Today's paper has an article about how the city is hoping to generate $2.5 million in income from red-light and speed cameras.
Of course, the income last year from the cameras was about half that, but under the city's logic, with the summer months and more people on the road, there will be more violations and more revenue.
But the problem is when the police chief is quoted as saying this is not about money - it's about safety. Eight paragraphs about how the cameras are being counted on for their revenue, with quotes from the finance director - and then two paragraphs about how it's about safety.
If safety is really the issue, then why did they increase the fines from $90 to $120 and increase the city's percentage of the fine from 25% up to 54.2%?
Well, because they need the money. And, despite the Chief's comments, the administration is counting on the money to help balance the budget. The deficit for the year is still around $12 million, though that is down from $27 million projection.
And before you start in on the 'if you don't break the law' arguments, this is not about whether or not you should run a red light or speed to get through an intersection when the light is getting ready to change to red. You shouldn't do those things.
But if you do, you deserve to have your day in court where you can challenge the accuser and question the accuracy, where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty and where your rights under the Constitution are protected - not ignored. That doesn't happen with the cameras.
Under Toledo's law, the picture is prima facie evidence that you've violated the law and the camera is presumed correct and no challenge to the accuracy is possible.
Additionally, if you are the registered owner of the vehicle, you are the guilty person. If you prove you were not driving the vehicle because you were out of town at the time of the infraction, you still must pay unless you name the guilty party. Know of any other offense where the only way you are not charged is to find the guilty party yourself???
Finally, you do not have the same rights as others accused of violating a traffic law because the city treats this as a civil offense - not a criminal one - so no right to a trial or representation, etc. The hearing officer who conducts any 'appeals' of the fine is hired and paid by the city. Regardless of the individuals personal integrity, the appearance of conflict is clear.
This is not about safety. Despite the claims by the police chief, the accident date has been referenced but not released. Every other city that has implemented these cameras has seen accidents increase, despite the decrease in the type of accidents caused by running a red light. Those cities realized they just exchanged one type of accident for another.
Besides, if it was really about safety, the city would have done what the National Traffic Safety Board has recommended: conduct a study of the intersection and its approaches to determine WHY there are red-light accidents and address those problems first, increase the amount of time the lights are yellow to allow more time to clear an intersection, go to 'all red' lights where all lights are red in all directions for a short period of time prior to some turning green.
Toledo did not do any of these things - they just added the cameras and counted upon the income to help meet their budget.
And mark my words - if they get away with these, there will be more. Already the city has added the speed cameras to the intersections to increase the revenue, and the mobile speed van to catch speeders. Redflex has stop-sign cameras and railroad crossing cameras. Do you really think the city won't be adding them in the future?
Get your petitions today - or stop in to Delaney's Lounge (309 W Alexis Rd # 3
) and sign a petition to put the issue on the ballot for a vote. Even if you support the cameras, you should want this on the ballot so that the voters can have their say on the issue.
***-Sepp at Uncommon Squalor has a few choice words on the matter as well....