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Two Cook commissioners join fight to delay red-light cameras in suburbs

Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Daily Herald
by Ashok Selvam and Sheila Ahern

Two Cook County commissioners are now proposing that the county board hold off on installing its own red-light cameras in the suburbs.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin of Evanston, who supports the cameras, nevertheless said he wants to "slow the process down," and wait to install the cameras until a new county board president is seated after the November election.

He said he's started to poll his fellow commissioners and believes he has the votes to enact a delay.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Timothy Schneider of Bartlett, who opposes the cameras, wants an amendment that would give local officials the authority to opt out.

Last week, the Cook County Board voted to put 20 red-light cameras at 30 intersections in the Cook County suburbs, including some that have specifically decided not to install their own cameras.

The cameras would be up for at least a year, as the county assesses whether they improve safety at those corners.

Outraged, the village boards in Arlington Heights, Schaumburg and Buffalo Grove are pursuing legal means of undoing the county board vote and will pass resolutions condemning the idea. Other suburbs are investigating it.

Schneider, meanwhile, said the plan "flies in the face of sensibility for the county to be able to tell a home-ruled community what and what they cannot do."

Suffredin and Schneider said they'll present their measures at the June 15 county board meeting. Schneider said he supports Suffredin's proposal and that Suffredin will co-sponsor his motion.

Suffredin, in calling for the delay, complained local officials didn't get sufficient notice.

"I found out yesterday our highway department didn't talk to any of the mayors or village presidents or city and village mangers in the communities where the cameras would be installed," Suffredin said Tuesday. "It strikes me that needs to be a prerequisite."

Voters on Nov. 2 will elect a new Cook County Board president to replace Todd Stroger, who lost the Democratic primary to Toni Preckwinkle. She'll face Republican Roger Keats and the Green Party's Tom Tresser.

Schneider, meanwhile, said he opposes the cameras in all instances and believes it's only a revenue ploy. He said he refuses to give more money to the Cook County budget, which he describes as "bloated, wasted and mismanaged."

County officials estimate at least $20 million in annual revenues from the cameras.

The Schaumburg village board tonight (Tuesday) is expected to vote on an ordinance prohibiting the installation of red-light cameras without the village's consent.

On Monday night, the Arlington Heights village board asked for a similar resolution to be drawn up.

The Buffalo Grove village board will vote on their version June 21, Village Manager Bill Brimm said. Municipalities need to send a message to Cook County by adopting their own ordinance, added Buffalo Grove Village President Elliott Hartstein.

"We have serious concerns when the county is willy-nilly passing rules without even talking to us first," he said.

Mayor Jim Schwantz of Palatine, another town scheduled to get county cameras, said his village board hasn't talked about fighting back yet.

"We're still trying to get our arms around what the county is looking for," Schwantz said.

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said his staff is researching a possible ordinance, as the county plans to put three cameras in his village. The village already has six cameras of their own.

"It'll be premature for us to be acting on anything right now," Johnson said.

Schaumburg had cameras but removed them last year. The county plans cameras at six Schaumburg intersections.

Suffredin said he appreciates the ordinances prepared by the municipalities, but still supports the eventual installation.

"I still view it as a safety issue first," Suffredin said.

Schneider expects other municipalities to draft their own ordinances after they discover all of the camera revenue will go to the county.

•Daily Herald staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy contributed to this report.



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