The Alderman Responds

Here is what the Alderman had to say about speed cameras (I should specify: this was not a direct response to my post, just a general email blast…I must not be the only person complaining about this!):

Since October of 2013, the City of Chicago has been installing Automated Speed Enforcement Cameras throughout Child Safety Zone locations. The City of Chicago experiences a great deal of car accidents each year.  Many of those accidents involve injuries and death to people of all ages.  One thing we all know is that the rate of speed is co-related to the outcome of those who have the unpleasant experience of having contact with a moving vehicle.

It is important to understand why I supported automatic enforcement cameras.  As a former law enforcement officer, traffic accident investigator and first responder, I can personally speak to the property damage, injuries and death investigations that made up my daily job assignment.  Without exception, I found that a lower-speed accident resulted in better outcomes for everyone concerned.

Okay, so lower-speed accidents are better than higher speed accidents. So far I’m with him. But, just to be clear, this does NOT say that the “Child Safety Zones” coincide with accidents, injuries, or deaths, or that speed cameras are shown to lessen property damage, injuries, or deaths (much less these specific placements of speed cameras).

The Child Safety Zone program is designed to protect the public by reminding motorists to slow down and obey the posted speed limits around schools and parks. I personally advocated for ensuring there was a reasonable speed cushion of 6 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.  Are speed cameras something I want? No, absolutely not.  Do I want them to be speed traps? No, absolutely not. Do I support speeding throughout the community? No and neither do most residents.  I can say this because of the number of requests made by residents who are asking for speed humps to slow traffic speeds to protect the lives of their neighbors and family members.  The use of speed humps is not allowable on main arterial streets.

“Are speed cameras something I want? No, absolutely not”, but literally one paragraph above he said, “it is important to understand why I supported automatic enforcement cameras”. So you don’t want them, but you support them. Got it.

Perhaps we can think of a better way for “reminding motorists to slow down” that doesn’t also “coincidentally” put money in the city’s pocket. How about better signage to more clearly mark the park and school zones? The one on Indianapolis might be marked, but I didn’t see it when I was actively looking for it. (I have not specifically gone back to see if I can find signage, as some people have done.) If you are only concerned about “reminding” me, how about a bigger sign?

But since he brought it up, how about speed humps? Speed cameras were also “not allowable” until a law was passed, so excuse me if I don’t take “it’s not allowed” as the end all, be all excuse from the guy who decides what’s allowed and not allowed. But wait, speed humps and larger signs don’t bring revenue to the city. Interesting.

I think it’s safe to say City Council members do not want to burden drivers with unnecessary fines.

Why is that safe to say? I don’t find it particularly safe to say the City Council does not want extra money.

We do want to slow excessive traffic speeds everywhere, especially around schools and parks.  The push to abolish speed cameras delivers the message that “speeding and reckless driving is supported.” We cannot support speeding and reckless driving. Traffic controls make it possible for us to drive our vehicles on the roads safely.  Citations for exceeding the speed limit are not anything new.  Technology is affecting our lives every day.  The control of our speed is best controlled by the driver.

This entire paragraph is what is known as a Non Sequitur argument:

Non Sequitur (“It does not follow”). This is the simple fallacy of stating, as a conclusion, something that does not strictly follow from the premises.

It’s just a series of statements. Each statement is true by itself, but do not build to a logical conclusion. The argument is:

  1. We cannot support reckless driving
  2. Traffic controls make driving safe
  3. Tickets are not anything new
  4. Technology affects our lives
  5. Speed is best controlled by the driver

The Alderman wishes us to believe that the logical conclusion to the above is that speed cameras are necessary. Even if the above statements are all true (and I could debate a few of them, particularly #2), it does not hold that speed cameras are the logical outcome.

Abolishing traffic controls in Chicago is not the answer.

That does not mean that establishing speed cameras IS the answer.

The same tools are used in surrounding towns and villages.

