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9/20/2008
Illinois: Municipality Fights County Over Red Light Revenue
Harwood Heights, Illinois installed red light cameras so that Cook County would not beat them to the revenue.

Harwood Heights
Last month the village of Harwood Heights, Illinois adopted an ordinance authorizing the installation and use of red light cameras. Although members of the board of trustees explained that the new systems were being installed solely to improve the safety of drivers in their community, the program had to be rushed because of developments in Cook County. In February 2007, Village Attorney Mat Delort explained it could be costly to move forward on the red light camera program while lawsuits were pending.

"It was the consensus of the suburban attorneys that our villages should hold off on the automatic red light enforcement until we see what happens with the lawsuit that was filed against the city of Chicago challenging the legality of its system, which isn't an uncommon thing," Delort said. "We let Chicago pay all the money, fight all the fights and hopefully when they win in the end we have a clear path because one of the issue is that the owner of the car is responsible for paying the ticket even if the owner is not driving the car or even in the car. There is some constitutional issues about that, so we're watching that."

Since then, a more pressing financial issue appeared when Cook County it would begin installing cameras in suburban villages on its own.

"The unfortunate thing that I discovered after the last meeting with [UK camera vendor RedSpeed], in the public meeting, was that if we don't put them in, Cook County is looking to putting them in instead of us," Trustee Arlene Jezierny explained in an August 28 meeting.

Although the city would enjoy the same safety benefits regardless of whether the devices were operated by the county or the municipality, allowing the county to do so could defeat a primary purpose behind their use.

"We will have impediments, and we will also not collect the revenues," Trustee Mark Dobrzycki explained.

The camera ordinance was adopted by a 5 to 1 margin. Trustee Demetrios Mougolias cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that he wished the municipality had stood up and opposed Cook County's implementation of photo enforcement.

"Hopefully the residents will be able to at least get a fair shake at trying to defend themselves when they're here, instead of Cook County looking at it just as a revenue builder and trying to write everybody tickets," Mougolias said.



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