Red light cameras deny due process

Florida allows local governments to stomp on citizens’ rights

By Alex Snitker

The Clearwater City Council approved the installation of red light cameras by a vote of three to two last week.  The three council members who voted in favor of the Orwellian surveillance system seemed to be unimpressed with the overwhelming public outcry against them, and the evidence their constituents gave regarding their ineffectiveness and risk. Nor were they impressed with the civil liberties arguments the citizens in attendance presented.

This is the latest example of political elitists that believe they know better than the common man.  They have forgotten that they work for us.

Most of the citizens at the council meeting made outstanding points.  Their arguments were factual and issue based.  Studies were presented that showed an increase of rear-end collisions when red light cameras are placed at intersections.  Citizens talked about the infringement on our civil liberties shared by some on the board.  I am convinced now more than ever that red light cameras have nothing to do with safety. This effort is about control, power and money.

Council members John Doran, Bill Johnson and Frank Hibbard showed that they are not only out-of-touch with the citizens of Clearwater, but also with the concept of liberty and Constitutional values. They should be voted out of office at the next election.

During the meeting Doran sounded more like a banana-republic dictator than a public servant when opined that government needs a bigger stick to make sure we the people do as we are told.  Doran relayed his personal experience of having run a red light and causing an accident.  He cited that as an example of why we need red light cameras, even though he stated that his inattentiveness caused the accident.   How exactly would red light cameras cause him not to be distracted and run a red light?  They wouldn’t have.

However, red light cameras will increase the amount of rear-end collisions, as people are so concerned about being ticketed they will lock up their brakes to avoid running a light and getting an automatic government revenue generation certificate (AKA, a ticket).

In short, red light cameras will cause more accidents and lead to higher insurance rates.  The police will have to respond more often and waste time they could be using preventing actual crimes.  Perhaps the roads would be safer if Doran would just quit driving.  Johnson wants to influence behavior using the force of law.  I personally think he enjoyed the fact that 100 percent of the citizens spoke out against the red light cameras. He was quite demeaning to the citizens in attendance. He seemed to be agitated that we, the lowly citizens, would dare question his decision.  He would ask leading questions to the “experts” in attendance.  These experts, of course, work directly for the government. But even they had to admit that the data is mixed on the safety benefits of the red light cameras. However, there is no doubt about the revenue they generate by skipping that troublesome due process thing, and heading right to the penalty part.

Mayor Hibbard did express some concern about the civil liberty impact, but at the end of the day he didn’t care. He was not swayed by the overwhelming opposition conveyed by the people in attendance.  I think the Mayor knew his decision was wrong, but he treated the end result as a foregone conclusion.  Hibbard knows the revenue this will create for the city.  During the economic disaster this country is facing, the city must increase revenue by finding new and creative ways to transfer more of the hard-earned dollars from individuals to our bloated government.

None of this would be possible if the Florida legislature passed Republican state Rep. Robert Schenck’s bill outlawing red light cameras throughout Florida. Instead the Florida lawmakers approved a bill that provides standards for municipalities and counties to allow the use of cameras to enforce traffic violations at intersections. Good ‘ol Charlie Crist signed the red-light camera legislation into law, ensuring that the owner of a vehicle that runs a red light (not necessarily the driver) has the privilege of adding $158 to the government’s coffers.

Clearwater Councilman Paul Gibson understood that the red light cameras would not make it safer at intersections. He stood against it and made his argument.  It fell on deaf ears.

Councilman George Cretekos, who was initially a supporter of red light cameras, changed his mind after researching the subject.  He offered an alternative solution of extending the yellow light by one second and extending the delay of the opposite green light by one second.  That method has been proven to reduce accidents at dangerous intersections by a significant amount.

His rational and fact-based arguments were no match for the council members who lust for more revenue. It was obvious to me that Doran, Jonson and Hibbard have already made up their minds.  These cameras were going to be implemented, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

I personally spoke at this meeting and informed the council that the founders of this country would vote against it. I warned them that this vote may well be the deciding factor in their re-election.  They were not swayed.

We can no longer stand by while our civil liberties continue to be eroded. We must fight for every inch of ground, from the White House lawn to the town square.

Alex Snitker was the 2010 Libertarian Party candidate for the U.S. Senate. He is the co-host of The Liberty Underground radio show with Alex Snitker and Adrian Wyllie which airs every Friday from 9 am to 11 am on tan talk AM 1340 and AM 1350 in Tampa. E-mail him at: alex.snitker@gmail.com.