Northside Republican Demands Halt To Chicago’s Speed Cameras
In light of a growing scandal involving the vendor for Chicago’s red light camera program, Northside Republican Committeeman Scott Davis wants to put the brakes on the city’s new speed camera program.
A report by the Chicago Tribune last week revealed more allegations of misconduct by Redflex Traffic Systems employees, where the former Deputy Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation overseeing the RLC program was provided free trips and hotel accommodations to the Superbowl and other sporting events.
After the most recent revelations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel barred the firm from bidding on the new red light camera contract coming up for bid–a contract the Redflex has held since the program’s inception in 2003.
However, the decision to award the contract for the city’s newest expansion of automated traffic enforcement, speed cameras, is imminent. And while Redflex was also barred from bidding on the speed camera contract, Davis feels the recent scandal surrounding red light cameras demonstrates the city has no business expanding this type of enforcement and wants the Mayor and City Council to stop it from moving forward.
“I’m just calling on the Mayor and the City Council to repeal a speed camera ordinance that it unwanted by the citizens of Chicago,” says Davis, Republican Committeeman for the 44th Ward. “There is still time for the City Council and the Mayor to do the right thing. The story last week shows this type of (automated camera) enforcement is about contracts, clout and corruption. It’s the typical Chicago machine story we see over and over. It should be a big warning not to move forward with the speed camera program.”
The ordinance allowing speed camera enforcement passed last April 33-14, despite heavy public opposition and is expected to generate between $20-$30 million in revenue for the city in 2013.
It’s this multi-million dollar revenue estimate and the over $330 million generated by the city’s RLC program that makes Davis believe the speed camera program is primarily about money, not safety.
“There’s no way to prove it’s (speed cameras) about safety,” said Davis. “It’s impossible to measure the success of a program like this–it’s just about money. More and more people are seeing it for what is is–a scam.”
The city recently ended a month long test of the speed camera technology of two finalists for the contract on January 4th and is in the process of determining which company’s system would work best.
But, according to Richard Diamond, publisher The Newspaper.com, a national news website covering the politics of driving issues, Redflex along with Affilated Computer Services (recently acquired by Xerox) and American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the two companies vying for the city’s speed camera contract, all have a history of ethically challenged behavior.
“Redflex has done this before–we reported about how Redflex put up a Tennessee police chief at the Ritz-Carlton in return for his favorable testimony in court,” said Diamond. “ATS routinely hosts and entertains local officials from around the country at “training” sessions in Phoenix. Two cops in Canada were put on trial after ACS (now Xerox) gave them hockey tickets and trips in return for their favorable recommendation on the contract. One of the officers even had an affair with an ACS employee.”
Charges against the two Edmonton, Canada policemen were ultimately dismissed.
There’s also been questions surrounding the reliability of ACS/Xerox’s technology.
Currently, state officials in Maryland are investigating troubling issues with the speed camera program operated by ACS/Xerox according to Diamond’s website. An audit of the program showed 56% of the photographs supplied by the company as evidence were unreadable. The company also admitted this past December that 5.6% of the speed camera violations it issued to drivers in Baltimore, MD were erroneous.
American Traffic Solutions has been facing its own challenges of late. ATS and Redflex, along with 18 New Jersey municipalities are defendants in a class action lawsuit claiming over $10.2 million in illegal citations were issued. ATS recently agreed to partially refund the traffic camera fines of New Jersey drivers to the tune of $4.2 million, in a suit that claims the municipalities failed to file legally required traffic studies and have a state required six month equipment inspection. ATS denied any wrongdoing but entered into the agreement in a seemingly strategic move to limit their liability in this particular lawsuit.
Chicago’s Childrens’ Safety Zone ordinance states when a camera becomes operational drivers will receive a warning for their first offense, but subsequent violations will cost drivers exceeding the speed limit between 6-10 mph $35 or $100 for motorists exceeding the speed limit by over 11 mph. The cameras will operate within 1/8 of a mile of a school or park. Mayor Emanuel has contended from the idea’s inception the program was aimed at saving the lives and reducing serious injuries of children due to crashes.
“The victims we’re trying to protect are the children,” said Emanuel at a press conference unveiling the speed camera concept just over a year ago.
“How is taking money from working families helping children?” said Davis about these fines and scoffing at the Mayor contention speed cameras will save the lives of children. “You’re taking food off the tables of poor and working class people. Plus you’re hurting local business by taking money–millions of dollars–out of the economy. Small business will be hurt by this tax. It’s just legal plunder.”