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Blue State Blues: Corruption, Another Reason to Hate Red Light Cameras

Blue State Blues: Corruption, Another Reason to Hate Red Light Cameras

Retired Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley is still fondly remembered by many in the Windy City, but he left three giant messes for his successors: a failing pension system that rivals Detroit’s for insolvency; a bad parking meter deal that will rob the city for generations; and red light cameras, which were seen as a way to raise revenues for the city, but are universally hated by everyone who has to squeeze through intersections on congested streets.

Even Mayor Rahm Emanuel hates them–and he doesn’t like paying the tickets, either. Earlier this month, the local ABC News affiliate revealed that Mayor Emanuel’s motorcade had been caught on camera running red lights illegally 17 times. Worse, the mayor refused to pay the traffic fines. 

ABC 7’s report noted: “On three occasions the mayor’s convoy had so many unpaid tickets, city computers flagged the vehicles for seizure.”

This week, one of Emanuel’s potential re-election rivals, Cook County Board President Teri Preckwinkle, hit Emanuel for not paying his tickets. 

That’s not to say she doesn’t have red-light camera problems of her own: ABC 7 found that her own detail had run red lights 8 times. Preckwinkle pointed out, however, that unlike Emanuel, she had paid most of her fines. Or someone had–perhaps the taxpayers of Chicago footed the bill.

Recently, Emanuel had the opportunity to fight back against the cameras, banning Redflex, the company that initially ran them, from operating them in future or competing for the city’s new speed camera contracts. 

That decision came after investigations forced the company to admit “that its flagship camera program in Chicago was likely built on a $2 million bribery scheme,” recounts David Kidwell of the Chicago Tribune

Redflex has also been banned from cities around the country, even after it fired executives that it said had been responsible for the corruption. One of those executives, Aaron Rosenberg, is now fighting back, suing Redflex for defamation and saying that he had simply carried out his duties as instructed, alleging that bribery had been a standard business practice imposed by the company leadership on its employees, not their own wrongdoing.

Rosenberg’s complaint, filed last year in Arizona, alleges that Redflex, its CEOs, and board members “engaged in providing governmental officials with lavish gifts and bribes.” The expenses were categorized, Rosenberg alleges, as “entertainment.” He adds that the scheme extended to over a dozen states, including California. 

Small wonder, then, that dozens of municipalities across the Golden State have rushed to ban Redflex.

For some reason, however, Culver City–within Los Angeles–seems not to have received the memo. On May 12, the Culver City City Council approved a new three-year deal with Redflex to operate the city’s red light cameras. 

Angry residents warned about the company’s track record–to no avail, notes Lynne Bronstein of the Culver City Observer. “The allegations were found to have had no correlation to the functional performance of automated enforcement services and equipment as provided to Culver City by Redflex,” said the local police chief.

Apparently the attraction of increased revenues–Culver City projects 3% annual growth in money from traffic and parking tickets–trumped concerns about corruption. 

Besides, the police chief noted, “When somebody gets one of these tickets they don’t get them again.”

Well, unless you’re the mayor of Chicago and don’t pay them.

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