Red Light Cameras Active In Alexandria Again

Austin Danforth at the Alexandria Times, has a report on amendments that have been made to the state’s red light ticketing law. As soon as the City finds a vendor to process the tickets, they will be active.

A little history on red light cameras in Alexandria.

On Monday, June 15, 2009, the Alexandria Police Department began an active Photo Red Light Enforcement Campaign to help reduce red-light runners throughout the City. The cameras are located at the following intersections:

For those of you that don’t know, Alexandria and other jurisdictions in Virginia used to have red light cameras until 2005 when the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting their use because of the increase in the amount of accidents they were causing and the ten year experiement had come to an end so they declined to reauthorize photo enforcement.

The Legislature then reversed course after a two year battle with municipal lobbyists and the insurance industry, and re-authorized the use of red light cameras.

So do red light cameras actually make driving safer? No. As P-Diddy used to say – “It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby!”

An exhaustive study in 2007 of all seven Virginia red light camera programs showed an overall increase in injury accidents has occurred where the devices are installed. The study was performed by The Virginia Transportation Research Council at the request of the state transportation secretary.

TheNewspaper.com had this to say about the results:

Despite a distinct sympathy in favor of camera enforcement, the researchers found a “definite” increase in rear-end accidents and only a “possible” decrease in angle accidents. Most importantly, the net effect was that more injuries happened after cameras are installed. Camera proponents explain this away by asserting angle accidents are more serious, but this claim has not been scientifically studied according to this report. The rear end collisions caused by the cameras still produce injuries — the original promise of camera proponents was that they would reduce accidents and injuries, not rearrange them.

So if the red light cameras pose a risk to drivers why then has the City of Alexandria decided to bring them back? Money – pure and simple – as the City has missed the revenue that came from the tickets. So what about the 43% increase in accidents that the study found happened in Alexandria after the cameras were installed?

In the Police Department’s press release, Chief David Baker stated, “This grace period will give motorists an opportunity to become familiar with the red-light photo enforcement system in Alexandria. This is a public safety program and our goal is to deter red-light runners and prevent accidents resulting from these violations.”

This is crap and here’s why.

In a March 24, 2008 memo to City Council, Alexandria City Manager James Hartman wrote: “The Red Light Camera program is not considered a core public safety service.” So, they don’t really care about your safety, just your money. There is also a catch to this which we’ll get to in a moment.

TheNewspaper.com continues its well done piece on this by breaking down the politics that has gone on behind the scenes (emphasis mine):

The return of red light cameras is helping to boost ticket collections for Fiscal Year 2010 to $4.6 million, an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year. With three cameras installed, gross photo ticket revenues are expected to be $450,000 per year with private vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) pocketing $180,000. Payments to ATS are made through a “cost neutral” contract which compensates ATS on a per-ticket basis up to a level capped at approximately $5000 per intersection per month. The group CameraFraud.com argues that this arrangement directly violates a state law banning per-ticket payments for red light camera programs.

This was one of the amendments which fixed the law.

The catch? When the law was reauthorized in 2007, lawmakers failed to update the old law which had a loophole. You do NOT have to pay the red light ticket if it is mailed to you.

The Virginia Transportation Research Council explains this in their study of the red light camera progam:

Although the statute permits the jurisdiction to make the initial attempt to summon the accused to court via mail, if the person fails to respond, he or she is not considered to have been satisfactorily served with notice. However, personal service on all violators is obviously a very expensive proposition, involving many personnel hours, and would defeat one of the primary motivating factors for employing automated detection systems in the first place’a reduction in the number of officers required to enforce red light laws.

Thus, unless a jurisdiction is willing to devote resources to implementing extensive in-hand service, citations mailed for red light camera violations become essentially unenforceable. The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact. Again, this is a practical, but not legal, challenge. (Page 17)

So, fellow drivers be extra cautious when traveling through the above named intersections. And remember to look out for us pedestrians when we are in the middle of the crosswalk.

Kerry Donley Thinks Voters Are Stupid

Last year, after the May Council elections, the Democrats in Alexandria (my hometown) were SO steamed that they lost two seats in the election.

They tried (and failed) to challenge new Councilwoman Alicia Hughes’ eligibility to serve and the lame duck members along with many of the current Democrats on Council voted to move the spring elections to November.

In June, during the last public hearing of the last Council, with two lame duck members attending, Council voted 5-2 to move the elections to November even though the number of people in opposition to the move far outweighs those in support. This is even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Alexandria.

Many Democrats and Republicans spoke at the hearing (about 5-1 against the move) and the Mayor and 4 liberals on the Council ignored the will of the people. The vote, which included former Councilman Wilson and former Councilman Lovain, was a clear abuse of power by the liberals in Alexandria. The move is a ploy by the Democrats to keep them in power for years to come.

Think I’m wrong?

Arlington County, which moved their elections to November years ago, have seen one (1) Republican win since. One.

