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The Suburbanite
  • West hits brakes on traffic cameras

  • Councilman Thomas West, D-2, killed his own proposal to install traffic cameras around the city at City Council’s meeting Monday after it became clear to him that it lacked support for a third time. West also dropped plans, at least for now, to place traffic cameras on city school buses, which would require school board backing.

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  • A proposal to install traffic cameras around the city is dead.
    Councilman Thomas West, D-2, killed his own proposal at City Council’s meeting Monday after it became clear to him that it lacked support for a third time. West also dropped plans, at least for now, to place traffic cameras on city school buses, which would require school board backing.
    “It’s over,” West declared. “I pulled the two camera issues. If I bring forward the bus (proposal) it’s going to have to be ... new legislation going forward. But right now I don’t even think I have the votes for that. According to my colleagues, they don’t even support that, especially with Redflex.”
    It was the third push to install traffic cameras in the city. Council rejected attempts in 2009 and 2012. The cameras record the license plates of vehicles as they pass through intersections.
    West proposed a shorter contract of three years and to run a pilot program at two intersections and in school zones. Redflex Traffic Systems, the proposed vendor, would have installed the traffic cameras for free. The city would have earned 66 percent of the revenue, with the balance of it going to Redflex. Violators would have been ticketed $120.
    Mayor William J. Healy II, a Democrat, made the initial push for the cameras, and West took up the issue for a third time in December. He argued that his ward would benefit from the cameras, as they would not only curb accidents at the city’s most dangerous intersection, Market Avenue N and 12th Street, but help police catch criminals.
    But the idea never was popular. Some council members questioned the constitutionality of the cameras, and the appeals process, and scoffed at the idea of decriminalizing a traffic offense. Others felt the contract with Redflex didn’t favor the city. Last week, they raised concerns about reports that a former Redflex official bribed a former city of Chicago official, who was responsible for its traffic camera program.
    Councilman Greg Hawk, D-1, said traffic cameras wouldn’t assure safer streets.
    “If you want to enforce traffic laws then you put a cop on the street,” he said. “Cameras capture pictures. Cops capture criminals.”
    West told members he planned to indefinitely suspend the two ordinances tied to the proposal, essentially leaving them in limbo. Councilman Edmond Mack, D-8, said the issue had become a “distraction” and that council deserved a chance to vote on it. West opted to withdraw the ordinances altogether by the end of the night. He said he didn’t want to give the opponents the satisfaction of voting against the cameras.
    “We voted on the Redflex issue just last year and it did not pass,” Mack said. “Nothing has really changed. Redflex hasn’t improved as a company. In my view, the deal is still a bad deal and the constituents don’t want it. There’s a lot of good ideas coming down the pike. There’s a lot of avenues we can pursue to improve the city and I don’t think we should be wasting time continuing to debate what I perceive as a not wise decision by the city.”
    Page 2 of 2 - West said he hasn’t given up entirely on placing cameras on school buses. The cameras would run only when a bus driver activates the stop sign arm to let students on or off the bus. The camera would record any motorist who illegally passes the bus. Currently, bus drivers write down the license numbers and makes and models of vehicles and report them to police.
    Reach Matthew at 330-580-8527 or matthew.rink@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @mrinkREP