Category Archives: Red Light Cameras
Ald. Scott Waguespack is not screwing around this time–he wants formal hearings on the city’s red light cameras.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Waguespack filed a resolution with 19 c0-sponsors demanding hearings on Chicago’s beleaguered red light camera program.
“The resolution simply says you got to have a hearing on this,” explained Waguespack.
Hearings would be held in the Committee on Transportation and the Public Way.
Waguespack and a handful of other alderman asked for hearings over a year ago after a Chicago Tribune story revealed an alleged bribery scheme between the city’s RLC vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems and former Chicago Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner John Bills. Bills has since been federally indicted.
At the time the aldermen felt it was time to give the program a hard look–but were ignored.
“We represent the people,” said an agitated Waguespack. “They said ‘go shove it to the people of the City of Chicago. It took a federal grand jury to get things going.”
A city official and Redflex Traffic Systems employees met for beers and to rig the bid so the company could win Chicago’s red light camera contrct back in 2003 according to a former company employee who testified in front of a federal grand jury this past Wednesday.
The Chicago Tribune reports the former Redflex emplyee re-told the same story to a grand jury he told to the newspaper earlier this year, about how former Deputy Commissioner John Bills met with company officials at the Signature Room in the John Hancock Building the night before the bid presentation.
Bills allegedly coached the Redflex team on what to say and behave in order to secure a contract that ultimately paid the company over $120 million over 11 years. The city issued over $500 million in red light camera fines over the same time period.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office said a Chicago Tribune story about unknown spikes in tickets at RLC intersection prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, the Chicago Department of Transportation and a group of city council members to request the OIG to step in to review the system.
“In the wake of recent media reports, the public’s questions regarding the Red-Light Camera program are understandable,” noted Ferguson. “A multi-pronged approach is clearly needed to restore public confidence in this enforcement program.”
That’s what the Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras and Cook County Campaign for Liberty are doing in announcing four weeks of back-to-back protests and events to promote their anti-traffic camera message.
“A total of four consecutive Saturday events are planned as we continue to bring our message to “Ban the cams” to the people of Chicago!,” said Scott Davis, the head of Cook County Campaign for Liberty in a statement via e-mail.
The group has been holding demonstrations every two weeks over the spring and summer at red light camera and speed camera locations across the city.
But on the heels of an investigative report by the Chicago Tribune, which pointed out troubling technical glitches with Chicago’s red light camera program and a breathtaking lack of program oversight by the city, the group wants to surf the waves of intense anti-camera sentiment that has resulted.
Since Sunday’s Chicago Tribune story reporting mysterious spikes in red light camera violations several years ago, there’s been pressure from aldermen and the media for a response from City Hall.
Late Wednesday, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld responded to the controversy with testimony in front of the city council’s Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety.
“The Mayor and CDOT take very seriously the validity of and public confidence in all of our safety programs, including the red light camera program,” Scheinfeld said to begin her explanatory testimony. “Red light camera enforcement is designed to increase safety on Chicago’s streets. Cities across the country, and throughout the world, have been using such technology for many years.”
With all the recent hub bub surrounding problems with the city’s red light camera system, the Parking Ticket Geek gets a chance to weigh in on Outside the Loop Radio this morning.
The Geek joins OTL ringmaster Mike Stephen at 10 AM on WLUW 88.7 FM to break down the whole situation.
Tune in or stream it right here.
Chicago Tonight’s Carol Marin has a long and interesting discussion with Tribune reporter David Kidwell, who spearheaded a year-long investigation into the problems with the city’s red light camera program and Northwestern University professor Joseph Schofer.
That’s how many tickets the Chicago Tribune spent the better part of a year analyzing while looking into Chicago’s red light camera program.
The hotly promoted story was the front page of Sunday’s newspaper and revealed problems with the nation’s largest red light camera program.
The story focuses on some odd, short term spikes in ticketing that occurred a few years ago at about a dozen intersections intersections in 2011 and 2012. Red light cameras that issued just a few tickets a day would seemingly and spontaneously erupt in ticket issuance and then after a few days or weeks, return to the normal violation volumes.
A Lincoln Park man filed a federal class action lawsuit Thursday seeking to recover the tens of millions of dollars Redflex Traffic Systems made while it was the city’s red light camera vendor from 2003 until early this year.
Matthew Falkner, who received a red light ticket for $100 in January 2013, alleges in the complaint that Redflex was only able to generate the over $100 million in revenue for the past 11 years because of an illegal bribery scheme.
In its allegations, the lawsuit lays out the story of a former employee of Redflex blowing the whistle on an improper relationship between the company and the Chicago Department of Transportation official in charge of the city’s RLC program. The complaint alleges it was the bribes given to the CDOT official which help secure the contract for Redflex.
That CDOT employee, John Bills, who has since left employment with the city, was recently indicted by the federal government for bribery in connection with Redflex. The U.S. Attorney’s office claims Bills received close to $600,000 in cash, gifts, cars, travel and a $177,000 condominium.
The class action lawsuit claims that 20-25% of each $100 fine paid for a red light camera violation went into Redflex’s pockets. Therefore, according to the court filing, due to the illegal nature of how the contract was awarded, these “ill-gotten gains” must be returned to the hundreds of thousands of drivers who paid their fines.
With city elections on the horizon for 2015, one local group is asking candidates for Chicago alderman to sign a pledge to vote for repealing the city’s red light and speed camera programs if they get elected.
Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras announced its new candidate pledge this week as part of their ongoing campaign to inform drivers about the cameras and voters about which aldermen voted for the city’s speed camera program.
“Red light cameras and speed cameras are unsafe, unfair and unconstitutional” said Mark Wallace, Director of the group. “As we continue our campaign to protest Aldermen who voted in favor of Chicago’s speed camera ordinance, we also want to recognize those elected officials who are championing our cause to ban the cams in Chicago,” said Wallace.