There are three bills proposed this year in the Connecticut legislator, that deal with installing red-light cameras throughout the state. The three bills are as follows:
- House Bill 6056 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF MUNICIPAL AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT SAFETY DEVICES AT CERTAIN INTERSECTIONS —Introduced by Rep. Angel Arce
- House Bill 5554 – AN ACT ENABLING CERTAIN MUNICIPALITIES TO INSTALL TRAFFIC SIGNAL ENFORCEMENT CAMERAS– proposed by Rep. Roland J. Lemar, Rep. Juan R. Candelaria, Rep. Patricia A. Dillon, Rep. Toni E. Walker, Rep. Gary A. Holder-Winfield, Sen. Toni Nathaniel Harp, Sen. Martin M. Looney
- Senate Bill 634 – AN ACT ALLOWING MUNICIPALITIES TO OPERATE AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT SAFETY DEVICES AT INTERSECTIONS —Introduced by Sen. Gary Lebeau
These three bills were discussed at a Transportation Committee Public Hearing this week. Using information that I gathered from watching hours of testimony regarding red light cameras in the state, as well as other resources, I will show that this is just another tactic being used by government, to take more money from tax-payers, to make it more difficult to operate a vehicle, to lower the standard of living, and other effects, designed to make more people dependent on the state.
|CT Representative Angel Arce|
The committee meeting opened up with testimony from Representative Angel Arce (D-4th District-Hartford), who introduced House Bill 6056, speaking in support of red light cameras. His testimony is looked at as unique because Rep. Arces’ father was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run accident in 2008, and Arce is using the event in his appeal for red-light-cameras. Rep. Arce claims he only wants the red-light cameras on the “busiest” and “most dangerous” intersections, “for the children.”
Representative Arce made it clear that he was not an expert on the issue of red light cameras, and explained that there were “representatives” of a company that deals with red light cameras, that “explained” the process to him, and he liked it. Who these representatives, that Arce met with, were, and which company they were representing, was never questioned, or addressed.
There were concerns raised by some of the committee members about the issue of privacy, and civil rights. Representative Arce answered these concerns with the typical politician rhetoric, that he is here for the people, and only wants to help. One member of the transportation committee, Representative Janice Giegler, raised concerns over reports of other states that have implemented red light camera technologies, which have been used to ticket drivers for offenses as minimal as driving over the white line, or not getting out of the way fast enough for emergency vehicles. Giegler was also concerned that this would be another hassle for drivers, who would have to take a day off from work to appear at traffic court, if they chose to appeal the fine given to them from this red light camera. Rep. Arce answered these concerns by saying that he too was concerned, and that “they” (referring to the representatives of the red light camera companies) explained to him that there will be a hearing process, where people won’t have to go to court. Representative Arce said he was satisfied with what “they” said, but still wants their promises in writing.
Rep. Giegler also questioned Rep. Arce about the number of different vendors that install red light cameras, because one in particular, has had a “problematic” reputation across the country. Arce responded that it was a “good question”, and whatever company they choose, he will “make sure they fulfill their duty”, reiterating that he is “here for the citizens.” Ironically, a representative of one of the most infamous companies dealing with red light cameras, Redflex, spoke later at this committee meeting, in favor of red light cameras. I will go further into Redflex later in this article, but keep in mind this company plans to spend $72,000 this year on lobbying in Connecticut. I am not sure if this is the company of the representatives that Representative Arce met with, but this is a topic that deserves further investigation because earlier this month, the city of Chicago announced they will not renew their contract with Redflex after investigative findings discovered that the company gave thousands of dollars in free trips to the former city official who oversaw the decade-long red light camera program.
|CT Representative Roland Lemar|
One of the members of the transportation committee, Representative Roland Lemar (D-96th-New Haven/East Haven), is a strong supporter of the red light cameras, and is also a sponsor to one of the red light camera bills introduced in this years session, House Bill 5554. Lamar made his support of the red light cameras clear, numerous times throughout the public hearing this week, making sure to stress that he didn’t “only care about the revenue” that will come with these cameras, but what is more important to him is the increase in public safety, that he believes, will come with this project. For someone not caring about revenue, Rep. Lamar spoke ambitiously of the wonderful things that can be done with the increased revenue, aka stolen tax payer money, that will come along with red light cameras, and also spoke about his belief that there should be test pilot programs set up in areas of all types and sizes, across the state, and not just in the urban areas, which are currently being looked at as possible locations for the introduction of these revenue generating cameras. Rep. Lamar also pointed out that many areas in Connecticut already have cameras, and the only step needed to take, in these areas, to generate revenue, is to allow the camera to capture driving infractions and cite drivers.
|State Senator Gary LeBeau|
Next to speak at the Transportation Committee hearing, in support of red light cameras, was State Senator Gary LeBeau (D-3rd district) who introduced Senate Bill 634, one of the three bills this year attempting to enable the use of automated traffic enforcement, such as red light cameras, by the state. LeBeau went through his stats to support his belief in red light cameras, as well as sympathized with those concerned about the violation of civil liberties and privacy, but responded to those concerns by saying that we are far from London, where there are sections of that city that have “cameras on every corner”. The logic of LeBeau seems to be because there are places with more government surveillance, like London, than we currently have in Connecticut, that we don’t have anything to worry about, in terms of civil liberty violations, or privacy concerns. Maybe Senator LeBeau isn’t that dumb, and is pushing hard for these red light cameras, for other reasons. LeBeau talked about speaking to a couple different companies who have installed red light cameras. It would be interesting to find out with what companies, when, and where these conversations took place.
