CHICAGO (CBS) — An activist got hundreds of candidates to sign a pledge four years ago to fight the city’s red light cameras if elected. Six of those candidates are now aldermen, so what have they done to keep their promise?
CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole asked them what they’ve done.
By 2012, Chicago’s red light camera system was at the center of a bribery scandal, charges the lights were rigged in the city’s favor, and public outrage.
It’s what led Marc Wallace to establish the Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras.
“They saw that it was really hurting people, especially poor people,” he said. “We have privatized public safety and turned it into a profit system.”
By 2015, in a year of aldermanic elections, 200 candidates signed his pledge that they would advocate to repeal the city’s red light camera ordinances.
“It was very easy because it was during a campaign,” Wallace said
Six of those signatures belong to current City Council members: Leslie Hairston (5th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Pat Dowell (3rd), Derrick Curtis (18th), David Moore (17th) and Anthony Beale (9th).
It’s now 2019, and the cameras are still up and operating in 300 locations. The city issued 500,000 red light camera tickets last year at $100 apiece.
The Morning Insiders thought it was a good opportunity to ask the aldermen who signed the pledge if they lived up to their promise.
“I think we did all we could. I mean, it was just not enough popular support at the time,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer’s response was repeated time and time again. He said he introduced legislation to sunset the cameras, but his proposal went nowhere.
“Had it passed they would have sunsetted by now, and been eliminated,” Sawyer said.
Of those who say the aldermen didn’t work hard enough to get rid of the red light cameras, Curtis said, “I feel that they also have to be in the seat that we’re standing in also.”
Organizers said Hairston actually asked to sign the pledge. CBS 2 asked if she has been able to advocate as best she can to eliminate red light cameras.
“Let’s put it this way: There was not an administration that was receivable to that. I actually voted against the red light cameras,” she said.
Moore said reforms that include countdown clocks and longer yellow lights made the red light cameras easier to accept.
“My purpose for eliminating them was because it was a trap,” he said. “The trap piece is taken care of. It’s not a trap anymore.”
Aldermen said the cameras enhance safety, but they also have been removed from some 80 questionable locations.
Beale insisted that’s keeping his word.
“We reformed the process. So if you do that, I still think our conscience is clear,” Beale said.
Think about that as you’re waiting for the light to change.
Dowell refused to talk about the issue on camera, saying it wasn’t necessary to address the issue in her opinion.