We’re a little late with this one because I had to wait for some FOIA results from the city of Geneva. For those who didn’t already know, government agencies generally have at least five days in which to comply with a Freedom of information Act request.
With the revenue data now in hand, we’ll once again turn to that most heinous of all municipal money making devices, the patently unconstitutional red-light camera.
But first, I want to thank state Sen. Chris Lauzen for reminding me just how much I appreciate my semi-sedate kind of life. To paraphrase Beacon-News reporter Matt Hanley, there’s nothing like standing on a muddy street corner while vehicles whiz right by you at 50 mph to make you feel truly alive.
Lauzen called his Feb. 16 press conference on the northeast corner of Williamsburg Avenue and Randall Road to highlight the support of those cameras by his GOP primary opponent, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.
Geneva has one set of cameras located at that corner and another at Fargo Boulevard and Randall.
Guest of honor state Sen. Dan Duffy discussed his pending anti-camera legislation, lauded Lauzen for his opposition to the scurrilous devices, and then endorsed him over Burns for Kane County Board chairman.
Of course, as has become par for the course, the wife and daughter of Burns’ long-time campaign contributor, Doug Cuscaden, also showed up holding “Burns for County Chairman” signs, such that passing motorists could clearly see them.
As the group dispersed, Alderman Sam Hill challenged me to write “the truth” about the red-light cameras. And you all know just how much I love a challenge.
“Our income from red-light cameras in negligible,” he told Kane County Chronicle reporter Brenda Schory, “In November we received nothing and in October we received $4,000 and in September we received nothing. It’s not a money maker for us … ”
And thus, the impetus for requesting the 2011 Geneva red-light camera revenue numbers.
While you can see that Alderman Hill was dead on as to the autumnal figures, the fact that he cited only that period was pretty disingenuous because his contention the cameras weren’t a “money maker” is clearly not true.
The truth is, Geneva received $177,223.31 in camera revenue which ain’t exactly chump change. I wouldn’t mind “not making” that kind of money.
“But Jeff! How can both you and Alderman Hill be correct?” My readers always ask the best questions!
As I studied the numbers, I noticed the same trend you did. While the city took in $162,034, or $27,000 a month, for the first half of the year, it only made $15,189.07, or $2,532 a month, in the second half.
Trying to get the actual formula for how Geneva and Redflex, Inc. split the cash was like pulling chicken teeth, but what we can say with certainty is that Geneva saw a 91 percent intra-year drop in monthly revenue. City Administrator Mary McKittrick explained that it was the result of fewer citations being issued.
This can only mean one of two things. Either you all finally figured out how to drive, or a major municipal policy shift occurred in June. And considering I live within spitting distance of Randall Road, I know it ain’t the former.
Whether there's a connection or not, red-light revenue started tanking right around the time Mayor Burns was considering running for the county chair, and it took a complete nose dive when he announced in August.
The average Geneva intake for the last five months of the year was just $1,475 which is a mere 10 percent of the $14,769 2011 monthly average.
“I believe the figures you have been provided show what the City Council, Police Department and community had hoped for—people's behavior along Randall Road—particularly at the intersections noted—have changed for the better,” Mayor Burns said in an e-mail. “Motorists understand, recognize and appreciate that these two intersections are indeed dangerous and they have adjusted their driving habits accordingly. Hence, the reduction of incidents, violations and tickets issued.”
If that really is the case, then I think the mayor has a bright future in the behavior-modification field because he and the city have managed to accomplish something few of us ever have—changing motorists' conduct overnight.
Most of us would’ve expected, as it was with Aurora’s recent red-light camera report, that revenue numbers would’ve declined much more gradually.
In an effort to give the mayor’s theory the benefit of the doubt, here’s my plan. Once the primary passes, the political pressure will be off. Especially when you consider who’s running, no Democrat will be sitting in that main County Board chair any time soon.
I’ll re-FOIA those Geneva red-light revenue numbers at the end of 2012, and if that revenue starts spiking back up in April …
And some of you have the nerve to say that I'm one can short of a six-pack.