It’s coming down to crunch time for Illinois Senate Bill 965, which would deploy red-light cameras onto nearly two-thirds of Chicago’s streets. Motorists who run lights or, more importantly, exceed the speed limit in the ‘safety zones’ created by the cameras face automatic fines sent by mail.
The bill was passed by the House and Senate late last year and is supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but Governor Pat Quinn has delayed signing it into law while his office reviews the plan. That has given opponents of the bill – i.e. nearly everyone – a chance to register their displeasure at what amounts to a tax on the working class.
Proponents of the bill are quick to recite the same tired mantra to defend its necessity: safety, reverse a culture of law-breaking, blah blah blah. This is all a huge load of crap. Speed cameras are overwhelmingly about revenue generation. A two-month study sponsored by the Chicago Department of Transportation looked at only seven intersections, gauging their production for nine commute hours each weekday. The results? 131,034 tickets would have been issued by those cameras, at $100 a pop – that’s $13.1 million… now you know why there’s so much government enthusiasm for the program.
Voters are united about the proposed program as well, although their sentiment runs exactly opposite to that of state and local officials. About 10% of correspondents with the Governor’s office are in support of the cameras, while 90% scream themselves hoarse against it. The weight of numbers is having a definite effect, as the Governor has repeatedly extended the review period.