NMA E-Newsletter #129: Mayors Buffaloed in Baltimore

The 79th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors was held June 17-21 in Baltimore this year. Apparently the goal of the conference was to pass as many non-binding resolutions – well over 100 this year – as possible.

One of our favorite resolution titles is “Support Health Prevention,” which signals the group’s endorsement of reducing the rates of preventable diseases as opposed to, say, supporting the prevention of health.

It is easy to pick our least favorite: “In Support of the Use of Red Light and Speed Safety Cameras to Reduce Injuries and Fatalities on Our Nation’s Roads.”

In the latter resolution, the group cites the February 2011 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a report that the NMA has debunked, theNewspaper.com has debunked (Part 1 and Part 2), and others have discredited because of extrapolated claims based on shoddy “research” made by the insurance industry front group.

The mayors’ resolution echoed the IIHS’s logic-challenged claim that “red-light safety cameras” – perhaps we should start referring to them as “red-light revenue cameras” – could have prevented hundreds of deaths if they had been deployed in all large U.S. cities in recent years. The resolution states the strong support of the Conference of Mayors for “these life-saving devices.”

The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) immediately praised the resolution, with president and executive director David Kelly noting, “It’s no surprise that our nation’s mayors support the use of life-saving, red-light safety cameras. There is an overwhelming body of evidence showing the effectiveness of red-light safety cameras.”

This is the same NCSR that lists only one financial supporter on their website: American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the red-light camera company.

It is deliciously ironic that Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaragiosa chaired the 2011 U.S. Conference of Mayors. On the last day of the conference, on the opposite side of the country, the City Council of Los Angeles declined to overturn a unanimous decision by the city’s Police Commission to end their red-light camera contract with – you guessed it – American Traffic Solutions.

The Los Angeles situation is complex. While it appears the L.A. red-light program will be shut down on July 31, 2011 when the current camera contract expires, the Council can still decide to extend the contract on a month-by-month basis with a simple majority vote.

You can be sure that ATS will be lobbying fiercely because they have a multi-million dollar camera contract at stake. You can also be sure that grassroots efforts by Safer Streets L.A., HighwayRobbery.net, the NMA and others will be just as active in persuading the City Council to abide by the Police Commission’s carefully-considered decision to terminate the red-light camera program.

Based on the resolution adopted in Baltimore, it looks like we will have to educate one mayor at a time about the real story behind the performance (or lack thereof) of red-light and highway speed cameras.

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