Ah, the old, “Everybody else is doing it!” This is another classic fallacy

Argumentum ad populum (argument or appeal to the public) or Argumentum ad numerum (argument or appeal to numbers). This fallacy is the attempt to prove something by showing how many people think that it’s true. But no matter how many people believe something, that doesn’t necessarily make it true or right.

In other words, it doesn’t matter *who* is using speed cameras, that doesn’t justify it. Let’s just hope the surrounding towns and villages don’t jump off a bridge.

Speed cameras and red light cameras are not going away unless they are abolished by State Elected Officials who have the power to outlaw them across the state.  Making adjustments to the system of changing dangerous driving behavior is a much better approach to addressing this matter.  Let us all do a better job of driving more safely and advocate for our fellow drivers to do the same.  Visible signage and traffic controls that support our need to change bad driving behavior and reduce the negative sanctions of fines is a good step in that direction.  Reducing the number of cameras is another option that can be pursued.

Okay, so we’re stuck with them and there’s nothing we can do, but none of this addresses the topic of placement of the speed cameras. Were the speed cameras specifically placed in neighborhoods where reckless driving has been shown to be an issue? Were they placed in neighborhoods with a large “number of requests made by residents who are asking for speed humps to slow traffic speeds to protect the lives of their neighbors and family members”? Or were they specifically placed in areas designed to be speed traps, such as next to parks that are “two blocks away” from the road, concrete lots, dog parks, or fenced in golf courses? Why are some cameras reporting a disproportionate amount of violations, specifically on the South Side, with a handful of cameras each individually generating millions of dollars of revenue for the city.

Do you and I want safer streets? Yes. Do we want to avoid paying fines? Yes we do.  Do we want to send a message that it’s ok to speed and drive recklessly by removing traffic controls? No we don’t.  Will the State outlaw these types of traffic controls? No! Do we want the system monitored better so malfunctions are discovered and corrected quickly? Yes, absolutely.  So, as my colleagues and I advocate for changes, please drive safely.

What I do not see anywhere is evidence that shows that speed cameras reduce “reckless driving” and make an area safer (the *claimed* desired outcome). If such evidence existed, it would be produced. Instead, the Alderman is relying on rhetoric and logical fallacies to make his point. I do see direct evidence that speed cameras make the city money (let’s be honest, the *actual* desired outcome).

Which speaks louder, actions or words? I think the gentleman doth protest too much.

The Scourge of Speed Cameras

Remember that automated speeding warning I got last month? Guess what arrived in the mail this month!

Behold, in all our DANGEROUS, RECKLESS, glory:

Lock those monsters up.

Now here’s the thing. I would SWEAR to you that we were not speeding. We only went that way one time since we got the warning, so I know very specifically what day this happened. And I remember being very, very careful not to speed and saying to Sara, “Okay, help me watch for speed limit signs.” I did everything I could possibly do to not get a speeding ticket.

That’s my main problem with the whole thing: I was clearly trying my best not to break the law. I know for a fact that we were driving slowly and safely, with one eye on the speedometer. So don’t try to pretend this is about anything more than making money. Don’t try to pretend it’s about “safety” or “protecting children”.

I guess I was speeding. I can’t produce any evidence and anyway, they have video, so who am I to say? We were tearing up the road at a blazing 42 miles an hour, for the maximum possible fine, natch. How were we going > 10 mph over the speed limit? Well, supposedly we were going through a park.

I would SWEAR to you that there is no park on that stretch of road. I would SWEAR to you that there is no posted 30 mph speed limit sign. Maybe it’s in a bush or something?

So I started doing a little research. Turns out there is a park there, but there are some questions being raised about if that stretch was designated as a park just to get the speed camera installed. Notice the map below. The green rectangle is “Park No. 499″, and the green pointer is the “address” of said park.

Gee, I wonder why I hadn’t seen that park from S. Indianapolis Ave. before…


Maybe everything is on the up and up with these speed cameras. Maybe I was doing something illegal, got caught, and now I’m trying to pass the blame. Even still, I just don’t think that we should set up a system that incentives the police to do the wrong thing and then hope that they don’t. More people “caught” = more money in the city’s pocket, and there’s no way for us to check up on this, or prove our innocence. So we just have to assume that the city is going against their own financial interests, and not “cheating”.

