11/4/2009Photo Enforcement Defeated at the Ballot Box in Texas, Ohio
Voters in College Station, Texas as well as Chillicothe and Heath, Ohio vote to ban automated ticketing machines.
Voters in three cities sent a clear message to local lawmakers yesterday by adopting charter amendments that ban photo enforcement. In addition to kicking two camera supporters from 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. In College Station, Texas the vote was much closer, but at the end of the night 52 percent wanted the red light cameras to come down. In Heath, Ohio 51 percent voted against the cameras. A total of nine cities nationwide have used the initiative process to ban camera enforcement since 1991, with camera proponents never having won a public vote.
The triple defeat for the photo enforcement industry came despite a well-funded public relations effort in each of the cities. In Chillicothe, 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. Citizens Against Photo Enforcement (CAPE), the group responsible for the ballot measure, claimed an additional victory as voters elected camera opponent Bruce Arnold, who won the seat of council president, Jeremy Siberell, who won the fifth ward and Dustin Proehl, the only incumbent to have voted against cameras. CAPE leader Rebecca Valentich told TheNewspaper that she was thrilled with the outcome.
"We came together as individuals, and we united as a community," Valentich said. "The people have spoken, and very clearly. Our voices have been heard and thanks to the people and their strong voices, the cameras will be coming down. It is a huge victory, and one that we can all be proud of. And although our mayor has gone on record saying that he will fight the will of the people, his fight against the rights of the people will only bring a stronger united front from the community."
In College Station, Texas 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. College Station activist Jim Ash, who led the fight to put the issue on the ballot, watched the results with a large group of supporters.
"It has been nothing but celebration here," Ash told TheNewspaper minutes after the results became final.
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.
"You can fight city hall and win, when you have a passion for what you believe in," We Demand a Vote spokesman Lori Lyons said in a statement.
Yesterday's results are consistent with previous public votes on the topic. In April, eighty-six percent of the votes in Sulphur, Louisiana rejected speed cameras. In 2008, residents in Cincinnati, Ohio rejected red light cameras. Seventy-six percent of Steubenville, Ohio voters rejected photo radar in 2006. In the mid-1990s, speed cameras lost by a two-to-one margin in Peoria, Arizona and Batavia, Illinois. In 1997, voters in Anchorage, Alaska banned cameras even after the local authorities had removed them. In 2003, 64 percent of voters in Arlington, Texas voted down "traffic management cameras" that opponents at the time said could be converted into ticketing cameras.