Monthly Archives: March 2015

Harwood Heights red light cameras pilfer $2.1M from drivers

The Harwood Heights red light camera on eastbound Foster at Harlem.

The Harwood Heights red light camera on eastbound Foster at Harlem.

Harwood Heights red light cameras pulling in the dough

Harwood Heights red light cameras (RLCs) on Foster and Lawrence Avenues at Harlem netted over $2.1 million dollars since they were put into operation, through January 2015, an investigation reveals.

The Foster/Harlem RLC has generated $1.3 million from January 2013 to December 2014. The Lawrence/Harlem RLC has generated almost $800,000 from May 2009 through January 2015.

Chicago’s red light camera program has been getting the most press lately, with Chicago officials caught shortening yellow lights to get more tickets, and red light camera company executives going to jail for bribery.

Looking a little closer to home, Harwood Heights’ red light camera program is receiving scrutiny due to is focus on right turn violations, and locations with low crash statistics.

A 2012 listing of top intersection accidents lists Nagle/Gunnison, Montrose/Narragansett, Lawrence/Harlem, Harlem/North Carmen Ave, Harlem/Forest Preserve-Normandy, and Oak Park/Forest Preserve.

Despite this, the following year, the Village of Harwood Heights installed a RLC at Foster & Harlem, which isn’t even on the list. The Lawrence/Harlem intersection is third on the list.

Harlem/Foster has a “no right turn on red if pedestrians are present” sign, whereas Harlem/Lawrence has a “no turn on red” sign.

97% of the tickets were for right turn on red violations, yet the collision statistics show only 27% of accidents at these intersections were due to turning.

Other studies have shown right turns on red are the least dangerous.

About money not “safety”

By these statistics, it would appear Harwood Heights’ red light camera program is not about safety, but rather for profit. It’s another tax on drivers, facilitated by private corporations.

The Harlem/Foster camera is owned and maintained by Safespeed, and the Harlem/Lawrence camera by Redspeed.

In 2011, the Illinois legislature amended the red light camera law, to restrict right turn on red tickets, as municipalities were robo-ticketing rolling right turns, even in cases where there were no traffic or pedestrians.

The amended law says that municipalities “may not use an automated traffic law enforcement system to issue violations in instances where the motor vehicle comes to a complete stop and does not enter the intersection”.

Drivers reported receiving tickets from the Harlem/Foster camera, even though they came to a complete stop past the line, but before the intersection, with no pedestrians present.

Some of these drivers challenged their tickets, but the Harwood Heights hearing officer refused to dismiss them.

Furthermore, as of this writing, the Village has failed to post a required notice of the Foster/Harlem red light camera on its website as required by law.

Have you received a red light camera ticket from the Village of Harwood Heights? Contact us with your story.

Norridge’s “sexting” criminals apprehended!

Read this article, then ask yourself the following:

Does our uber-paid Norridge Police Department, have nothing better to do, than to involve itself in the personal lives of children, in activities outside of school?

Apparently not.

It would seem this is a private matter to be dealt with amongst the parties involved, none of whom are Ridgewood High School or the Norridge Police Department.

Arresting teenagers for sexting? Seriously?

Teens make juvenile mistakes, that’s why they’re juveniles, they will learn from their mistakes. The embarrassment alone will take care of this issue. They don’t need jackboots on their necks.

In reality, it’s the nanny-state trying to justify its expensive existence. Every now and then you have to “make an example” why the nanny-state is oh so “indispensable”.

No doubt we all feel much safer now that these “sexting criminals” have been taken off Norridge’s “streets”!


(If the Norridge PD needs something to do, maybe they could start pulling over all those speeding Chicago drivers, who have been using Norridge’s side streets as their personal drag race strips?)

