois traffic laws has complicated Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to pepper the city with speed cameras and slowed down bidding on a multimillion-dollar system scheduled to begin issuing $100 tickets by early next year.
The problem: a 38-year-old opinion by the Illinois attorney general that says children must be “visibly present” before school zone speed limits can be enforced.
What that means is those robotic safety-zone cameras must not only capture high-definition images of speeding cars and their license plates, they also must seek out and photograph a child as much as a football field’s distance away — preferably in the same shot.
The legal technicality was not addressed when Emanuel persuaded state lawmakers and Chicago aldermen to quickly give City Hall authority to tag speeders near schools and parks in new safety zones that could cover half the city. The mayor argued that a crisis of pedestrian accidents required a quick response, though a Tribune analysis raised doubts about his claims.
Now the bidding process has revealed the complication, which presents both technological and legal issues.
City officials — who set Monday as the final deadline to collect proposals after more than a month of setbacks — acknowledged that confusion over the issue was a central theme behind many of the more than 200 questions they fielded from potential bidders.
“It was an unusual challenge,” said Scott Kubly, the city’s managing deputy commissioner of transportation. “There was a lot of confusion over those requirements. We will take a look at the proposals to see how they did.”
Kubly said the challenge is to develop a cost-effective machine that can recreate what a police officer can do at a glance. The city did its best to alleviate the bidders’ concerns, he said, but it remains to be seen whether the intricacies of the requirements can be met.
Most executives of speed-camera companies contacted declined to be interviewed on the record for fear of disrupting the bidding process, but some said they have never before been faced with such a requirement.
“It was incredibly challenging,” said C.B. Brechin, the CEO of Brekford Corp., a Maryland-based camera operator that is among nine bidders in Chicago. “We had to come up with completely new technology because of the pedestrian requirement.
“It’s the only one in the nation, and you have a situation where this quirky law is damaging the entire program.”
He said that in almost all the other states where his company has bid, school speeding violations are determined solely by location and school hours.
The general wording in the city’s request for proposals prompted a flood of questions from speed-camera companies, according to written inquiries reviewed by the Tribune.
“It refers to an ‘enforceable image’ with respect to pedestrians, can the city please define what that means?” one vendor asked.
“In what manner does the city expect the respondent to differentiate between pedestrian children and adult pedestrians?” asked another.
The city responded by telling vendors to do their best.
“An enforceable image is one that provides sufficient clarity to identify the speed of the vehicle, the license plate of the vehicle, and an image of the pedestrian that is of high enough resolution to identify the presence of a child pedestrian,” was one city response to written questions.
The city also told vendors the photographs of pedestrians will be reviewed by three people to ensure an “enforceable image” of a child. But Brechin said it doesn’t make sense to add three levels of human review when the goal is an automated system that would minimize personnel costs.
“There could be hundreds of violations on any given day and now you have to have humans reviewing videos for all those violations,” he said. “I don’t know how that isn’t cost-prohibitive.”
A veteran traffic lawyer also raised questions about privacy and legal complications, in addition to the potential costs.
“How do you identify whether it’s a child? How do you shoot simultaneous photographs from every angle?” said Donald Ramsell, a Wheaton-based defense attorney and past chairman of the Illinois State Bar Association’s traffic law and courts section. “What about the privacy issues? They’re going to have a whole host of problems to consider.
“So be it. Maybe they won’t be able to make the millions they thought they would from the populace after all.”
Emanuel argues that the cameras are intended to improve safety for children, while critics argue that opting for speed cameras instead of speed bumps was an Emanuel money grab for a cash-strapped city. To make his case, Emanuel cited the safety effectiveness of the city’s red-light camera program, which since 2003 has raised hundreds of millions of dollars through automated traffic citations.
That program is operated by an Australian company called Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. The company employs a Chicago consultant who is a longtime Emanuel political ally. It remains to be seen whether Redflex’s current red-light camera infrastructure in the city will give it an advantage in the bidding for speed cameras.
In addition to Brekford and Redflex, other bids came from American Traffic Solutions, Xerox, Motorola Solutions, Gatso USA, Federal Signal Corp., Optotraffic and B&W Sensors LLP.
The speed-camera program is set to begin with at least 25 cameras but could expand to cameras in about 360 “safety zones” within one-eighth of a mile of the city’s 1,800 schools and parks. According to the city, speeders caught by the cameras would be issued a warning ticket on their first offense, followed by tickets of up to $100.
City officials had hoped to begin rolling out the program by early November, but Kubly said the complicated bidding process had set that date back to early 2013.
Here’s why the school zone speed limit law was so severely limited. I know this will shock many of our more sensitive readers, but until the Attorney General ruled, there were some (as in ALL) municipalities that used the school zones as speed traps just to make money. They did nothing to protect the children.
THANK GOD that’s not what our sainted and beloved mayor is trying to do.
Anyway, people sued. And the Attorney General listened. Mostly because he received sage advice that, if these cases went to trial, the various cities, towns and so on were going to get their asses handed to them in court.
Amazing how common sense can sometimes work.
As to Rahm’s “ignore it or bludgeon it” approach to life, I remind you that Gery Chico still lives here.
Or, there’s always TOOCH! I could live in a city with legalized pot even though I’m allergic to it.
Or, you could vote for Cynthia Plaster Caster. A woman who is an expert on dealing with dicks might be just what this city needs.
I’m just saying, you have choices.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.