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Board Passes 'Opt Out' Amendment For County Red Light Camera Program

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Allows Municipalities To Keep RLCs Out Of Their Towns

Cook County board members must have got an earful from their municipal constituents.

Because after approving a contract for two red light camera suppliers two weeks ago to begin erecting cameras at 20 proposed locations on suburban Cook County roads, board members voted to give municipalities to the option to say no to RLCs in their towns.

The board, after some lengthy discussions on the matter, voted 9-4 to approve, with three voting present and one commissioner absent.

The red light camera contract for the county surprised many of the leaders of suburban municipalities when a list of 30 proposed red light camera locations were announced two weeks ago. This prompted many towns, including Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Wilmette and others to begin looking into stopping the cameras from being erected in their towns.

"This allows for municipalities to opt out of the county's red light camera program," said amendment sponsor Commissioner Tim Schneider, who opposed the original ordinance and subsequent RLC contract. "It's not an argument for or against red light cameras...This is about the village's right to include or exclude red light cameras within their municipality."

"It's an overreach and an encroachment on their sovereignty and sets a dangerous precedence," said Commissioner Tony Periaca who voted against the original ordinance and subsequent contract. "It's a way to separate taxpayers from their money. It's not about safety it's about revenue."

Commisioner Patricia Murphy, who ultimately voted present, was concerned that giving municipalities the option to participate or not, would effectively kill the program.

"If they opt out in great numbers how does it effect our budget," Murphy asked about the $2 million dollars in revenue the county expected from their RLC pilot program. "I'm worried what this means to the budget if municipalities choose to opt out. If they opt out you're not going to have anything left.

"What this resolution does is recognize the partnership we have with the local municipalities," argued Commissioner Peter Silvestri. "The local municipalities know their communities better than the county highway department. If the municipalities don't want the red light cameras, we should respect that."

Commissioner Joseph Moreno, who voted no on the amendment and who sponsored the original county RLC ordinance in 2007 was mildly critical of his colleagues. "It's not about public safety, it's about politics," opined Moreno. "It's about getting re-elected in November."

"I'm a little surprised," said George Dunham, a village board member in Schaumburg, perhaps the most vocally opposed municipality which threatened legal action to keep cameras out of their town. "It sounds like what we were looking for. Sounds to me like they, for a change, listened to the will of the people."

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