Taking right way on red-light cameras

Published: 6/18/2010 12:01 AM

Today, we're pleased to offer a tale with positive lessons and a happy ending.

A few weeks ago, Cook County commissioners made it known they were about to usurp the local control of several Northwest suburbs by naming 30 potential intersections at which they were considering planting 20 red-light cameras for a yearlong pilot program. Not surprisingly, uproar ensued in many of the targeted communities that had not been warned or consulted about the cameras.

Our view and the view of many angry municipal responders was that this could only be seen as a base moneymaking ploy on the part of the county. As Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen put it this week, "It didn't make any sense. We do all the policing at these intersections."

County officials estimated that the Cook government could make $2 million in annual ticket revenue by putting cameras in suburbs whose elected officials had not agreed to them and who, in many cases, had determined for themselves, not to install the cameras.

This week, a majority of county commissioners did the absolute right thing. They listened and they responded. They listened and they responded to the outcry from their constituents and colleagues in municipal government. On Tuesday, the board voted 9-4 to let municipalities choose to opt out of the county red-light camera program. And Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's aide Christine Geovanis said she did not expect him to veto the action. We have been among Stroger's strongest critics. Today, we ask him to keep his aide's word and we praise him for doing so.

We offer kudos to Bartlett Republican Timothy Schneider and Evanston Democrat Larry Suffredin who first spoke up to say they were concerned local governments had not been consulted on the camera plan and who began to do something about it. We congratulate all nine commissioners who voted to give control back to the local governments where it always belonged. Those include Suffredin, Schneider and Republicans Gregg Goslin of Glenview, Elizabeth Gorman of Orland Park, Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park and Tony Peraica of Riverside.

County officials should have first consulted and worked with local officials. We hope that will be the path taken on any such future ventures.

While we support efforts to improve safety at locations with demonstrated accident histories, our own investigation a year ago showed cameras more often go up at intersections without accident records. Since county workers don't really police the intersections targeted in this effort, we hope the four commissioners who did not side with the majority will recognize their plan was wrongheaded. Municipal officials eyeing a slice of county red-light revenue should stop now. And county officials should abandon their blatant red-light revenue grab.