I think it is important that I point out a ridiculous quote made by Senator LeBeau, at this Transportation Committee hearing, that I think reveals the control-freak, psychopath nature of most politicians, including LeBeau. When addressing others’ concerns that some people pushing for red-light cameras may have ulterior motives, other than it being a public safety issue, Senator LeBeau revealed how he views himself, and his role as an elected representative of the people:
“One of the questions asked was ‘how do we make sure this is a public safety issue’?..It’s about public safety, and not about money. I think this is part of a larger question, of how do we change the culture? Because what happens is, and what has happened over the last twenty or thirty years…is that people have tended to literally slide through red lights more and more and more. And maybe slide through a lot of other laws more and more and more. How do we change that? It’s interesting because the same question was raised by the bill … brought in last week, and is getting a lot of press, regarding smoking in cars with children….The issue of guns is about cultural change…So what is the role of the legislature in trying to change culture, and I think we have a significant role. That’s my belief.”
There were two people who spoke in opposition to these red light cameras, Andrew Schneider of the ACLU of CT, and Abdul-Shahid Muhammad Ansari, president of the NAACP Greater Hartford branch. Schneider of the ACLU, spoke about his opposition to these cameras on the grounds that it violates civil liberties and privacy. Schneider also spoke about Redflex, the infamous red-light-camera installing company, getting kicked out of Chicago because of bribery, kickbacks, etc. Rep. Tony Guerrera, and Rep. Roland Lemar, both of the Transportation Committee, were, in my opinion, very disrespectful to Schneider and dismissive of his concerns.
Abdul-Shahid Muhammad Ansari, of the NAACP, spoke in opposition to these three bills, arguing that the placement of these cameras will be in urban communities, disproportionately effecting minorities. Mr. Ansari argued that camera companies will put cameras up, where there is the most traffic, and where they can get the most money, which will be in cities. When asked if he believes there will be a greater level of public safety as a result of red light cameras, Ansari responded that he lives in the city of Hartford and doesn’t see a problem to the extent that we need a camera at every intersection, and believes the cameras will just burden people with unnecessary costs. Ansari’s advice to the committee is to ask the people in the neighborhoods, that you plan on putting these cameras in, whether they want them there or not. In my opinion, that was the best suggestion I heard come from this entire hearing.
Finally, a represenative of big camera contractor Redflex, Richard Retting, sometimes referred to as the “father of the red light camera in America“, came to speak to the committee. Retting just ran through a list of studies, and findings, that support his belief in red light cameras, as well as making sure to address, in a condescending manner, the concerns of Andrew Schneider, of the ACLU. It should be noted that Richard Retting has been criticized for his apparent profiting off of a lifetime of traffic camera advocacy, including eighteen years spent advocating red light camera and speed cameras for the insurance industry’s lobbying arm, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) . TheNewsPaper.com writes the following about Richard Retting:
“The one man most responsible for the spread of red light cameras in the United States is now enjoying the fruit of his labor. Richard A. Retting was New York City’s deputy assistant commissioner for traffic safety programs as the Big Apple considered becoming the first in the US to operate intersection cameras. Planning for the program began in 1983 and continued through 1991 when then-Mayor David Dinkins activated the system. For this achievement, Retting was dubbed the father of the red light camera in America, and today he is earning money directly from the systems that have followed New York’s lead.”
The company Redflex has been involved in controversy across the country, here are some examples:
- The Mayor of Chicago announced this month that he will axe Redflex when its contract expires in July, citing new investigative findings that the company gave thousands of dollars in free trips to the former city official who oversaw the decade-long program.
- In Iowa, Redflex mailed out 500 red light camera tickets… to people accused by the machines of speeding.
- A judge in the state of Washington ruled that tickets issued in Spokane using cameras to detect those running red lights were invalid because the electronic signature on the tickets was generated out of state.
- One lady in Tennessee took Redflex to court because the ticket they sent her gave her three options: pay the $50 fine, complete an affidavit of nonresponsibility that she was not the driver (and name the actual driver), or schedule a hearing at Knoxville City Court. The citation stated that if she scheduled a hearing she would be assessed a $67.50 “court processing fee.” Williams contended that the procedures Knoxville uses to hear challenges to the imposition of the fines violate the federal and Tennessee Constitutions, as well as Tennessee state-law. The court eventually granted her a hearing, without a process fee. The court records show that the the processing fee on the ticket was some kind of misprint: the defendants vigorously contended that no such “processing fee” is in fact imposed for requesting a hearing. But there is no debate that this was printed clearly on the citation. The good folks at Redflex wouldn’t have included that description of a processing fee to discourage people from fighting the ticket, would they?
|Steven Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign|
“Complete streets policies mandate a certain percentage of our road funds be siphoned off for hike & bike trails or dedicated bike lanes that ultimately shrink auto capacity. They can also involve cyclovias where streets are closed to autos so bicyclists and pedestrians can roam free. What starts as a temporary closure can turn into permanent road closures. Wikipedia says a cyclovia is a “term which translates from Spanish into English as ‘bike path’ and now used worldwide to describe either a permanently designated bicycle route or a temporary event, the closing of the street to automobiles for use by others.”
“National groups such as Complete Streets, Thunderhead Alliance, and others, have training programs teaching their members how to pressure for redevelopment, and training candidates for office. It’s not just about bike lanes, it’s about remaking cities and rural areas to the ‘sustainable model’. High density urban development without parking for cars is the goal. This means that whole towns need to be demolished and rebuilt in the image of sustainable development.”