Lightfoot uses disputed parliamentary maneuver to stave off speed camera defeat

Lacking the votes to prevent the City Council from raising the miles-per-hour threshold for speed camera tickets, mayoral allies delayed the vote for one meeting over strenuous objections from Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot presiding over a Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot presiding over Wednesday’s Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday used a disputed parliamentary maneuver to stave off defeat on the volatile issue of how fast motorists can drive before getting a speed camera ticket in Chicago.

One day after the City Council Finance Committee voted 16 to 15 to raise the ticketing threshold — from 6 mph over the posted speed limit to 10 mph — mayoral allies exercised their right to defer consideration of the higher threshold until their next meeting, on July 20.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), City Council champion for the higher ticketing threshold, accused the mayor of “continuing to manipulate the rules and not abide by the rules when it’s convenient for them.”

Beale argued from the floor that the full council had no choice but to cast a final vote on the ordinance he’s been pushing for more than a year because it has already been “deferred and published” once and cannot be delayed again.

“I’ve never seen anything deferred and published twice in my 24 years,” he said.

“Let the aldermen decide, what are we gonna do with this. It should not be constantly saying, `We’re not gonna bring it to the floor for a vote.’ “

Lightfoot overruled Beale and cut off debate as her nemesis shouted at her from the floor. 

“We’ve debated this long enough,” she said. 

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) at a Chicago City Council meeting on June 22, 2022.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) was angered by Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to again delay a vote on his ordinance that would restore higher thresholds for speed-camera tickets.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When Beale “respectfully appealed” the ruling of the chair and demanded a roll call vote, the mayor countered, “D&P’s are not debatable. They’re not appealable. It’s interesting that, every time you’re wrong, you challenge everything.”

Beale then joined mayoral challenger Ray Lopez (15th), another one of the mayor’s most outspoken council critics, in delaying consideration of every item on the Finance Committee’s agenda.

“The games continue,” a disgusted Lightfoot said from the rostrum.

Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) could only shake her head while muttering, “Childish. Childish.”

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) added, “I’d like to be recorded as thoroughly embarrassed and ask my colleagues to cease and desist.”

Finance Chair Scott Waguespack (32nd) replied, “We don’t have a ‘thoroughly embarrassed’ button” on the electronic voting system. He told Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th): “They could take the loss and act like adults.”

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) at a Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

Ald. Carrie Austin, calling it “childish” for Ald. Anthony Beale and Ald. Ray Lopez to delay action on a slew of agenda items in retaliation for Mayor Lori Lightfoot decided to put off a final vote on an ordinance to raise the threshold for speed-camera tickets.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

When the Finance Committee agenda was concluded, Lightfoot called for the council to stand in recess.

After a few minutes, the council reconvened. Beale and Lopez allowed items on the Budget Committee report to go through without challenge. Their retaliation was over.

Wednesday’s dust-up was prompted by the latest in a series of disputed parliamentary rulings that, Beale contends, underscore the need for the City Council to have its own attorney and parliamentarian to counter mayoral rulings from the chair that contradict Roberts Rules of Order.

That’s yet another Beale crusade that has dragged on for months and has, so far, gone nowhere. 

Ald. Ray Lopez at a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, June 22, 2022.

Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) moves to defer and publish several items in retaliation for Mayor Lori Lightfoot delaying a final vote on an ordinance that would raise the miles-per-hour threshold for speed camera tickets.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Lightfoot may well have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. But it could be short-lived.

She was forced to resort to another stalling tactic because, at this moment, she doesn’t have the votes to maintain the lower threshold that has generated an avalanche of tickets and $59 million in revenue for the city since being imposed in March 2021.

Barring last-minute arm-twisting that turns the tide, a mayoral defeat could set the stage for Lightfoot’s first mayoral veto — Chicago’s first since Richard M. Daley vetoed the big box minimum wage ordinance in 2006.

The Chicago City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

After Mayor Lori Lightfoot ruled that a vote on a speed-camera ticketing ordinance could be delayed again, two members of the City Council also moved to delay every item on the Finance Committee agenda. One member called the dispute “childish.”

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Overriding that veto would require the support of two-thirds of the council. That’s 34 members, a level Beale is unlikely to reach.

Lightfoot left little doubt she has her veto pen in hand if the ordinance passes at the July 20 meeting before the council’s August recess.

Asked whether she has a “contingency plan” for replacing the $45 million in revenue that would be lost if the ticketing threshold is raised, the mayor said, “I don’t ever intend to let that happen.”

The mayor told reporters she “thought she was listening to Trump” when she heard to bogus arguments being raised by Beale in support of raising the ticketing threshold.

She once again urged Chicagoans to contact the 16 alderpersons who dared to vote against her in the Finance Committee between now and July 20. They included six members of the mayor’s own council leadership team, including Budget Chair Pat Dowell (3rd), a U.S. House candidate running in the crowded 1st Congressional District Democratic primary.

“No one likes speed cameras. I get it. But, this is life and death,” she said.

As for the retaliation by Beale and Lopez, the mayor hinted that indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th) was the heavy hand behind the shenanigans.

“The performance of those two speaks for itself,” she said of Burke and Beale.

Anyone who “read the room” could see that their colleagues “want to be about the peoples’ business” while “acting like adults” — not engaging in “gamesmanship and petty self-interest,” the mayor said.

For months, Lightfoot and her top aides have argued that their decision to start issuing $35 tickets to motorists caught going between six and nine miles-an-hour over the speed limit around schools and parks was all about safety.

But after Wednesday’s near-showdown, the mayor continued to change her tune.

She argued it was also about revenue after all — and that the city simply cannot afford to “take away funding” for police, after-school programs, Safe Passage workers or infrastructure.

The mayor even went so far as to predict victory when the higher speed camera threshold comes to a final vote next month before the August recess.

Beale made no apologies for the retaliatory strike.

“You can’t hit somebody and expect them to turn the other cheek. That’s not how this works,” he said.

Even though he had the votes for a higher ticketing threshold on Tuesday, Beale acknowledged that one month is an eternity in Chicago politics.

“I know they’re gonna be calling people. I know they’re gonna be twisting arms and they’re gonna do everything in their power to try to kill this,” he said.

Contributing: Ashlee Rezin

A Chicago speed camera.

A Chicago speed camera.

Stefano Esposito / Sun-Times

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