And then you read this.

Turns out, the city of Chicago was caught illegally lowering the length of yellow lights on intersections with red light cameras installed, resulting in an “extra” $7 million in revenue. Whoops.

The city agreed to fix it, but only because the Tribune looked into it.

Who’s going to look into it for every violation?

Quote Monday plays it by ear

Sara: “Oh, you decorated a pumpkin? Is it a bat?”
Evie: “No. It’s a pumpkin with decorations on it.

Me: “S-H-A-N-E. Do you know what that spells?”
Ollie: “Daddy?”

Me: “Some people have the ability to ‘play by ear’. That means they can just hear a song and then play it.”
Evie: “That’s not what ‘play by ear’ means! Playing by ear means when you don’t make a plan and see what happens.”

::Ollie going to the bathroom. Evie comes in and flushes his toilet.::
Ollie, whispering into the toilet: “I’m sorry Mother Earth, but my sister did it.”

A conservationist at heart.

::Ollie found a penny when we were going into the grocery store::
Ollie: “Can I swipe this through the machine to pay for the groceries?”

I’m a slave to the masses

Lots of people messaging me, facebooking me, etc. to see a picture of me in the hat. Well, ask and you shall receive.

One thing’s for certain: if you tell a 4 year old photographer to “make sure he gets the hat in the picture”, he makes sure he gets the hat in the picture.


“Copy Machine”, now in Polish

Following last month’s translation into Galician, my story “Copy Machine” is now available in the Polish magazine Szortal (pronounced “shortal” for us English speakers).

One more step on my way to world domination…

Just in case our family wasn’t loud enough already, we bought a piano

We have been planning to buy a piano for quite some time. The kids have been saving every penny they have for almost a full year, starting with Christmas presents last year. I have to say I am VERY impressed with the determination and focus with which they saved. Pretty impressive for two kids their age to stick with it for so long.

It’s kind of amazing how much money the kids were able to save up. We told the kids we would get a piano when they had saved up $200, so they put forward a pretty significant amount of money. A lot came from Christmas and birthday gifts, but really it came from everywhere: tooth fairy money, psych experiments, and any change dropped on the street in a 3 mile radius. It was kind of funny; when we finally opened up the “piano bank” to count the money, it was full of hundreds of the grubbiest, nastiest street pennies the city of Chicago has to offer.

We bought the piano from Keys 4/4 Kids, a “501(c)3 nonprofit organization that accepts, restores, and sells donated pianos. Proceeds from piano sales support music and arts programs for local youth.” Corbin was suuuper nice and helped us pick out an absolutely beautiful piano. Evie got her heart set on it immediately, so of course we ended up buying one that was at the tippy-top of our price range.

However, it was worth it, because Evie has just had a blast with that piano. She plays it every minute she gets. She’s decided she would like to be a “famous composer” when she grows up, and the floor around the piano is currently littered with the “sheet music” she’s creating. The two current favorites are “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater” and “Love Me Tender” (taught by Grandma Kathy). One or the other is played about ever 5 minutes, so they have a way of sticking in your head.

a girl and her piano

Looks like someone will be ready for some piano lessons, if you’re thinking of Christmas gifts!


It’s Quote Monday. That’s what they *do*.

Ollie: “Oh! Oh! I think my boogie went into your kiss!”

Evie: “But I don’t understand. We always buy chocolate at the store, but where does it go?”

Where indeed.

::playing frisbee with Ollie, and he kept making me chase it::
Me: “You really like to make me walk in the sun.”
Ollie: “Okay, well then run.”

Ollie, showing me a drawing: “This part over here is a tarantula. And this red part is a person inside the tarantula’s tummy.”
Me: “Oh no, the tarantula ate a person?”
Ollie, incredulous: “Uh, yeah? It’s a tarantula. That’s what they do.”




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