Former Redflex executive Karen Finley plead guilty in an Illinois courtroom of being the mastermind of a $2 million bribery scheme. The plan was to give a transportation official a ton of loot for their help in steering millions more in contracts to the Redflex headquarters in Arizona. The target of the scheme was John Bills, former managing deputy commissioner of transportation. The man working him? Martin O’Malley.
Not the Governor of Maryland. A different Martin O’Malley.
He threw hundreds of thousands of dollars at Bills, in gifts, vacations and cash. That all came to an end with a memo from a former Redflex vice-president:
The reporting prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Redflex and overhaul the city’s red light camera program, which has raked in more than $500 million in traffic fines and remains the largest in the nation.
How oppressive is Chicago’s red light camera program?
That’s a lot of loot. And for what?
There’s no evidence proving that red-light cameras have made Chicago’s streets any safer. In fact, a Chicago Tribune investigation proved the city’s red-light program provided few safety benefits at all. Chicago’s red-light cameras caused a “22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries” according to the Tribune’s research, which also debunked Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim that the program is responsible for a “47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or ‘T-bone,’ crashes.”
The program has also been mired in scandal.
This is really an incredible story of how bribery is used to launder your money into unscrupulous hands. No, besides the Chicago government.
You should read the whole thing.
Now consider this. This scandal isn’t limited to Illinois. From The Newspaper:
Karen Finley, former head of US operations for Redflex Traffic Systems, will be going to jail for her role in a nationwide red light camera corruption scheme. Finley admitted her guilt to federal prosecutors on March 31, according documents that were unsealed on Friday.
The admission unexpectedly came not from the ongoing bribery trial in Chicago, Illinois, but from Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. This is the first evidence that the US Department of Justice corruption probe is likely to extend to Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington state where local officials took bribes, according to testimony given by another executive from the Australian camera firm.
And 10TV out of Columbus, Ohio:
When the scheme was exposed in 2014, a whistleblower inside the company told the Chicago Tribune the payoffs were part of “a long-standing practice of providing government officials with lavish gifts and bribes.”
He told the paper it was happening in cities in these 13 states (California, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia).
All across the country you see these long-necked cameras bolted atop traffic light poles, watching like an emotionless, cold Big Brother for you to do the wrong thing so they can send you a letter in the mail demanding payment for some infraction an algorithm deemed egregious enough to merit a fine. And in some cities, like Chicago, the game is rigged against you:
Earlier this year, the city began issuing tickets to motorists who drove through yellow lights that turned red fractions of a second shorter than the three-second city minimum. The change was slight, but the effect for the cash-starved city was real: nearly $8 million from an additional 77,000 tickets, according to the city’s inspector general.
All of those $100 tickets were issued after cameras installed at intersections caught the drivers as they passed through. These systems, known as red light cameras, are an increasingly controversial tactic for policing roadways. Established in the name of public safety, critics contend the cameras have become little more than a way for municipalities to funnel money into their coffers.
“If the machine is set to catch more people and generate more revenue, then it does not really seem to be about safety but about revenue,” says Joseph Schofer, a professor of transportation at Northwestern University.
Millions of dollars bilked out of the pockets of the citizens, going to crooked politicians and the company that bribes them and the only thing that’s changing is the bribery has stopped, right?
Not so much. Some citizens are fed up with red-light cameras and are doing something about it:
According to the Dallas News, earlier this month voters took Proposition 1 to the ballot. Kelly Canon, a local Arlington resident, organized a petition and was the driving force behind the referendum. Proposition 1 was overwhelmingly passed by the voters, which effectively shut down the city’s red-light camera systems.
Read the rest here.
Are you tired of red-light cameras in your town? Then don’t just complain about it. Take action. You don’t have to get a lawyer and go to court, like the citizens of St. Louis did.
There is another option.
In politics, the very straightest line and shortest path is a ballot initiative.
It’s used so rarely it’s almost a secret. Most cities and states have some form of initiative and/or referendum. The ballot initiative process allows citizens to gather voter signatures on a petition to place a new law onto the ballot for all voters to decide. Through the referendum process, citizens can likewise refer a law passed by the city council or state legislature onto the ballot.
Don’t like your state legislature? You be the legislator.
Don’t like some policy? Write your own.
Best of all, a ballot initiative is written in black-and-white and, unlike a politician, cannot change its mind after the election.
You can make this happen in your state or city. SamePageNation can hook you up.
Fill out this form and let’s work together to end red light cameras were you live. It’s been done before. We can do it again.
Let us help you.
Photo Credit: Robert Couse Baker/flikr