CITY HALL — A top challenger to the mayor called for an end to the city's controversial red-light-camera program Monday.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who is running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in February's municipal election, said he'd submit an ordinance next month calling for the program to be halted by April 15.
"The majority of red-light cameras do little to create safety," Fioretti said at a news conference at City Hall, adding that a Texas A&M study showed they might help reduce so-called T-bone crashes of cars crossing in the intersection, only to increase rear-end, same-direction collisions involving cars either speeding up or slowing down at a yellow light.
He also said they were riddled with corruption and cited how the city ended its relationship with the original camera firm, Redflex, in a case that found city and company officials charged with federal crimes, with one already having pled guilty.
"The entire program is fraught with failed oversight, corruption and unfair enforcement," Fioretti added.
Mark Wallace, host of "The People's Show" on WVON 1690-AM and director of Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, said the red-light program "came out of corruption" and is "unfair, unsafe and unjust policy."
"Red-light cameras and speed cameras are nothing more than a private interest to build wealth for private corporations and to balance a budget on the backs of working and poor people," he said. Wallace added they are "nothing more than a revenue generator" after being adopted "under the disguise of safety."
Wallace said Chicago's camera program for traffic was the largest in the nation, with about 350 red-light cameras and 130 speed cameras, and having produced $600 million in revenue.
Wallace said the group had been thwarted by the Emanuel administration in trying to put the program to a public vote in a referendum, and it would be throwing its support behind Fioretti in the mayor's race.
City Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld defended the cameras in a statement in which she also linked to video of a red-light crash.
"The act of running a red light is against the law and can have disastrous and life-altering consequences including serious injury or death," she said. "Traffic safety is a serious and important issue, and red-light enforcement cameras play a key role in helping to improve public safety."
Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Chicago) seized on the camera issue Sunday.
"The city should stop sending new tickets to drivers and stop the enforcement of all outstanding tickets until such time as a full, fair and independent investigation into the effectiveness of the red-light program can be conducted," Garcia said.
"As mayor, I would keep only those traffic cameras that can be fully proven to have reduced accidents. And those cameras that simply provide the city another way to pick our pockets should be shut down immediately."
Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry pointed to what he called Garcia's "questionable record on red-light cameras."
"Commissioner Garcia must explain to the public why he accepted a $1,500 donation from Safespeed, a red-light-camera operator company, on March 10, 2014, and voted to approve its installation of a red-light camera the very next day. In fact, Mr. Garcia's tie-breaking vote ensured the company's success. With all of the tough decisions we as a city must face in the next four years, the voters deserve better from a candidate for mayor."
On Monday, Mayberry cited how Fioretti voted to expand the red-light program in 2009. Yet Fioretti countered that it was in a budget vote in tight times for the city during the Great Recession, and it was the only budget he voted to approve.
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