7/14/2009Citizen Petitions Put Photo Enforcement Companies on the Defensive
Citizen referendum efforts put red light camera and speed camera companies on the defensive in Arizona, Ohio and Texas.
Petitions to place the fate of red light cameras and speed cameras in the hands of voters are circulating across the country. This November, photo enforcement bans are likely to be considered in three Ohio and two Texas cities. Every Arizona jurisdiction may have a chance to vote on a statewide ballot initiative in November 2010.
So far, the efforts in Ohio are the most advanced. In April, the group Citizens Against Photo Enforcement succeeded in having an automated ticketing ban certified for the ballot in Chillicothe. We Demand a Vote this week secured more than the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot in Heath. The group will continue to collect additional signatures before making a formal submission to election officials. A third petition in Toledo has secured half of the required number of signatures.
"The Coalition Against Spending and Taxes (COAST) and Americans for Prosperity are firmly committed to seeing it is done," COAST spokesman Chris Finney told TheNewspaper. "We had a decent rally in Toledo on the 8th, after collecting 1200 signatures in less than ten days."
Finney is confident the issue will be placed on the ballot and, once before the voters, red light cameras will be banned. Finney's prediction is based on his experience helping to lead a coalition that ousted red light cameras from Cincinnati last year. In 2006, seventy-six percent of Steubenville voters rejected photo radar.
Efforts to ban cameras in Texas cities are also proceeding. Tomorrow, local activist Jim Ash will hold a rally during which he will present election officials with a petition to put a referendum on red light cameras in College Station on the next ballot. Ash had little difficulty in convincing the required number of residents to sign.
"The cities say it is a safety program," Ash wrote on his website. "I have evidence that one city council member even expected to see rear end accidents increase and still went ahead with the program. I, along with many others, have concluded the red light camera program is more about the money than anything else."
Former city councilman Paul Ford also continues his effort to line up signatures to ban red light cameras in Duncanville. Although the issue has never been placed directly on a Texas ballot, 64 percent of Arlington voters rejected a 2003 attempt to install "traffic management cameras" that opponents at the time said could be converted into ticketing cameras.
The most ambitious of all referendum efforts, however, is underway in Arizona. The group Camerafraud.com needs 153,364 verified signatures to give voters a say in whether automated ticketing machines should be allowed in the state. Camerafraud volunteer Shawn Dow told TheNewspaper that the petition has met with nearly universal support from the public.
"Photo radar is all people are talking about here," Dow said. "The cameras are coming down."
Already feeling the public backlash growing in the state, traffic cameras companies like Redflex Traffic Systems of Melbourne, Australia have begun taking steps to improve their local image. Redflex has begun sponsoring traffic reports on local radio stations like KTAR. Its Arizona-based competitor, American Traffic Solutions, recently gave sixty-five backpacks to school children.
History shows these companies will face an uphill battle at the ballot box. By a two-to-one margin, voters in Peoria, Arizona ordered speed cameras to come down in the mid-Nineties. Voters in Batavia, Illinois and Anchorage, Alaska have also rejected photo radar. So far this year, eighty-six percent of Sulphur, Louisiana rejected speed cameras. Photo enforcement has never survived a public vote. The state legislatures in Maine, Mississippi and Montana also enacted laws prohibiting automated ticketing machines in 2009.