Tag Archives: Chicago red light cameras
Just a handful of Bucktown area residents dropped by Holstein Park on Wednesday night to voice their thoughts on two area red light cameras slated to be permanently decommissioned.
Two red light cameras as Ashland and Diversey and another pair at the intersection of Western, Armitage and Milwaukee have been turned off since March, after a pre-election announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to turn off 50 cameras at 25 intersections across the city.
The intersections, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation, have had crashes fall below a certain metric that made in unnecessary to keep the cameras there. Crashes at Ashland and Diversey have fallen to just 1.31 crashes per million vehicles with zero right angle crashes. At Western-Armitage-Milwaukee, crashes were at 1.99 per million vehicles with zero right angle crashes.
The one hour open house had poster boards extolling the benefits of red light cameras as well as crash data at every RLC intersection in the city.
But perhaps just four or five residents showed up to check out the open house, ask questions and voice their opinion Wednesday evening. Two of the attendees were from the anti-camera group Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras.
Shares in Redflex Traffic Systems tumbled to an all-time low of 15 cents per share September 2nd, after the firm told Australian investors that it lost $38 million in the last fiscal year. The stock price rebounded mildly this week as it was trading at 22 cents a share as of September 9th.
But shareholders likely now regret rejecting as inadequate Macquarie Bank’s bid to buy out Redflex at $2.75 a share four years ago.
The takeover bid came long before the firm’s corruption surfaced. Redflex now faces the prospect of paying Chicago, Illinois up to $300 million in penalties for lying to city officials. Under the Windy City’s “false claims” ordinance, Redflex may be held liable for denying that it was engaged in bribery, when the facts now show that it was. Former Redflex executive vice president Aaron M. Rosenberg, who is cooperating with federal prosecutors, filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court as a whistleblower with direct and independent knowledge of the bribery schemes. His filing is a formality, as Chicago has already sent notice of its intent to take over the lawsuit.
On Saturday August 22nd, the group plans a demonstration at the intersection of 87th & Lafayette from 11 AM to 2 PM.
“This intersection was mentioned in several media reports this week as one of the top revenue generating cameras in the City of Chicago pulling in $5.8 million in infractions since May 2011,” states the group’s press release. “Red Light Cameras were also in the news this week as embattled RedFlex CEO Karen Finley changed her plea to guilty in the $2 million dollar bribery scheme she allegedly engineered with a Chicago transportation official.”
It was truth and consequences for Karen Finley on Thursday when the ex-Redflex CEO pleaded guilty in federal court to her role in a bribery scheme to secure, and grow Chicago’s red light camera program according to the Sun-Times.
In admitting her guilt, she faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Finley will be sentenced in February
Finley helped devise a scheme whe.re she funneled cash and gifts to a high-level Department of Transportation manager via a friend of the city employee.
Over a period of years, federal authorities allege Martin O’Malley passed on hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to CDOT manager John Bills. In return, Bills was able to rig the bid for red light cameras to Redflex and help grow the program into the nation’s largest and most lucrative and generate millions of dollars for the red light camera company.
Chicago is dependent on the hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue generated through the controversial and disliked red light camera program according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The newspaper reports the nation’s largest red light camera program generated $285 million in ticket revenue since Mayor Rahm Emanuel first took office in 2011. And with Chicago’s ongoing financial crisis, the city simply just can’t afford to drop such a lucrative program–despite the corruption, lack of evidence of safety benefits, and the controversial shortened yellow lights.
The lawsuit, Kata v. City of Chicago, was filed in 2012, but Thursday’s hearing addressed the city’s motion to have the case dismissed.
But after 2 1/2 hours of sparring between attorneys for the city and those that brought the suit, Judge Rita M. Novak sided with the plaintiffs on several points but continued the city’s motion until Oct. 6 to hear arguments on several other issues.
“We feel good, we feel optimistic,” Patrick Keating, one of the lead attorneys for those seeking to get rid of the cameras, said outside the courtroom. “I think the court gave very careful consideration of the arguments. We’re pleased the case continues and look forward to discussing the merits of the other issues.”
Chicago’s red-light camera program, which began in 2003, is the nation’s largest with 302 cameras at 147 intersections. It has generated over $500 million in revenue for the city — money opponents believe should be refunded to the drivers who paid the fines.
The trial of the former managing deputy commissioner of the transportation department in Chicago, Illinois, will stay in the Windy City. Judge Virginia M. Kendall on Friday issued a ten-page order rejecting an attempt to move the trial of John Bills to Nevada on the grounds that Chicagoans are so blinded by their hatred of red light cameras that they would take their frustration out on him.
“John Bills cannot receive a fair trial in this town,” his attorney, Nishay K. Sawan had argued in January. “He is accused of being a central player in a transaction that helped bring about one of the most unpopular regulatory programs in the city of Chicago’s history — the red light cameras.”
Sawan noted that the Chicago Tribune has been “relentless and fierce” in its coverage of the bribery story since 2012, making it difficult to find a juror who has not formed an opinion about the world’s most lucrative red light camera program.
“As the city, Cook County, and many other municipalities in the Northern District of Illinois have been subject to this unending press, and as these localities make extensive use of these unpopular cameras, a jury is unlikely to be able to check its bias at the door and dispassionately decide solely on the basis of the evidence before it whether or not Mr. Bills is guilty,” Sawan wrote. “They are likely to express their dissatisfaction with the camera system by voting to convict the man who, as the government will argue, bears a great responsibility for the presence of those cameras in the city of Chicago.”
Judge Kendall did not buy the argument that twelve impartial individuals could not be found in a judicial district with eight million residents.
The former head of US operations for Redflex Traffic Systems is expected to plead guilty to federal bribery charges. During a status hearing Monday in the Chicago, Illinois federal courthouse, lawyers for Karen Finley told US District Judge Virginia M. Kendall that their client intended to change her previously entered “not guilty” plea at a hearing scheduled for August 11 at 9:45am.
Last August, federal prosecutors charged Finley with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of federal program bribery, and one count of conspiracy in connection with attempts to influence Chicago officials to expand the highly lucrative red light camera contract with the Australian firm. If Finley was offered a plea bargain similar to the one that bribery bag-man Martin O’Malley accepted in December, she will concede to a single count of bribery to avoid a trial.
State politicians in Florida have passed laws mandating longer yellow light times at red light camera intersections over the past few years.
Recent data from some Florida RLC intersections are showing tremendous decreases in red light violations after yellow light times have been lengthened according to The Newspaper.
On Tuesday, city lawmakers pushed ahead alleged “reforms” to the city’s red light camera program during a meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety.
These reforms include giving the public input on the location of new red light cameras, more flexible payment plans for scofflaws, the installation of pedestrian count down timers at RLC intersections currently without the devices and an academic review of the city’s red light camera program according to DNA Info.
These changes to the system were originally proposed by Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th), and head of the Transportation Committee, Tom Tunney (44th) and Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) several months ago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel jumped on the reform bandwagon after being forced into a runoff election by a then surging Jesus “Chuy” Garcia who made his opposition to the red light cameras part of his campaign.