Mar 11 Norridge Village Board meetings (VIDEO)

Recording of the Village of Norridge Village Board Committee and Regular Board meetings on March 11th, 2015.
Documents – Agenda and Board Packet
Author’s comments:

Village Administrator position

There was extended discussion about the ordinance to eliminate the Financial Director and Assistant to the President positions, create a new Village Administrator position, and reduce the salary of the Village President. Trustees Sulimowski and Tannhauser raised concerns about the duties of the Village Administrator, its salary, and who would become Acting Administrator in the event of a vacancy – Tannhauser suggested the Village Board assume that role. Sulimowski wanted more time to review the ordinance establishing the position.

Sulimowski and Tannhauser made a motion to table the vote until next meeting. The vote became a tie, and President Chmura had to cast the tie breaking vote (in favor). A second vote was then held to approve the position, with all but Sulimowski voting yes.

The Village President’s salary will be reduced from $60,000 to $50,000, but the salary of the Village Administrator was not publicly discussed.

(Normally Chmura puts an Agenda together and they all vote yes without discussion, but the Village Administrator vote brought a display of discussion and even opposition, never before seen. It was unprecedented!
Kudos to the Norridge Trustees, you did great not letting Chmura ram this through without discussion. Assert your independence. Question this mayor when he wants to spend more of the people’s money. You don’t have to be a rubber stamp for a dictator).

Parking on Crescent Ave

Two 4800 Crescent residents reported parking issues on their block, with both the residents and the Village agreeing the road is too narrow for parking on both sides of the street. The road was recently changed to no parking during December until March, due to issues with access for emergency vehicles in the winter months. One of the residents suggested changing it to resident or permit parking on only one side of the street.

Cullom near the HIP mall issues

A 7200 Cullom resident reported continued issues with speeding near the mall, despite the speed radar being there. He said he was almost hit by a car driving down Cullom. He also reported a reduction in parking violators, and praised the new street lighting,

Chmura responded that there was little no speeding according to the speed radar on Cullom. The Village installed halogen light bulbs in the street lights, which provides greater illumination. The Norridge PD may place another mobile radar unit on Cullom to further combat speeding.

New Norridge corporate welfare for HIP mall in 2015

New Norridge corporate welfare for HIP

Taxpayers will again have to pay Michael Marchese’s Harlem Irving Plaza (HIP) millions, this time for the HIP expansion on Cullom & Harlem Ave.

Between 2015-2020, taxpayers will pay the HIP up to $1.5 million in corporate welfare dubbed “tax rebates”. Depending on the year, it may be between $200,000 to $300,000 annually, or 1% of sales tax revenue received by the Village.

Most food and medical related products are taxed at the 2.25% rate and all other products at 9.25%. Of those percentages, most go to the State of Illinois and only a fraction of that makes it to local Norridge government coffers.

The anchor tenant at the expansion is X-Sport, which doesn’t collect any sales tax, as it’s a service. This X-Sport has caused many problems in the residential neighborhood around the Harlem Irving Plaza and has resulted in more police cost to patrol it.

The X-Sport has also generated more than a dozen ambulance visits from the Norwood Park Fire Department since it opened, to the end of November 2014.

This isn’t the first time Norridge taxpayers have been on the hook for corporate welfare to the Harlem Irving Plaza.

Since 2011, the “Marchese Mall” has contributed thousands of dollars to Mayor James Chmura’s Norridge Improvement Party political campaign.

Chmura’s NIP was only too willing to put taxpayers on the hook in gratitude.

Conflict of interest or kickbacks?

If you are receiving campaign contributions from a company, you shouldn’t be voting on giving the public’s money to that company.

At best, it’s a conflict of interest; at worst, it’s kickbacks.

Taxpayers also footed the $58,000 bill for police traffic control services on Forest Preserve Drive by Target for the “interest of public safety”; the HIP has not reimbursed the Village for these services.

We say government (at any level) has no business forcing taxpayers to subsidize corporate profits. Do you agree?

Another question we should be asking ourselves: is signing these corporate welfare agreements the actions of an independent mayor (Chmura was Financial Director at the time), doing what’s best for the interests of the people of Norridge?

Or, is it that of a bought-and-paid-for lackey – repaying his Chicago corporate master’s gifts, not with his own money, but with the people’s money?