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Chicago, Illinois: Protesters Prepare Anti-Traffic Camera Petition
Protesters gather in Chicago, Illinois to rally support for a petition to ban automated ticketing machines.

Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, 11/9
By The Expired Meter

Drivers honked, waved and some even stopped to sign petitions in the 4200 block of North Foster Avenue Saturday afternoon in the shadow of the city's very first speed camera adjacent to Gompers Park in Chicago, Illinois. A small group of about 15 protesters from the Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, the Cook County Campaign for Liberty and the National Motorists Association lined both sides of Foster holding signs and waving to the many honking cars.

"Lots of people are waving and honking in support," said Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras founder Mark Wallace, a real estate developer and radio host of WVON 1690 AM. "We've only had two people in favor of the cameras but most people support our position."

The group, based out of the city's South Side, is mounting a petition campaign to get a referendum on the ballot to stop the city's ten-year-old red light camera program and brand new speed camera program. Cars pulled over on both sides of Foster, into the Gompers Park parking lot or onto nearby side streets to sign the petitions.

"I want to sign that petition," exclaimed Ernesto Nava Jr as he jumped out of his vehicle. "I got a ticket the other day."

According to Wallace, in order to get a referendum on a local ballot a group must get at least eight percent of the total number of people who voted in the last general election. He says 708,000 individuals voted last time, which means the group needs approximately 56,000 signatures. To be safe, Wallace says the group's goal is to get 100,000 signatures and is well on the way with nearly 43,000 signatures gathered to date and more being collected every week.

"We collected 1154 signatures just this past week," claims Wallace. "Every week we add 500 to 1000 signatures."

Wallace does believes the cameras violate the Illinois and US Constitutions with tickets issued to the vehicle owner and not necessarily the person who was driving the car at the time the law was allegedly violated. Over the course of the protest several residents of the neighborhood stopped to voice their support for the cameras.

Matt Robinson, a resident and member of both the North Mayfair Improvement Association and a group called A New Foster Avenue explained to Wallace that speeding and dangerous driving is a problem especially with all the children that reside in this area and use the park.

"We petitioned Alderman Laurino to put in a speed camera," Robinson explained. "In this neighborhood there are lots of kids. Speed cameras for us are a small piece of what we need to improve safety. We had a safety crisis on our hands. This is the fifteenth most dangerous stretch (of road) in the city."

Wallace replied that his group does not encourage speeding or any type of dangerous driving and in fact supports traffic safety. He believes the cameras are about revenue and not safety.

"We're not encouraging people to break the law," Wallace said. "We want the city to uphold the law. There are much better ways to generate revenue than cameras."

Janine Nelson, a Mayfair neighborhood resident for fifteen years was visibly upset at the presence of the protesters. Nelson says she and her neighbors had begging Alderman Laurino to do something about the the speeding issues there for years. They have asked for more traffic lights, additional stop signs, and cross walks.

"Speed cameras were not on our list at all," said Nelson.

When the aldermen offered the possibility of the speed cameras, she claimed the neighborhood jumped at it.

"Here was at least something after years of complaining," said Nelson. "This is the only thing we were given."

Wallace and the other group members pressed Robinson and Nelson indvividualy if they recalled any children who were struck by a vehicle near Gompers Park.

"Thankfully none," said Robinson.

"But there were some close calls," said Nelson. "Three that I know about."

Wallace and his group expressed agreement with the need to protect children in Chicago, but they believe speed cameras represent a misplaced priority since children are getting killed in greater numbers by guns.

"On Wednesday, we had seven children mowed down by bullets in the city," says Wallace. "Zero by cars by parks and schools... As of the date the city council passed the speed camera ordinance there were no recorded incidents based on IDOT and CDOT data of any children being killed around parks or schools (by a vehicle crash) in the last 26 years, but more than 400 kids were killed by guns and bullets last year."

The group plans to continue to circulate petitions to gather their goal of 100,000 signatures to get their referendum on the ballot.

Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras holds weekly meetinga on Friday evening at 7pm at the Logos Baptist Assembly, 10833 South Halsted Street.

Detailed coverage of Chicago motoring issues can be found at The Expired Meter.

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