Chicago 2022 budget passes, including income-based fines, mental health funds – Streetsblog Chicago


Yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s $ 16.7 billion 2022 budget in Chicago, which, thanks to money from federal COVID stimulus funds, contained relatively generous funding for social programs, was passed by city council by 35 to 15. Some notable aspects of the budget included a property tax increase that is expected to average $ 38 per homeowner, as well as a revolutionary Universal Basic Income pilot project, which could grant $ 500 per month to 6 000 low-income families to help them make ends meet.

Reforms to the city’s traffic fine structure aimed at making it less regressive and more equitable, as well as increased funding for mental health services, are particularly relevant to the pace of Streetsblog, which could be a step forward in the good direction to improve public safety in public transport.

Reform of traffic fines

Under the new rules, residents earning less than $ 38,640 per year will pay 50% less than the standard rate for traffic fines. These Chicagoans will also have the option to be forgiven for their city permit or sticker compliance tickets once they become compliant by purchasing a new city sticker or renewing their license plates.

These motorists will only have to pay for tickets received within the past three years, less late penalties. All other debts, such as start-up, towing and storage costs of impounded vehicles will be canceled. These programs will run until the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, the budget renews the 6 mph threshold for speed camera tickets that exceeded last year. Under the current structure, drivers who accelerate 6-10mph are fined $ 35, while those who accelerate 11mph or more are fined $ 100. This was despite an effort by 9th Ward alderman Anthony Beale to lower the threshold to 10 mph. This would once again have allowed drivers in the 30 mph zones to do 39 with impunity, a speed at which struck pedestrians almost always die.

Image: City of Chicago
Image: City of Chicago

Some other city councilors say the 6 mph rule appears to disproportionately affect black and Latino residents. 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney told WBEZ he had received a preliminary map showing where tickets were issued this year. “Each of the aldermen should take a look at these cameras and how it affects each community. My first look at it – it particularly affects black and brown communities. “

A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Transportation, which installs and operates the cameras, told Streetsblog that neither the CDOT nor the Chicago Department of Finance, which operates the ticket office, appear to have such a card, so we don’t. don’t know where Tunney got this information. But Streetsblog Chicago will try to find this data for future coverage.

Representatives of local sustainable transport organizations applauded the ticketing reforms. “Reducing traffic fines for the city’s lower income residents is an important step towards a fairer system,” said Kyle Whitehead, spokesperson for the Active Transportation Alliance. “We support the establishment of a full sliding scale for traffic fines and the provision of payment alternatives for low-income residents, such as traffic schools or restorative justice programs. Traffic control should be used to make our streets safer and prevent serious and fatal accidents. It should not be used to generate income for purposes other than transportation, especially at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable residents. “

Metropolitan Planning Council Transportation Director Audrey Wennink also endorsed the income-based fee reduction. “It is a step in the right direction to recalibrate our transport cost structures so that they are more aligned with people’s incomes. Wennink noted that this approach is supported by the recent report from the Metropolitan Planning Agency of Chicago – A Transportation System That Works for Everyone: Improving Fairness in Fees, Fines, and Fares.

Oboi Reed, leader of the non-profit mobility justice organization Equitity, also said the income-based fee reduction is a positive change. “Equitity supports a progressive fine structure, where the poor pay less and the rich pay more. This approach reflects the mayor’s public commitment to fairness.

As to whether the 6 mph rule has a disproportionate impact on African American and Latino residents, White Head said. “We continue to call on the city to study the racial equity impacts of the photo enforcement program. The results should be shared publicly and used to inform changes to the program.

“The income from the cameras should be used for investments and road safety programs, with an emphasis on areas with high collision rates on the south and west sides,” he added. “The highest collision lanes in the city are disproportionately located in these areas, where poorly designed and large streets encourage people to speed up. “

Reed said: “We do not support a punitive approach to resolve [traffic violence], a problem disproportionately affecting black and brown communities, which is rooted in structural racism and multigenerational sustainable divestment. He blamed street designs in communities of color that encourage speeding on “decades of failures by a racist planning and transportation sector.”

Mental health funding

Streetsblog Chicago has previously discussed how crucial it is to provide all citizens with adequate mental health support to create a safer and more peaceful city, including CTA. So it’s good news for transit riders that the new budget includes increased investment in local mental health clinics. According to WBEZ, the plan includes an additional $ 6 million for mental health, which will fund nearly 29 new permanent positions at Chicago’s five mental health clinics. The city says it will mean longer hours in clinics and more services for teens.

Making it easier for all Chicagoans to access the mental health counseling and medication they need can only help address Chicago’s pressing public safety challenges, including on transit.

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