I've lived in Oak Park since 1985. And in those 29 years, never received a traffic citation from -- nor had an accident in -- either Oak Park or River Forest.
Yet, in a period of 35 days, River Forest sent me three $100 fines. What changed? My driving habits? I don't think so. (Ironically, the first ticket arrived the same week the State renewed my Driver's License via mail due to my 'Safe Driver' status.)
What changed is a 'red light camera'. An unthinking/unblinking camera – designed to raise revenue rather than improve traffic flow and safety – apparently finds fault with my driving.
All three cases involved right turns. All three took place when traffic on the perpendicular street had a left turn arrow – meaning no oncoming traffic. All three were pedestrian free. (I am fairly certain no human being, even a cop in a car, would have given it a second look.)
Now, had I sped through a red light or endangered a pedestrian, such a fine would be justified. Neither occurred here. In fact, nothing occurred here – other than a technologically advanced way to squeeze a little more revenue from a law-abiding taxpayer.
Of course, I protested. (In one case, that rear window brake light indicator was clearly visible.) To no avail. I got a form letter back, indecipherably signed in auto-pen, saying nope – "the decision is final" and pay-up in 21 days.
These are not 'moving violations'. If they were, the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles would be recording 'points' against my record. These are money grabs – pure and simple. And short-sighted ones, to boot.
Because they induce me to avoid River Forest altogether. Think about it, Village of River Forest. I shop at the Jewel, visit the Starbucks, patronize Petco, get prescriptions at Walgreens, etc. These are all things I could do elsewhere – and I plan to.
Over the past 29 years, my wife and I have spent tens of thousands of dollars in River Forest businesses. Sales those businesses will now lose. Sales tax the village will now lose.
So, enjoy your 300 bucks. In the not-so-long run, it will cost you and your local businesses a lot more. I can't see how that is in anyone's interest.
It's true "you can't fight City Hall." (Or, in this case, Village Hall.)
But, it is also true I don't have to shop in the village of River Forest.
Tom Scharre is a longtime Oak Park resident. A retired taxpayer. A certified 'Safe Driver.' And he's miffed.
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