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Fight for Camera Cash in Los Angeles, San Bernardino
The city council and camera vendors fight over revenue in Los Angeles and San Bernardino, California.

Dennis Zine
Two California cities are seeing the effect of the struggle for red light camera cash. The city of Los Angeles on Friday selected Nestor to be its camera vendor over its Australian rival, Redflex. Nearby, in San Bernardino, it is the city council that is desperate for revenue -- and it has turned to red light cameras.

Friday marked the end of an nasty 18-month battle for the lucrative LA contract. Nestor's win was essential as the company is desperate for revenue to stay alive, with $59.1 million in debt. Nestor paid lobbyist Arnie Berghoff at least $54,000 to work the city. Redflex offered powerful lobbyist Ken Spiker Jr. a $100,000 contingency fee to land the contract and poured money into the campaign coffers of city councilman Dennis P. Zine and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last year. Zine responded by voting against any contract that failed to include Redflex and by going on trips with Redflex lobbyist Spiker.

"I'm not carrying anyone's water," Zine told the LA Times. Instead, he maintained that the Redflex system was superior and could issue more tickets, generating more revenue for the city.

"I am utterly shocked how much politics there were," Kevin McCarthy, an LA Police Department official told the LA Times. "I didn't know how powerful lobbyists were and how much their access plays a role in the whole thing."

The new LA contract should have cameras issuing the $351 tickets by June, eventually covering 32 intersections in the city.

In nearby San Bernardino, the city council has run out of money and its members are desperate for revenue. Now at least one city council member wants to use the "gravy" in the red light camera system that was sold to the public as being "revenue neutral" to expand the power of the police department.

"The gravy that has been created, in my conservative estimation based on the amount of violators, is approximately 12 officers a year," Councilman Wendy McCammack said, according to the San Bernardino Sun.

Source: It Was Anything but a Snap Decision (Los Angeles Times, 11/19/2005)

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