Sometimes people view a call from a reporter with the same enthusiasm they'd view a stranger with swine flu.
So I wasn't surprised when RedSpeed Illinois appeared reluctant to return my calls or e-mails last week.
But I was a little hurt when I saw how friendly they were to the non-media world.
Smiley faces and even banter between RedSpeed staff and municipal clients was frequent in e-mails I reviewed courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act request.
From a RedSpeed employee to a police officer: "I would like to introduce myself as the person who (hopefully) will be making your job easier." (Smiley face)
From a RedSpeed marketing manager to a local police chief who had passed on some information: "This is why you are the chief ... you get things done!" (Smiley face)
This week I got no smiley faces from RedSpeed. Phone calls and e-mails were not returned.
My story today on the PR campaign waged by RedSpeed follows a Daily Herald investigative series on red-light cameras. Reporter Joseph Ryan and I found that most $100 tickets are issued for right-turn on red violations, not straight-through or left-turn maneuvers. And in a number of cases, cameras are installed or planned for intersections with minimal red-light-related crashes.
Although the series ran in July, people are still contacting the newspaper with red-light camera stories.
On Friday, Jeff Wood from Algonquin called to complain that his appeal of a ticket in Elk Grove Village was tossed out because it didn't fit the appeal criteria.
Wood said a relative was driving his car when the cameras caught it turning right. He viewed the video of the infraction and contended you couldn't tell if the right-turn arrow was green, red or functioning at all. A brake light that works also didn't show on the video, Wood noted.
When he appealed, "the response was that I can't contest the ticket on technical grounds," he said. "They're saying they have a perfect camera system with no errors. But if the right-turn arrow was burned out, you would never see it."
And Elsie B. Zelms of Bartlett writes: "To be victimized by a local government in an effort to raise revenue by charging bogus traffic violations is bad enough. I paid the exorbitant fee of $100 on the advice of family members who insisted that 'you can't fight city hall.' To add insult to injury, in less than a week after I'd sent the payment in, lo and behold, I got another violation notice! The first, I was driving my husband's car and this one, I was driving mine. Both from the same camera, at Route 59 and North Ave. (Needless to say I won't be shopping in that area again any time soon.)
The bogus explanation for the "red-light camera scam" is that it is a safety concern. Bunk! If the turn permitted on the red were a safety concern, the powers that be could easily rescind the law allowing such a turn."
And Stanley from Schaumburg suggests "a new twist to this right turn on red. To eliminate this cash cow - that is in the interest of safety. All monies generated from this traffic offense should be given to a recognized charitable organization of the community's choice."
Will it beat '24?'
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is starting Webcasts of its monthly meetings. The program is being tested and viewers are asked to give feedback on the tollway's Web site at www.illinoistollway.com.
So if you've got four hours to spare when tollway board day rolls around, be one of the first 100 people to sign on. Those who don't make the cut can download an audio file three business days later from the Web site. Upcoming meetings are Nov. 19 and Dec. 17.
But wait - there's more! The tollway will hold a hearing on its tentative budget at 4 p.m. Nov. 16 at its headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove, and an open house from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Belvidere Oasis on I-90.
But wait - there's even more! State Sens. Susan Garrett and Jeff Schoenberg have scheduled a hearing into oases operations and electronic toll collections at 11 a.m. Nov. 4 at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Garrett and Schoenberg grilled tollway officials about foreclosure proceedings against the agency's former oases operator in September; this is Round 2.
• Southwest Airlines begins service from Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport today. So you can have cheese and free bags, too.
• Amtrak has just started offering service to New Buffalo, Mich., twice daily. Trips are provided on the Blue Water train to Port Huron and the Wolverine Service to Detroit and Pontiac. For information, check out Amtrak.com or call (800) USA-RAIL.
• If you're heading to Midway Airport, watch out for heavy traffic near the Cicero Avenue exit from I-55. IDOT announced that northbound Cicero will be closed as of Monday for railroad repairs. The I-55 and Cicero interchange will remain open but give yourself extra time to reach the airport. The repairs should take a week.