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Alaska Politicians Seek To Revive Banned Red Light Camera Program
Local politicians in Anchorage, Alaska propose ballot measure undermining the photo enforcement ban drafted and enacted by voters in 1997.

Dick Traini
Residents of Anchorage, Alaska were third in the nation to rise up against the use of automated ticketing machines. In 1997, a citizen-led signature drive gave the public a chance to weigh in on the issue at the ballot box, and a majority decided to adopt a comprehensive prohibition on the use of red light cameras and speed cameras. A handful of city politicians intend to undo this ballot measure in a process that begins this Friday.

The Anchorage Assembly, the equivalent of a city council, scheduled a committee hearing on a plan that would rush a referendum partially undoing the ban onto the April 4 ballot. Dick Traini, the council's vice chairman, introduced the measure so that the city could hire a private company to mail traffic tickets to, in most cases, motorists making right turns on red.

That would signal a return to the "gotcha" tactics that infuriated residents in the 1990s. Motorists back then complained after receiving tickets for allegedly driving 25 MPH in a 20 MPH "school zone" long after the last student had left for the day. The program had racked up $1.1 million in tickets before residents circulated a petition saying enough was enough.

"Any and all vehicle law or code enforcement activity pursuant to this Article XXI shall be performed in person," the voter-passed measure said. "Any vehicle law or code enforcement powers which may currently exist, other than those described in Section 21.01 above, are null and void."

Traini proposes to amend that prohibition to allow red light cameras by adding the following line: "Except for the use of automated traffic-safety cameras to cite for failure to stop at a red light at signalized intersections."

In 1997, red light cameras were not widely used outside of a handful of federally subsidized pilot projects on the East Coast, but the voter-passed camera prohibition was deliberately designed to prohibit their use. Since then, the public has come to learn a great deal about the limitation of red light camera enforcement (view studies) and voted on more than thirty occasions to ban their use (view list).

Even if Traini's efforts are successful, a red light camera system would face a serious legal challenge as the state Court of Appeals ruled in 1997 that the hearsay evidence provided by for-profit camera company employees is not admissible (view opinion). In addition, the public has never overturned a ban on speed cameras or red light cameras. In Monroe, Washington and Garfield Heights, Ohio, the vote tally against cameras increased when local officials attempted a re-vote on the issue.

A copy of Traini's measure is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Anchorage Ordinance 2016-162 (Anchorage, Alaska Assembly, 1/17/2017)

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