Rahm Emanuel’s red-light cameras have clicked out 2.2 million traffic tickets and generated a whopping $284.9 million in fines since the mayor took office.
Emanuel launched the traffic-camera crackdown to help generate cash to bridge the vast funding chasm for city pensions and other financial problems in the Windy City.
As a multiple victim of traffic photo-camera tickets, this writer can say it’s really like the George Orwell novel, “1984”—Big Brother Rahm is watching everywhere.
While police are killing black youths on the streets of the city, Rahm’s red-light cameras are whirling from Rogers Park on the Far North Side to Pullman on the Far South Side preying on hapless and sometimes innocent drivers with aggressive camera-traffic violations.
Readers may recall that this reporter’s adventures with the cameras started in the summer of 2014 at the yellow-light traffic trap at 6200 N. Lincoln Ave. in the West Ridge neighborhood while making a left turn at the busy intersection of Kimball, Lincoln and McCormick.
The crime was officially listed as a “Red Light Code Violation.” And, a demand for payment of a $100 fine arrived in my mailbox a few days later. My options? The key words were: pay up—now by check or cash. Pay on-line at www.cityofchicago.org/finance, pay by mail, pay in person at one of five locations, or set up a payment plan. No credit-card payments are accepted.
Reviewing the left turn, all I can remember is the light was green when I started making the turn about 25 feet from the corner. Then the light blinked to yellow for a split second and immediately went to red faster than a 95-mile-per-hour Madison Bumgarner fastball.
Being a law-abiding citizen I paid the fine. However, about a month later, a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that thousands of Chicago drivers have been tagged with $100 red-light fines they did not deserve. The motorists were “targeted by robotic cameras” during a series of sudden spikes that city officials could not explain.
The 10-month-long Tribune investigation documented more than 13,000 questionable tickets at 12 intersections, including, of course, Kimball and Lincoln avenues and McCormick Road. Several other popular North Side intersections were Western and Touhy avenues, Western and Peterson avenues, and Halsted, Fullerton and Lincoln avenues.
Now, a new Tribune investigation has found that about 110,000 “bad tickets” with a fine value of $2.4 million were issued. That means Chicago drivers were ticketed when cameras near parks and schools were supposed to be off, and when required warning signs were confusing, obscured or missing.
On April 27, 2015, this writer’s latest run-in with traffic-court involved a camera speeding ticket issued for driving six miles over the speed limit at 5885 N. Ridge Ave. Notice of the $35 ticket was sent to my home on May 17th, and it was promptly paid via check on May 24th. According to my bank, the city of Chicago cashed the check on June 3rd.
However, on August 14th the City of Chicago Dept. of Finance
sent a collection notice demanding immediate payment of $70 for the “past due” camera ticket issued on April 27th.
Of course, I called to complain that the ticket had been paid, and requested that the violation, and other erroneous fines and collection fees be removed from the city’s computer.
Shayla (Operator 5033) advised that I needed to prove that the ticket was paid. “You need to send a fax to 845-214-9686 (Attention Level 2). Send a copy of the collection notice and copies of both sides of the cancelled check,” she said.
This writer complied, foolishly thinking the ticket beef was settled. However, on November 13th a “Notice of Liability” letter was received from the law firm of Linebarger, Groggan, Blair & Sampson, LLP, along with a bill for $85.40—the new price of the $35 ticket.
The city’s law firm letter stated: “The department of Administrative Hearings has found you liable for one or more parking ordinance violations. Your opportunity to contest this matter has expired. Failure to respond to this notice as requested may result in our garnishing your wages and bank accounts, and filing a lien against your property. If this becomes necessary, our client reserves the right to seek interest, attorney’s fees and other collection costs.”
On November 24th The City of Chicago Dept. of Finance was called again. Linda (Operator 5034) said: “We will get this resolved.” All I needed to do was send an email with digital scans of the payment documentation to 744PARK@us.ibm.com.
Unfortunately, resolution didn’t happen. On December 21st I received a “Notice of Judgment” letter from Linebarger, Groggan, Blair & Sampson, along with another bill for $85.40. The letter said: “We will soon be making a determination as to whether you are a candidate for further collection efforts such as wage and bank account garnishment, and filing a lien against your home and other property.”
Desperate for resolution, on December 30th this reporter called the law firm and waited on hold for 15 minutes while being serenaded with Muzak. Finally, Bianca answered my question. “According to notes on your account from the city, the $35 ticket payment was never received.”
Then, I called the city (312-744-7275) for the third time, and luckily representative Linda (Operator 5034) answered. She actually remembered my November 24th call. “Bear with us. It sounds like it should be a cut and dried case,” said Linda, a nice lady, who asked me to wait while a supervisor reviewed my case. I was put on hold, listening to a classical piano recital, for 30 minutes.
The bottom line: Apparently, both my fax appeal and my email appeal were “lost in processing” and now a manager is reviewing my case. “Please call back next week, on January 7, 2016, for resolution of your case,” Linda said politely.
Only time will tell.
For more housing news, visit www.dondebat.biz. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com.