It is hard to argue against safety precautions for students riding the school bus. And we’re not sure we want to. But we have questions about Monday’s vote by the Forest Park village council to authorize traffic violation cameras being attached to the “STOP” signs on District 91’s buses.

Yes, we understand that if you save just one life, etc. But just how often do drivers in Forest Park pass a stopped school bus with the stop sign extended? Maybe a lot. Buses don’t travel far in our tiny school district, although the superintendent says drivers do pass illegally. But the problem has not been on the front burner. 

Perhaps the technology allowing such video capture of drivers passing buses is new. Well, the law allowing such installation of cameras on buses is new. It was passed just this year, with several local state reps involved, and has an effective date of Jan. 1, 2014. That would explain Commissioner Tom Mannix’s “pride” in Forest Park being the first town in the state to enable the technology.

Mannix, who automatically raises our suspicions just by surfacing to open his mouth, vocally supported this three-year contract with RedSpeed Illinois, LLC. Mannix told the Review Monday he had called around looking for other vendors able to perform this function and found that only RedSpeed was equipped for the service. He couldn’t remember which firms he called. But our Google search found at least two other firms performing such a service in Illinois.

By a four-to-one vote the council approved the contract with RedSpeed. Three of those affirmative votes – Mannix, Mark Hosty and Anthony Calderone – have benefitted from multiple political donations from RedSpeed Illinois to the Forest Park PAC which is the trio’s political fund. Calderone has also received a direct contribution from RedSpeed. The contributions to the Forest Park PAC total $750 with the most recent donation being received on Sept. 30. 

The chief lobbyist for RedSpeed is Al Ronan, a River Forester, Springfield lobbyist and political fundraiser who has often been embroiled in controversy. Any time Ronan’s name comes up, antennae should prudently follow.

When Commissioner Hosty was asked by the Review Monday night about RedSpeed’s political contributions to his PAC he said, “I see you’re looking for the bad instead of the good as usual,” and then told us that “I don’t keep track of those things.” Well commissioner, you should keep track. The intersection of political cash and municipal contracts is worth active monitoring.

So now, if the school board votes to accept the contract, our school buses will have cameras. We hope it inhibits drivers from passing stopped school buses. And we wait for the state-mandated “statistical analysis of the safety impact of the use of automated traffic law enforcement systems on school buses” which municipalities are now required to provide.  

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