The Suburbanite
  • West pushes for cameras on school buses

  • City Councilman Thomas West doesn’t believe he has enough support to install traffic cameras at two of the city’s busiest intersections and in school zones. He is now pushing to install them on city school buses.

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  • City Councilman Thomas West doesn’t believe he has enough support to install traffic cameras at two of the city’s busiest intersections and in school zones. He is now pushing to install them on city school buses.
    Connie Dickon, transportation director for Canton City Schools, likes the idea because of what she calls a growing problem of motorists passing school buses. By law, motorists cannot pass a school bus in either lane of a two-lane road when it is stopped to pick up or drop off students.
    Redflex Traffic Systems, the vendor the city has considered for a traffic camera program, is offering the service through its Student Guardian program. The live cameras would be activated only when a bus driver has extended the stop sign arm.
    “For every one we do catch, there are probably five we don’t catch,” said Dickon, whose drivers are responsible for reporting to city police the make, model and license plate number of violators.
    West had proposed placing the traffic cameras, which nab speeders and motorists who run red lights, at Market Ave. N and 12th Street and at Tuscarawas St. W and Belden Avenue, as well as in school zones. Redflex would install the cameras for free and be responsible for issuing fines. Each violation would cost $120 and would be (Information has been changed to fix an error. See correction at end of story. 4 p.m. March 4) considered a civil penalty, meaning the court system would not be involved and the penalized offender would not accumulate points on their driver’s license. The city would receive 66 percent of the revenue; Redflex would get the rest. West proposed a three-year contract.
    A similar plan was defeated in 2009 and 2012.
    West “watered down” the plan this week, acknowledging his initial proposal lacked support.
    “Obviously my colleagues are not on board with putting cameras in school zones or at intersections,” he said. “No one can say this (cameras on school buses) is a speed trap.”
    City Council could vote on the program, but the Canton City Schools Board of Education would have to authorize placing the cameras on the buses.
    Bob Riebe, regional sales director for Redflex, said the company could conduct a survey to see if a problem exists.
    “This would simply be on the school bus and would not be activated unless the arm was open and the stop sign is flashing,” Riebe told council. “That’s the only time that this would be enforced.”
    Councilman John Mariol II, D-7, doesn’t believe a hidden camera will deter drivers from passing school buses. He also believes it’s the city’s job to crack down on violators.
    “I don’t like turning safety enforcement into a profitable venture or privatizing it,” Mariol said.
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    Dickon, previously a Plain Local bus driver for 15 years, said Canton City’s buses are equipped with inside cameras. She said more and more motorists appear to be driving distracted and are passing the buses when they shouldn’t be.
    “It’s everywhere,” she said. “It’s on the main streets; it’s on the side streets. I have probably 10 (drivers) tell me — of the 62 buses on the road — each morning that people just don’t respect the school buses or anything.
    “If he’s here to help us we’re thankful for it,” Dickon said of West.
    But council members expressed concern last week not just over West’s latest idea, but over the vendor itself.
    Last month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel nixed Redflex as a vendor after an investigation revealed that the company gave thousands of dollars of free trips to the former city official who oversaw the program, according to the Chicago Tribune. As a result of the corruption allegations, the chairman of Redflex’s parent company, based in Australia, resigned and trading of company stock was suspended.
    Council President Allen Schulman asked Riebe last Monday if there were any similar investigations of his company. Riebe told council it was an isolated incident that occurred years ago.
    Mariol said even if he liked the idea, he wouldn’t consider Redflex as a vendor.
    “I’m opposed to anything with Redflex,” he said. “...We cannot enter into any type of contract or do any type of business that has admitted to bribing an official.”
    Councilman Joe Cole, D-at large, suggested the city consider a different vendor.
    West says no such concerns exist here and accused some council members of trying to derail his plan by throwing another obstacle in its way.
    “The sad thing about it is every time they have an issue and we address it they bring up something else,” he said.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or matthew.rink@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @mrinkREP
    CORRECTION: Each violation would be considered a civil matter. The court system would not be involved and no points tallied against the driver's license. The type of violation was wrongly described when first publshed March 4.

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