They bring in revenue of $58.9 million annually to the public treasury of Chicago alone. They are “ATMs” according to an activist. And they are attracting attention to the candidacy of Scott Tucker, the Republican candidate for the 11th Illinois Legislative district, a Democratic stronghold in the Welles Park neighborhood.
Tucker, who told the Christian Science Monitor that the cameras are a nuisance, is challenging a report by the Chicago Tribune issued yesterday. The Tribune took to the streets to verify Tucker’s claim that Chicago’s yellow lights were reduced to 2.5 seconds from the three seconds that is the federally required minimum.
Watch a video report from the Chicago Tribune on red-light cameras
Using video technology, the Tribune measured the duration of yellow in 70 intersections in the city and the suburbs. The Tribune found that the city intersections were generally shorter, three seconds compared to about 4 seconds or more, than suburban intersections. But it did not identify any intersections with signals shorter than three seconds.
At one intersection at 99th and Halsted Streets, the intersection that produces more red-light camera tickets than any other intersection in the city, a city crew took apart the intersection computer for the newspaper to demonstrate the safeguards the city says prevent it from reducing the yellow light below three seconds.
“The Tribune’s ‘investigation’ is a softball piece,” Tucker said to the Bulldog, it tells us what the mayor wants us to think, “that it’s about safety, and not about the tens-of-millions-of-dollars that red light cameras take from our communities, and then pay-out to connected camera industry manufacturers, vendors, lobbyists, and to the city’s general fund.”
Tucker said, “just because the federal guidelines allow for a three second yellow doesn’t mean a three second yellow is safe. It’s not.” Tucker is urging a state law that would make red-light cameras illegal. His protest has caused a furor in Springfield as neighborhood State Senator and Senate President John Cullerton (D- Ravenswood Manor) held a meeting with red-light camera manufacturers then distributed a video of a leading State Senate opponent of red-light cameras, Dan Duffy (R- Lake Barrington), running a red-light.
Unfair cried Duffy. And although the video was initially released under a FOIA request, the city of Schaumburg which released the video is now reassessing its FOIA policy and would probably deny further such requests following the kerfuffle.
The Welles Park neighborhood is home to a number of cameras, particularly on Addison Street and Irving Park Road, intersections that lead to Wrigley Field.
Tucker, who says he has never been ticketed for a red-light violation, questioned the city’s commitment to safety charging that the $100 ticket received by the vehicle owner instead of the vehicle operator is wrong and demonstrates the city’s interest in using the cameras to generate revenue.
“These intersections should be independently-engineered for safety, not for revenue,” Tucker said.