If you had any remaining delusions that the
controlling faction of the Cook County Board of Commissioners actually
represents the county's suburbanites, you should drop them now.
In the latest outrage, board President Todd Stroger and
his supporters threaten to abdicate maintenance of some suburban road
intersections if the towns won't let the county put red-light cameras
there (and collect all the ticket money from mostly suburban drivers.)
In typical Stroger fashion, his administration did not
talk to suburban officials before the county board voted to cash in on
the red-light camera craze by sticking the towns with the devices at a
number of intersections that include at least one county-owned road.
Later pressured to let towns say no to the cameras,
Stroger and his allies apparently were caught by surprise when nearly
every Northwest Cook County town proceeded to opt out.
Now, Stroger has obtained a legal opinion from the Cook
County state's attorney's office saying towns that reject the
county-operated red-light cameras are claiming jurisdiction over the
intersections in question and now become liable for maintenance,
including repaving, traffic lights, snow plowing, signage and cleanup.
That's expensive - potentially hundreds of thousands of
dollars a year for Schaumburg alone, which has taken down its own
red-light cameras and decidedly does not want to host a half-dozen for
The county's strong-arm maneuver will cost suburban
residents any way you look at it - in legal fees, in higher road
maintenance costs or in $50 tickets for slow-rolling right turns on red.
At least Stroger's money grubbing settles one thing: The
county's interest in red-light cameras has little to do with public
safety and a lot to do with generating cash.
It goes without saying that the suburbs need to band
together to challenge the county's position rather than give in to
Stroger's bullying. Stroger spokeswoman Chris Geovanis hints the legal
opinion just might leave room for negotiating.
But suburban residents don't want the county's red-light
cameras or the new road-maintenance nightmare, and towns should not
settle for a compromise that includes either of those intrusions.
County commissioners from the suburbs - all of them up
for re-election in November - need to join forces across party lines to
fend off Stroger's latest attack.
Let's hope that once Stroger's gone after the fall
election, the county board will come to realize that threats are not the
way to improve its dysfunctional relationship with the suburbs.