So, the Alexandria City Council has been stuck since on whether to have the elections in November 2011 or November 2012 and whether or not to have staggered terms. As it stands right now, Alexandria’s next general election date, November 2012, is coupled with a presidential election year.

In November 2012, what’s going to matter more to voters in Alexandria? Getting President Obama re-elected or the local City election. With up to $2 billion dollars that is going to be spent in the next election, the City election will get second billing.

Councilwoman Alicia Hughes, during a recent Council meeting, threw her hat into the ring by proposing a resolution to have the voters decide what Council has yet to decide. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley, a big spending liberal, said the following:

“Quite frankly, the Council is elected to make decisions and I don’t see that a referendum right now should substitute for our inability to arrive at a compromise…”

Meaning you and I are too stupid to decide this via a referendum vote. The Vice Mayor then said (emphasis mine):

Because we can’t arrive at a decision … would we start doing the same thing on land use planning and fiscal matters?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Councilman Smedberg said (think he’s on the side of the people?):

“I’m disturbed that we are even talking about this
[…]
I hope we can tone down the rhetoric.”

Councilwoman Hughes responded:

“Let the people decide. The people, not politicians, should rule.”

The Alexandria Times has a list of what the Hughes resolution wants voters to decide.

Hughes’ drafted resolution called for the Hobson Commission — a bipartisan committee that recommended preserving the status quo election process in 2007 — to fashion the wording of three referendum questions: Whether Alexandria’s next election should be in November 2011 or 2012, if terms should be staggered or remain in a single block and if the terms should be changed from three to four years.

The voters in Alexandria are too stupid to decide this? I don’t think so and the hundreds I’ve spoken with don’t think so either.

Reagan Sighting In Minnesota

No, it probably doesn’t come from the banks or the tea partiers. The photo below which shows Ronald Reagan next to the words ‘Remember Real Hope & Change?’ probably comes from the same folks who posted the ‘Miss Me Yet?’ George W. Bush billboard (which ended up being a group of small business owners in Minnesota who feel Washington is against them).

This anonymous ad is on I-94 in the outskirts of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolis area, just outside of Albertville on the way from St. Cloud to Minneapolis.

Ed Morrissey, himself from Minnesota, notes the irony of the ad.

Ronald Reagan never won Minnesota in either of his two national elections, but clearly someone recalls him fondly. It’s not cheap to pay for this kind of advertising, and it would be interesting to discover who’s behind this one.

I guess people just wish it was morning again in America as President Reagan liked to say.

What Style of Government Is Best?

In this day and age, Liberals like to advocate how Government knows best when Conservatives like me advocate that the people know best. When Government is small, the people have more freedoms and more liberty. In the recent jobs report, one of the few spots where jobs are growing is in the Federal Government. Liberals in D.C. like President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, et al believe in big Government.

Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, in a Sunday opinion piece, takes a look at the state Governments of Texas (classic small Government) and California (classic big Government) to see which approach to governing is best. Michael finds that the smaller Government approach in Texas is more successful.

They are lessons that are particularly vivid when you contrast Texas, the nation’s second most populous state, with the most populous, California. Both were once Mexican territory, secured for the United States in the 1840s. Both have grown prodigiously over the past half-century. Both have populations that today are about one-third Hispanic.

But they differ vividly in public policy and in their economic progress — or lack of it — over the last decade. California has gone in for big government in a big way. Democrats hold big margins in the legislature largely because affluent voters in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area favor their liberal positions on cultural issues.

Those Democratic majorities have obediently done the bidding of public employee unions to the point that state government faces huge budget deficits. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to reduce the power of the Democratic-union combine with referenda was defeated in 2005 when public employee unions poured $100 million — all originally extracted from taxpayers — into effective TV ads.

Californians have responded by leaving the state. From 2000 to 2009, the Census Bureau estimates, there has been a domestic outflow of 1,509,000 people from California — almost as many as the number of immigrants coming in. Population growth has not been above the national average and, for the first time in history, it appears that California will gain no House seats or electoral votes from the reapportionment following the 2010 census.

Texas is a different story. Texas has low taxes — and no state income taxes — and a much smaller government. Its legislature meets for only 90 days every two years, compared with California’s year-round legislature. Its fiscal condition is sound. Public employee unions are weak or nonexistent.

But Texas seems to be delivering superior services. Its teachers are paid less than California’s. But its test scores — and with a demographically similar school population — are higher. California’s once fabled freeways are crumbling and crowded. Texas has built gleaming new highways in metro Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

In the meantime, Texas’ economy has been booming. Unemployment rates have been below the national average for more than a decade, as companies small and large generate new jobs.

And Americans have been voting for Texas with their feet. From 2000 to 2009, some 848,000 people moved from other parts of the United States to Texas, about the same number as moved in from abroad. That inflow has continued in 2008-09, in which 143,000 Americans moved into Texas, more than double the number in any other state, at the same time as 98,000 were moving out of California. Texas is on the way to gain four additional House seats and electoral votes in the 2010 reapportionment.

Surprised? I’m not. Smaller Government works best for everyone.