9/10/2009Ohio, Arizona Special Interests Battle Anti-Camera Initiatives
Toledo succeeds and Chillicothe, Ohio fails in sabotaging anti-camera referendum. Arizona front group prepares for battle.
Special interest groups continue to battle a pair of anti-photo enforcement ballot initiatives in Ohio and one in Arizona. In Chillicothe, Ohio, officials are so desperate to prevent the public from deciding whether or not to keep the cameras that the city's legal department moved to block a citizen-led ballot petition before the Ross County Board of Elections. Last week, the board rejected the city's demand outright.
Representatives from Citizens Against Photo Enforcement (CAPE), which collected the signatures, were thrilled at the outcome. Voters will now decide for themselves whether or not to kick out Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company that runs the cameras.
"We believe that this protest was a Redflex move," Rebekah Valentich told TheNewspaper. "The assistant law director did not even know how many cameras we had... Just the comments he used during his back to the people speech seemed very rehearsed and reeked of Redflex."
In Toledo, Redflex and city officials were successful in thwarting the desire of 8500 city residents who signed a petition seeking a referendum on cameras. The initiative's sponsors, the We Demand a Vote coalition, did not realize that Toledo's city code included a special requirement that each page of a petition have the circulator's signature notarized. That was enough for the city to block the referendum. The coalition insists that it will be back next year.
"Our legal team feels horrible they missed this extraneous and unnecessary step that most cities in Ohio do not require," We Demand a Vote said in a statement. "This has only served to strengthen our resolve, and we hope next year when we issue a clarion call for patriots to retake civil liberty, you will respond."
In Arizona, the entities that profit from photo ticketing are turning to a self-branded "grassroots" victim advocacy organization to promote photo enforcement. Ten years ago, the Red Means Stop Coalition appeared as the city of Chandler began to prepare for the installation of red light cameras. Earlier this year, the group rebranded itself as the Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance as a statewide petition drive to give voters a chance to outlaw all forms of automated ticketing machine gathered steam.
"The program on our state highways does have its flaws, but should not been ended only amended," the group's executive director, Frank Hinds, wrote on the Red Means Stop Facebook page.
A total of 94 members have joined as "fans" of the ticketing effort on the popular social networking website. Using groups headed by victims is a favorite tactic of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, a public relations front created by Australia's Redflex Traffic Systems, Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) and other photo ticketing companies. The campaign's website specifically recruits victims to be used as lobbying tools for the industry.
Once formed, the groups are funded by other entities that receive money directly and indirectly from automated ticketing programs. For example, the Red Means Stop group receives support from:
Representatives from the group CameraFraud.com, which has received no funding from any corporate interest, vowed to fight back against the well-funded front groups with a true grassroots effort. CameraFraud has 1611 members in Arizona.
- Arizona traffic schools, which receive money from photo ticket recipients seeking to escape license points
- The Governor's Office of Highway Safety, which is a state organization funded by traffic tickets
- Redflex (via the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running front group)
- The Arizona Department of Transportation, another state organization which receives some funding from tickets
- AAA of Arizona, which sells insurance and collects additional premium revenue from photo ticket recipients (statewide tickets excepted)
- State Farm Insurance, which also collects revenue from ticket points