8/22/2014Sierra Vista, Arizona To Vote On Banning Traffic Cameras
November ballot asks residents in Sierra Vista, Arizona whether they want photo radar and red light cameras outlawed.
The city council in Sierra Vista, Arizona voted last week to put an initiative measure on the ballot that would, if adopted, kick out the vendor currently at the center of a $2 million bribery scandal in Chicago, Illinois. Karen Finley, the former head of US operations for Redflex Traffic Systems, was indicted for corruption just hours before the council made its decision.
Robert Montgomery spent three months collecting the signatures needed to force the council, which is in full support of automated ticketing machines, to let voters decide whether the machines ought to be kept. Montgomery decided to get involved after being incensed by a pro-camera article in the local newspaper. He complained about it to people he met.
"It turns out I wasn't the only guy mad about the cameras," Montgomery told TheNewspaper. "It was the same reaction everywhere."
At meetings Montgomery attended, he brought up the issue and polled attendees whether he ought to do something, and the response was overwhelming. He filed the paperwork and began circulating the petition with the goal of collecting 2493 valid signatures.
"What I learned on the first day was that I did not have to give a speech to convince anybody to sign the petition," Montgomery explained. "People ran over to me and stood in line to sign. After about an hour I learned to shut up and let them do the talking, and boy did I hear stories."
Volunteers joined in the circulation effort, including city council candidates Craig Mount and Tony Wenc pulling in 3448 signatures by last month. That was a thousand more than needed to put Proposition 408 on the ballot.
"The use of any camera or video camera device, whether fixed on a roadway, state highway in city limits, intersections or positioned in a mobile vehicle, shall be prohibited for use for the purpose of issuing any type of motorist moving violation that carries any type of monetary fine or penalty as listed in any Sierra Vista code of ordinances or Arizona Revised Statute," the initiative states.
Photo ticketing companies often fight hard to block such votes, going so far as to sue their former municipal customers. Houston, Texas residents had to pay $4.8 million to settle such a suit. The contract between the Sierra Vista and Redflex, personally signed by Karen Finley during the period the Department of Justice accuses her of being involved in a conspiracy, specifically says the agreement can be canceled if a "citizen's initiative" bans the use of cameras, eliminating the worry of legal wrangling.
Arizona was home to the very first referendum to outlaw the use of cameras. In 1991, 70 percent of voters in Peoria moved to prohibit the use of photo radar.