Despite claims by the ticket camera industry that most drivers support the use of ticket cameras, the automatic ticketing devices have never survived a public vote. That trend continued this week as three more cities were forced to shut down their cameras due to citizen ballot initiatives.
From the archives of TheNewspaper.com, here is a compilation of nine cities that have voted to ban ticket cameras:
1) Chillicothe, Ohio November 2009
In addition to kicking two camera supporters off the city council, 72 percent of those voting in Chillicothe, Ohio approved a total prohibition on the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. Prior to the vote, in order to protect their revenue stream, Redflex Traffic Systems sent a glossy mailer to every voter while the mayor demanded that the Ohio Supreme Court ban the public from even voting on the issue — a move high court justices swiftly rejected.
2) Heath, Ohio November 2009
In Heath, voters were bombarded with the same advertisements from Redflex, but they failed to persuade a majority. Voters also defeated Mayor Richard Waugh who had introduced photo enforcement as the signature issue of his administration.
3) College Station, Texas November 2009
The city’s automated ticketing vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) bankrolled a front group to conduct mass mailings and push polling in an effort to save the program that would have earned the company more than $11 million over the life of the contract. The ATS-funded group reported raising $71,240 in contributions, but not one dollar came from anyone living in the local community. To supplement the vendor’s effort, the city allocated taxpayer money to send red light camera promotional material to every voter. Despite all this, local citizens still voted to get rid of the cameras.
4) Sulphur, Louisiana April 2009
In a special election, the Southern Louisiana city of 22,000 overwhelmingly rejected photo enforcement. Asked, “Shall Ordinance No. 873, M-C Series adopting automated speed enforcement for the City of Sulphur, Louisiana, be repealed?” eighty-six percent of voters said “Yes.”
5) Cinncinnati, Ohio November 2008
The residents of Cincinnati, Ohio made it clear that photo enforcement is not welcome in the city. A majority of voters approved an amendment to the city charter prohibiting local officials from ever installing either red light cameras or speed cameras. Cincinnati city council members had been trying for the past four years to install the devices that promised to generate between $2 million and $12 million in annual revenue. Advocates were stopped in 2005 when former Mayor Charlie Luken vetoed a camera ordinance saying, “Let’s be honest with the public — we didn’t think about this until we came up with a budget problem.”
6) Steubenville, Ohio November 2006
An overwhelming majority of voters in Steubenville, Ohio rejected the city’s speed camera program in a referendum on whether the city ordinance authorizing the program should stand. With all precincts reporting, 76.2 percent of voters said “no.” The program began in 2005 issuing nearly 7000 tickets worth $85 each to motorists driving as little as 5 MPH over the speed limit.
7) Anchorage, Alaska April 1996
Faced with the overwhelming public and legal backlash, the Anchorage Assembly voted to stop using photo radar on the program’s one-year anniversary on March 13, 1997. That concession was not enough for local activist Alex Gimarc who warned that nothing would stop city leaders from coming back and installing red light cameras and speed cameras at some point in the future. Gimarc led the effort to gather 12,000 signatures to place a referendum on the April 15, 1996 city ballot — far more than the 6958 signatures required. A strong majority approved Proposition Three which amended the city charter to require human police officers to issue traffic citations, effectively banning photo radar.
8) Batavia, Illinois March 1992
On March 17, 1992, two-thirds of eligible voters showed up at the polls to answer the question: “Should the City of Batavia use photo-radar devices to photograph motor vehicles and/or drivers for the purpose of enforcing speed limits?” A total of 63.3 percent said no; just 36.7 said yes. Voters sent a second message as David Waters — the primary proponent of the cameras — met with a crushing defeat in the Republican primary at the hands of Douglas Weigand.
9) Peoria, Arizona March 1991
In 1991, the group Citizens Against Speed Traps formed in Peoria to battle a then-new program that mailed automated speeding tickets on the streets of the Phoenix suburb. The group succeeded in gathering enough signatures on a petition that, less than a year after the cameras were first activated, voters were given the choice of whether to accept or reject photo radar. On March 19, 1991, the claims of Peoria officials that the program was popular turned out to be unfounded — photo ticketing lost in the referendum by a two-to-one margin.
The next time you see a news story claiming widespread public support for ticket cameras, just remember this fact:
Ticket cameras have never survived a public vote.
That’s why the ticket camera companies fight so hard (and spend so much money) to stop citizens from having their say.
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