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4/17/2009
Texas: Red Light Camera Supporter Takes City Money
Red light camera supporter in a Duncanville, Texas television news story took $209,000 grant from the city.

KTVT newscast
There is often more to a story than what is seen on a nightly newscast. On February 3, the KTVT-TV evening news covered the fight brewing in Duncanville, Texas over the use of red light cameras. Reporter Stephanie Lucero attempted to balance her piece about drivers trapped at the notorious intersection of Danieldale Road and US 67 by speaking first with a local businessman who claimed personal experience about how the traffic cameras installed there made the city safer.

"There has been a noticeable difference in the safety of this intersection since they put them in, so I, for one, like them," Steve Madison told KTVT.

The story proceeded to interview a random motorist who called the camera in that particular location a transparent, money-making scheme. The device snares drivers who are unaware that they are required to stop not once, but twice, to avoid a photo citation when making a legal right-hand turn on red. The first stop must be made at the arbitrary "stop bar" painted on the pavement, and the second must stop must be made several feet ahead, at the edge of the intersection. The second stop is required because one's view of oncoming traffic is fully obstructed while behind the stop bar.

By framing the story as "some people love them" -- with Madison's comment --, and "some people hate them" it appeared that both points of view were equally valid. Duncanville City Councilman Paul Ford found fault with this analysis given Madison's financial connection to city officials.

"I wonder if his interview would have been broadcast if he had said, 'The city council gave me $209,000 of taxpayer money! I love red light cameras!" Ford wrote.

According to Ford, Madison received a $209,000 grant in 2005 to build a housing development on two-and-a-half acres of land at the intersection of Royal Avenue and Azalea Lane. Four years later, the location remains a run-down, empty lot (view photo). Ford claimed that there was a direct connection between the cameras and the mayor's supporters like Madison.

"The red light camera setup in Duncanville, and the 44,000 red light camera citations mailed out in 2008 at $75.00 apiece -- most for turning right on red -- is near and dear to [their] hearts," Ford wrote. "The more money the city takes from us, the more money the city can give to them."

Ford has paid a heavy price for bringing attention to these matters. Last week, Mayor David Green had Ford arrested for speaking out against traffic cameras during a city council meeting. Ford was released Tuesday after an overnight stay in the Dallas County Jail on the charge of "disrupting a public meeting." Ford's first court hearing is scheduled for May 12.

View the February 2 news clip on the KTVT website.



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