Partisan Driving – The Chicago Reader

It was a mixed week on the homefront. Mayor Lightfoot rolled out the red carpet for NASCAR the day before he turned his hand to elder people cracking down on speeders to make our roads safer.

So one day the mayor is cheering on the stock car racers for going faster. And next time she desperately begs motorists to slow down – or else!

Let’s start with NASCAR.

On Tuesday July 19, Mayor Lightfoot and NASCAR officials gathered reporters downtown to announce the good news! Starting next year, NASCAR will sponsor a three-year stock car race at Grant Park on the Fourth of July weekend.

Well, the race won’t actually take place at Grant Park. But on streets in and around the park, including Dusable Lake Shore Drive, Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. The roads will be equipped with grandstands so that racing enthusiasts can watch.

As with all “good news,” Lightfoot learned from its Mayor predecessors to underestimate the benefits and ignore the costs.

That’s why it hasn’t said how much it will cost taxpayers to organize the event—including reimbursing parking meter owners, who must be reimbursed every time they close public roads, by letting them collect parking fees. stops.

As you can see, it pays to be wary of “good news” mayors.

Back to NASCAR. , ,

It stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It was founded in 1948 and is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida. Many of its original drivers were bootleggers who bypassed the law as they dropped their illegally produced moonshine across the South.

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Traditionally, its politics have been right-leaning. NASCAR’s founder, Bill France Sr., was the campaign manager for the 1972 presidential campaign of separatist George Wallace.

NASCAR is still a cry from the outcome of the 2021 Sparks 300 race (at the famed Talladega Racecourse in Alabama), with thousands of fans chanting “Fuck Joe Biden” in the stands.

Clearly, this was his way of telling Biden what he thought of his belief that the country is just one big happy family, eager to work together for the common good.

The chant was so loud you could hear it on TV, forcing NBC reporter Kelly Stavast to tell viewers that people were actually “Let’s go Brandon!” were chanting. In honor of Brandon Brown who had just won the race.

Thus, “Let’s Go Brandon” became a favorite MAGA rally cry and meme. (Though according to my downstate sources, the signs of choice in MAGA Illinois remain “fuck Biden” and “Pritzker sucks.”)

If all goes according to Lightfoot’s plan, thousands of NASCAR enthusiasts will come to town next summer to watch the race. Here’s an idea – after the race, they can pose for pictures under the sign at Trump Tower, wearing their “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirts.

I guess I should be delighted at the prospect of an influx of MAGA fans into the city they hate and filling our coffers with their sales tax. Of course, we’ll see how many actually show up.

By the way, Brandon Brown was not at the press conference, but Bubba Wallace was.

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Wallace is important because he is one of the only black drivers on the NASCAR circuit. Also the sponsor of his racing team is Michael Jordan.

As such, Wallace was called upon to say a few words about how next year’s race in Chicago might encourage black kids to reach for racing stars.

“Exposing this sport to the region is going to be extremely important,” Wallace said. “You’re going to get that next Bubba Wallace sitting in the stands like I was when I was nine, ‘I want to do this one day.'”

That was Tuesday.

The next day, at Wednesday’s city council meeting, the bigwigs passed a law, at the mayor’s urging, to crack down on drag racers who are using Lower Wacker Drive as their illegal racecourse.

And then the council finally agreed to vote on a proposal to lift the ticket limit to motorists by speed cameras.

Originally, motorists were ticketed for going ten miles over the limit. Last year, Lightfoot reduced it to six miles from the limit, citing the need for safe roads.

Elderperson Anthony Beale, who represents the Ninth Ward on the far south side, proposed increasing it to ten.

Realizing it didn’t have the support to defeat Beale’s rollback, Lightfood and its allies made one parliamentary maneuver after another to prevent it from coming to the vote.

Beale argued that lowering the threshold was more about writing tickets and collecting fines than security. And that black motorists were getting tickets unfairly more than white ones.

Indeed, according to exposés from ProPublica journalists Emily Hopkins and Melissa Sanchez, the speed light ticket program has been biased against black communities in the South and West.

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Sanchez and Hopkins wrote, “A ProPublica analysis of millions of citations found that households with a majority of Black and Hispanic ZIP codes received almost twice as many tickets between 2015 and 2019 as those in White areas.” “The consequences have been particularly harsh in black neighborhoods, which have been hit with more than half a billion dollars in penalties over the past 15 years, contributing to thousands of vehicle seizures, driver’s license suspensions and bankruptcies.”

One reason for the disparity is that there are more speed cameras along roads leading to expressways in black neighborhoods than in white ones. As drivers accelerate toward the expressway, this means more tickets for motorists in black communities.

One obvious solution is to settle things down as well by putting more cameras in white communities. But it’s one thing to annoy some Black Elder people—it’s a whole different thing to annoy White North Siders. So much for that solution.

The mayor got 26 elders to defeat Beale’s proposal. Racial inequality and injustice are once again flourishing in Chicago.

Anyway, welcome to the Windy City, Bubba Wallace. If our city leaders treat you the same way they’ve historically treated black residents, they’ll start you next year’s race a few hundred feet behind your white competitors.

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