11/25/2011Missouri: Lt Governor Candidate Campaigns Against Red Light Cameras
Candidate for GOP nomination for lieutenant governor of Missouri makes opposition to red light cameras a top issue.
A man hoping to land the number-two job in the Missouri state government is hoping his opposition to red light cameras will put his candidacy over the top. Former municipal judge Michael E. Carter earlier this month put his hat in the ring to be the Republican nominee for the lieutenant governor position. His experience on the bench set him against automated ticketing machines.
"Without exception, there was one type of ticket that suffered the most disdain and was the least popular -- the red-light camera ticket," Carter said in his announcement.
Carter wants to inspire the legislature to impose a statewide ban on photo ticketing. State lawmakers have never approved the use of red light cameras in Missouri. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) wanted to get the jump on its competition and installed the devices anyway, against the advice of the company's own legal counsel, Stinson Morrison Hecker. The firm explained in a 2005 memo that the tickets would not hold up in a court of law (view full letter). Last year, the state supreme court struck down Springfield's photo ticketing as illegal, while hinting in footnotes that the justices might look favorably on a broader legal challenge (view opinion). A more recent appellate decision did side with cameras.
The issue has been heavily political over the past six years. To gain buy-in at the local level, ATS hired prominent Democratic lobbyists. As first reported by the Riverfront Times, these individuals were promised cash for every ticket issued in the cities they succeeded in landing as clients. Jay Morris Specter, who was later imprisoned for fraud, was promised a six percent cut of the ATS proceeds from every ticket issued. Joyce Aboussie, former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D), was promised a 3.2 percent cut. Their persuasive ability secured dozens of cities willing to set up photo enforcement programs. Carter finds these deals to be questionable.
"Red-Light camera companies are said to have contractual agreements with municipalities that limit the cities' power to extend yellow-light duration and make decisions regarding right on red enforcement," Carter's announcement stated. "Sometimes, the companies even impose quotas on the cities, requiring that a certain number of tickets be issued."
Carter's plans suffered a setback when Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) announced last week that he would run for re-election instead of challenging Governor Jay Nixon (D), as expected.