3/8/2011More California Cities Close to Dumping Red Light Cameras
Rocklin, California dumps red light cameras while Victorville searches for a way out.
Two more California communities are questioning the wisdom of photo enforcement. As of today, red light cameras are no longer operational in Rocklin after the city council decided not to renew the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. The council in Victorville felt the same way but found it much more difficult to pull the plug on automated ticketing machines.
Rocklin began using cameras at two intersections in 2006, but the program failed to generate the significant amount of revenue promised. The expiration of the five-year contract allowed the city to end the project painlessly, avoiding a number of upcoming legal and policy perils.
"Staff intends to allow the Redflex agreement expire and not to extend or enter into a new agreement at this time," City Manager Ricky A. Horst wrote in a memo to the city council. "New surveys by Redflex have shown our monitored intersections to be significantly less viable for meeting the cost to run them... Furthermore, there is uncertainty at this time with proposed legislation, DMV policies and court decisions in California that make entering into a new red light camera agreement precarious. Suspending the red light camera program will also free up police department clerical staff-time that can be used in areas of higher demand."
Anti-camera activists organized by the Tea Party packed the council chambers in Victorville to express their frustration with the program that issues $486 tickets to vehicle owners who turn right on red. City leaders disappointed that the system failed to generate the promised amount of revenue to the city were themselves frustrated to learn that ending the red light camera program would not come cheaply because Redflex will not tell the city how much it would cost to end the program.
"They have no reason to to talk about termination because there are no termination provisions in the contract," City Manager Jim Cox said. "It's obvious to me that at this point in time unless there's a change of mind by Redflex that the only way that we can cancel the contract is to not live by the terms, which would cause litigation. That could happen in a number of ways. Number one is to not pay them."
Cox could not say how much litigation would cost, but council members suspected it could cost $1 to $2 million to pull out before the March 17, 2015 expiration date. A previous contract with Redflex did have a clause allowing a penalty-free termination for convenience, but a city attorney signed a new deal that struck the clause.
"What could possibly drive the attorney to enter a new contract before the old contract was up that would take away the city council's power to nix the contract?" resident Bill Jensen asked. "It makes absolutely no sense."
Three council members said they were unwilling to spend money to remove the cameras. Councilman Angela Valles and Mayor Ryan McEachron disagreed, earning shouts of approval from the audience for their stance.
"I say let the litigation begin and let's get rid of the red light cameras," Valles said.
McEachron was more measured in his response, but but he agreed to consider any viable options.
"I've never liked red light cameras," McEachron said. "From my perspective, I'm in favor of turning them off tomorrow."
On a motion from Valles, the council voted to delay making a final decision by sixty days to discuss alternatives to get out of the contract.