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Elk Grove resident drops idea of red light camera referendum
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff

Timothy Burns


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Published: 7/18/2009 12:00 AM

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An Elk Grove Village library board trustee who said Friday morning he would spearhead getting an advisory referendum on red-light cameras onto the local February 2010 ballot, backed off by late afternoon, saying the idea needs more discussion.

Timothy Burns, who said he was contemplating the advisory referendum as a citizen, not a library trustee, said Friday afternoon he would "want to have face-to-face dialogue (with the village) before pursuing any action."

In an e-mail to the Daily Herald at noon Friday, Burns said he wanted the ballot initiative to measure how residents feel about red-light cameras being used to ticket drivers who make right turns on red.

He said the impetus came from public reaction to a Daily Herald investigation into the use of red-light cameras, Schaumburg's decision to eliminate the cameras altogether, and Des Plaines, which is pondering scuttling its program.

The Daily Herald's "Seeing Red" series questioned whether the nearly 84 cameras in 28 North, West and Northwest suburbs are located where they will improve safety - or raise the most revenue.

As Burns recused himself from leading the referendum charge, it was unclear whether someone else will pick it up. Any resident can put an advisory question on the ballot by collecting signatures from 11 percent of registered votes.

On Friday, however, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said a referendum would not change the village position on red-light cameras.

"We don't govern by referendums," he said. "We govern by duly-elected officials.

"If 80 percent of the people told me to cut property taxes in half, would I do that?" Johnson said.

"Who would vote against that? But then they would not like the consequences of that action because of the less services we can provide to the constituents."

Johnson said data released this week from a full year of red-light cameras proves they are making a positive difference in Elk Grove Village.

Per the report, the number of accidents at intersections with cameras dropped 26 percent from January-June 2008 to the first six months of 2009. Crashes at village intersections overall declined 19 percent.

There also has been a 36 percent drop in citations issued for red-light violations between the last six months of 2008 and the first six months of 2009, the report said.

"The numbers have substantiated that (cameras) are making a positive impact and making our streets safer for people to travel," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, on Friday state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, joined other lawmakers calling for reforms to red-light camera law.

The cameras "are ripe for reform," Dillard said.

"What started as a laudable idea with respect to safety has become out of control and is a money grab by some local governments," said Dillard, who is running in the Republican primary for governor.

• Staff Writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.