Street sweeping scofflaws could be the next target of city cameras

Chicago residents could find themselves the focus of yet another set of cameras under a proposal by Mayor Richard M. Daley to use street sweepers to videotape cars blocking their efforts.

The proposed ordinance, introduced to the City Council yesterday, would use video cameras mounted on street cleaning vehicles to collect evidence against motorists who park illegally on street cleaning days. Scofflaws would receive $50 tickets.

But Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Michael Picardi says revenue is not the motive.

"We're trying to clean the streets of the city. That's what this is really all about," Picardi said. "You know if you live on a block and nobody moves their car and the sweeper goes by that day, then your curb lane is going to be dirty for the next two months."

Daley says the cameras will be cheaper and more effective than using police.

"Instead of sending a policeman out there to issue a ticket, this is much easier," he said. "Let's use the technology and use the police for different reasons."

The mayor said the technology could eventually be applied to snow plows as well.

If approved, the Streets and Sanitation Department will test the program citywide with six street sweepers - one in each of the city's five sanitation districts, plus one "floater."

"We will be constantly testing to verify the accuracy of this technology and our equipment to make sure that the data supports any ticket issued," Department of Fleet Management Commissioner Howard Henneman said in a written statement.

Drivers will activate their cameras as they approach posted street-sweeping routes, recording the date, time, and location of illegally parked vehicles.

Two photographs - one of the license plate and the other of the vehicle and the posted sign - will be sent, along with the data, to the Department of Revenue, which will issue an electronic ticket.

Motorists can request a hearing from the administrative hearings department to challenge their ticket.

The city will continue to use temporary "no-parking" signs posted by seasonal laborers on street cleaning days from April through October.

Eventually, the city plans to install permanent signs throughout the city, but according to Picardi, the $12 million price tag is a barrier.

The street sweepers would be the latest addition to the city's photographic enforcement arsenal.

In 2007, the city raked in $24.6 million from motorists caught running red lights by surveillance cameras. In March, Alderman Ed Burke (D-15) an Alderman Tom Allen (D-38) asked the state legislature to lift a prohibition on using video cameras to catch speeders. They are pushing the use of cameras to catch speeders in "high risk" zones like schools and hospitals.

Chicago was also one of the first cities in the country to adopt the use of so-called "blue light" surveillance cameras to deter crime.

In other actions Wednesday, Daley unveiled a plan to buy the Michael Reese Hospital site in Bronzeville for a proposed 2016 Olympic Village.

"The acquisition of the hospital property will help with the overall planning for the larger community, and could provide additional space and flexibility for the planning of 2016 Olympic Village," said Daley.

The deal calls for the city to buy the property by issuing an $84 million note to Medline Industries, which owns the property.

The company will then donate $20 million to the city, primarily for the purposes of environmental remediation and demolition, according to Pete Scales, spokesperson for the planning department.

The city will seek to sell the property to a developer in order to pay off the note.

If Chicago loses its Olympic bid, the deal calls for the city to pay Medline Industries an additional $5 million to reflect the property's higher market value.

Michael Reese hospital sits on a 37-acre site, west of Lake Shore Drive, between 26th and 31st Streets.

"The future of this large site will have a significant impact on the community at large, and it is important for the City to guide its redevelopment, whether or not we are chosen as the host city," said the mayor.

The hospital has announced plans to close by the end of the year.

The purchase must be approved by the finance committee before it goes to the City Council.

In other city business:

* Daley proposed a plan to provide Rush University Medical Center with $75 million in TIF assistance through the Central West Tax Increment Financing District. The hospital's $1 billion expansion project includes the creation of an advanced emergency response center equipped to handle pandemics or bioterrorism. The Community Development Commission voted in January to expand the borders of the Central West TIF district to include the project - a move opposed by some residents.

* The Council approved $10.6 million in TIF assistance for realty company MLRP to redevelop the 30-acre site of a former Brach's candy factory at 401 N. Cicero Avenue. Plans call for the site to be developed as a 520,000 square-foot distribution and warehouse facility at a cost of $43 million. Opponents of the project wanted the property for a public high school.

*The Council confirmed the appointment of Homero Tristan as Commissioner of Human Resources. Tristan, 37, is charged with assisting the federal monitor in efforts to reform a department tainted by hiring scandals. He is a partner in the law firm Tristan and Gonzalez, where practices labor and employment law. Tristan has also practiced with the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, investigating charges of unfair labor practices.

*Daley proposed a plan to build a new library at 727 N. Kedzie Ave. in West Humboldt Park with $13.1 million in funds from the Kinzie Industrial Corridor TIF District.

*The CTA and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications introduced a pilot program to speed bus traffic through 10 intersections along Western Avenue with sensors that detect approaching CTA buses and adjust the timing of green and red lights. The $652,743 estimated cost of the program would be covered by a grant from the Regional Transportation Authority.