Why the public hates speed and red light cameras

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Why the public hates speed and red light cameras
By Ray Hanania

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he is expanding the city’s crackdown on motorists planning to add speed cameras near 40 schools and parks to raise $30 million to support a program, he claims, will help school kids.

Hmmm! It’s not to raise money for your sagging budget, mayor?

Emanuel says the move is not driven by budget pressures, but he did announce the program while unveiling the city’s budget.

Chicago already has red light cameras that have been set to nab even the most modest driver, generating millions in added revenue for the cash-strapped city.

Most citizens wouldn’t mind the red light cameras or even the speed cameras if the city played fair, but it doesn’t. In implementing red light cameras, the city reduced the time between the green light and the red light to make it even more likely motorists will be nailed for crossing any lighted intersection. When you cut the time from 3 seconds between the green and red light to 2 seconds, even the best drivers are going to get nailed.

Essentially, it’s a tax. A very unfair tax, too.

Now Emanuel says he wants speed cameras that will monitor traffic speeds on certain streets near schools and parks.

Again, most members of the public don’t mind cracking down on real speeders, but if the purpose is to just raise funds, the people nabbed for speeding will be average motorists with no chance of beating the system.

The cameras will not target people driving 10 or miles over the speed limit. Instead, it will target and harm drivers who go 6 miles over the speed limit. Emanuel coupled the plan with “children” in the hopes of taking the edge out of the small speed increase. I mean, really? Only 6 miles over the speed limit. That will require a cultural change because everyone I know drives abut 5 miles over the speed limit. It’s true. Should they be punished with steep fines?

I am also not sure I believe Emanuel when he says the speed traps will be set near schools and parks, where you want people to drive the proper speeds. My guess is the speed cameras will be on main streets, near schools and parks, which means they are planning not so much to nail drivers near the schools and parks but close by.

How else will they generate the $30 million they are expecting to generate in fines?

I just believe Emanuel when he says it is about saving lives, not generating cash. I mean, would Mayor Emanuel admit that the purpose is to raise money for his budget? No. He’s too smart to admit that, at least publicly.

He’s not trustworthy.

Out in the suburbs, the village of Orland Park installed red light cameras but the community did not get angry. Why? Because Police Chief Tim McCarthy explained that they weren’t looking for people who were making minor traffic errors, like not making a 100 percent stand-still stop before making a right turn. Or going through the red light after entering the intersection ina  yellow light.

McCarthy said it was all about safety. He wanted to catch motorists who were literally driving right through solid red lights, a dangerous but apparently very common practice in many areas including the suburbs and the city.

If Emanuel said the tickets would only be issued if a motorist was driving 10 or more miles over the speed limit, I would support him. If Emanuel said that the city wasn’t trimming the time between the Green and Red lights from 3 to 2 seconds, and targeting safety issues and drivers who are clearly in violation of traffic laws, I’d support him too.

But that’s not what Mayor Emanuel is doing. It’s about greed and money. He doesn’t want to upset voters with a city budget that will only reinforce the public anger growing against him.

Mayor Emanuel is no Mayor Daley. Never will be.

But it sure would be nice if he were just honest and maybe even fair.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning Chicagoland columnist. Reach him at www.theMediaOasis.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania