Illinois state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City)
Illinois state Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City) is as concerned about road safety as anyone, which is why he’s never been a fan of the state’s red-light camera system.
“We’re all in favor of public safety, but I think there are better ways to do this,” Wilhour told the South Central Reporter. “This is just another thing the government is basically using as a revenue producer more than as a safety measure.”
A new Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) study bares that out, concluding that Chicago is now home to the most red-light cameras in the country and is easily generating more revenue from the devices than any other city. According to IPI, Chicago now has 309 red-light cameras compared to an average of just under 69 in New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix, home of the next three cities with the most cameras.
Illinois state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago)
On the revenue side, over the last decade the city has generated almost $720 million from use of the cameras, well over twice the amount generated in New York since cameras were installed there in 1994.
“You add to that the people selling this technology are huge political contributors to some of the people that are basically being investigated,” Wilhour said. “It certainly needs to be looked into. There’s no doubt a lot of money is changing hands between the companies running these programs and the politicians that are allowing it.”
Currently, longtime state Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago) is under federal investigation over his dealings with SafeSpeed LLC, one of the city’s largest red-light camera operators. Sandoval, who up until recently served as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, recently saw both his home and offices raided by federal agents as part of the probe.
In the wake of all the controversy, legislators in Springfield have recently filed two bills seeking to ban the use of devices across the state.
“I think the dynamics of a lot of things in Springfield have changed with the red-light federal investigation going on,” Wilhour said. “What was political reality two months ago can be entirely different right know. That’s the hope going back to Springfield, that these federal investigations and added scrutiny produce a situation where we have better and more balanced legislation coming out of Springfield.”