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11/28/2007
Albuquerque, NM Mayor Runs from Red Light Cameras in Senate Bid
Mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico runs away from photo enforcement as he runs for higher office.

Martin Chavez
The mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico is no longer an outspoken champion of photo radar and red light cameras now that he seeking the seat of retiring US Senator Pete Domenici (R). The city council next week will consider proposals to drop photo ticketing entirely to aid Mayor Martin Chavez (D) in his quest.

City Councilman Brad Winter, a camera opponent, yesterday introduced an ordinance that would immediately outlaw photo radar and red light cameras until the council considers the results of a study expected in January. Insiders expect this report to offer a "face saving" way out of the program as it is being written by a task force whose members were hand-picked by Chavez. Winter's proposed ordinance recognizes that the council, "has been unable to obtain confirming evidence that in Albuquerque red light cameras have reduced accidents let alone saved lives."

"I believe that the rights of our citizens have been violated and that due process has not been served," Winter said in a statement. "The mayor has also stated that the program may need to be terminated."

In May, Chavez had announced plans to expand his program to include freeway-based speed cameras. In April, he successfully lobbied New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) to veto legislation that would have limited profit from automated ticketing. The pro-camera lobbying effort was so strong that leaders of the state legislature asked for an investigation into whether lobbying rules were violated.

Despite this active and effective role in the photo enforcement program, the official Chavez for Senate campaign website biography limits his most important mayoral accomplishments to: "He declared war on gangs, graffiti and DWI." Photo ticketing does not merit even a brief mention on an extensive list of his accomplishments while in office.

Chavez may have learned a lesson from former Cranston, Rhode Island Mayor Stephen Laffey who lost his bid for the Republican US Senate nomination last year in part because of his support for speed cameras. Attack ads at the time highlighted Laffey's role in landing a speed camera deal.

"Laffey swore to fight special interests," the commercials said. "Instead, he gave a city vendor a secret no-bid contract in exchange for thousands in campaign contributions. Now Laffey's pledged never to vote for a tax increase. Believe that? Laffey: Watch what he does, not what he says."

Councilman Winter's proposed ordinance, available in a 57K PDF file at the source link below, will be considered at the December 3 meeting.

Source: PDF File Ordinance: Moratorium on Operation (City of Albuquerque, City Council, 11/27/2007)

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