Mayor Arlene Mulder paused for a long moment before
finishing her suggestion about what Cook County can do with its recently
announced plan to use red-light cameras to ticket suburban drivers.
"Cook County can just take their cameras," Mulder said, "and put them
anywhere they want, but not in my town."
Several communities have launched efforts to try to keep the cameras out
after county commissioners last week voted to install them, releasing a
list of 30 "top candidate intersections" — crossings with at least one
county-maintained road in towns from Tinley Park to Schaumburg to
So far, only 20 intersections are
expected to get cameras when the devices are rolled out, according to
county officials, who said they hope to have them up and running
sometime this year.
Opposition has been loudest in the north and northwest suburbs. Leaders
in Schaumburg, which has six intersections on the list, said they may
seek an injunction to block the devices. At least one community, Wilmette
drafted a resolution opposing the plan and blasting the county for what
suburban officials claim is a revenue grab.
James Ramos, a spokesman for Cook
President Todd Stroger, said no information was
available on potential revenues the devices would generate. But he said
estimates indicate the plan should at least break even.
The county, Ramos said, has no plan to share camera revenues with the
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said tentative budget
calculations have placed the cameras' possible revenue haul at $2
million in the first year. Suffredin, who voted in favor of the
contract, said he thinks the cameras could make the intersections safer.
Addressing concerns that the move is a gambit to boost revenue, Stroger
spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said the plan's only goal is to "enhance
safety." She said the county would strive to avoid inaccurate citations,
and said the intersections were chosen using state-provided accident
"It's a safety-first thing," she said.
Cook County Highway Department Superintendent Rupert Graham Jr. said the
intersections were chosen using traffic statistics and information on
the number and severity of accidents at the intersections. The cameras
would only record traffic on the roads that are maintained by the
county, he said.
Some municipal leaders were casually receptive to the plan. Officials in
Buffalo Grove and Tinley Park said they would not oppose a thoughtfully
deployed camera program. Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig
said the legal department was looking into jurisdictional
issues, but said he generally supports red-light cameras.
But leaders in several suburbs question how intersections in their
municipalities were chosen.
Wilmette Village Manager Timothy Frenzer said the intersection at Lake
Avenue and Ridge Road was once a trouble spot, but changes in lane
configurations and new traffic signals have reduced crashes there.
Wilmette has no red-light cameras, he said.
Burr Ridge Village Administrator Steven Stricker and Palos Hills Mayor
Gerald Bennett both said they weren't sure why intersections in their
municipalities were chosen. Stricker said Burr Ridge has no cameras, and
Bennett said Palos Hills has two.
"It sounds to me like they haven't done their research," Stricker said.
Commissioners Timothy Schneider and Tony Peraica have vowed to try to
halt the plan.
Schneider said he has asked the state's attorney's office to examine
whether the county can legally use the cameras to monitor intersections
in municipal jurisdictions. Some suburban leaders have questioned the
county's right to do so.
attorney Eydie Glassman said she sees no jurisdictional reason the
county couldn't use cameras to remotely patrol county-maintained roads,
even if those roads cut through municipalities.
Municipal leaders are united on one point: They say Cook
officials didn't consult them during the plan's formulation.
"We just found out through the media, which does not make us real
happy," Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz said.
Graham said the county would notify municipalities once the
intersections are selected.
Schwantz said residents in Palatine, a community where a wide majority
voted symbolically in favor of seceding from Cook County last spring,
would not be "excited" by the prospect of being monitored by the county.
Schneider agreed, saying, "This just gives everybody all the more reason
to want to secede from Cook County."
Sitting on the patio at a coffee shop a few hundred feet from the
Schaumburg and Roselle roads intersection in Schaumburg, Karen Groves
and Kathy Boyd disagreed on whether a red-light camera there would
Boyd said the light would increase the danger by encouraging drivers to
speed up or slow down. Groves said she thinks the cameras are good for
But neither Schaumburg
resident wants to give any more revenue to Cook County.
"I don't trust any of these people in office now," Boyd said.
Freelance writer Graydon Megan contributed to this story.