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State resists lure of red-light cameras

By Joe Yovino

Wisconsin is smarter than Illinois. There, I said it.

Let me put it another way: I was driving in Chicago a few weeks back, made a harmless right turn on red (allegedly after stopping) and proceeded with my day.

Yesterday I was cycling through the mail and came across an unmistakable envelope from the city of Chicago’s Department of Revenue. In case you’re not familiar with the Department of Revenue, its mailings never contain hearty greetings or invitations to parties. I instantly got the same feeling I get when my wife’s credit card bill becomes available online.

There it was: A picture of my car sitting at an intersection I swear I’ve never driven through. As an added bonus, Chicago now provides a video of my vehicle turning right (after allegedly stopping) at said red light.

It’s too late to report the car stolen, so I’ll just pay the $100 fine.

And now back to why Wisconsin is smarter.

Two years ago, as the economy began to collapse, the state’s Assembly resisted the temptation of easy money and killed a bill that would have allowed these revenue-generating cameras to be installed at intersections throughout Wisconsin (Illinois now has 899 of these things).

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Josh Zepnick (D-Milwaukee), told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in late 2009 he hasn’t reintroduced his legislation “because he can’t find a single senator willing to champion the measure in the upper chamber.”

Red-light cameras in Illinois were installed under the guise of saving lives and limiting accidents, but recent studies have found that’s not the case, and in some instances the cameras have been found to increase the likelihood of accidents.

The revenue generated by the cameras has also been overstated in some instances. For example, in my hometown in Illinois, the police department has one-and-a-half positions dedicated solely to reviewing the tapes and photos from the red-light cameras.

I can think of better ways to spend my tax dollars — maybe on a camera aimed at my front door to find whoever smashed my pumpkin last Halloween.

Joe Yovino is the Web editor at The Daily Reporter. He’s not bitter.

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