• Red Light Cameras & Insurance Rates

Guy W. Midkiff
2-29-08

I think it is pretty clear by now that Red Light Cameras are more about another city money grab than they are about safety. And as I do more research into RLC’s, I find more that bothers me about these cameras. Take for example insurance companies: Seems like insurance companies are getting in on the action as well.

I spoke with my insurance company (USAA) today and asked them what affects a RLC ticket will have on my insurance rates. If you have no points on your record, then the result is rather benign. Your rates will increase by about $20 per year for the next 3 years. If you have two points, then that little $98 RLC ticket will cost you another $300 in insurance increases, for a grand total of $400. Remember, your rates increase for 3 years if you get RLC justice.

By the way, the ticket will go to the owner of the vehicle and not the actual driver – you are assumed guilty and it is up to you to prove your innocence (so much for due-process).

And why do they ticket your car and not you? Good question. Seems that the first states to institute fines against the individual, so bogged down the jury by peers judicial system, that they were forced to fine the automobile, thus avoiding trial by jury.

• My Political Philosophy

Guy W. Midkiff
2-29-08
Political Philosophy

1.jpgTraditionally, prospective and active City Councilpersons do not declare their allegiance to one political party or another. As many may have noticed, I am waging a very untraditional campaign. I am the first candidate in Washington to ever communicate directly to the voter by means of a blog. I am clearly about communication, this is why I speak to my prospective constituents directly through this medium.

If you vote for me, I want you to know exactly what I stand for and what you will get, if I am elected. I want there to be no question about my leadership style and political philosophy. I believe in forming alliances at city hall, but I reject the idea that I will support the mayor out of a sense of “harmony,” as the local newspaper put it. My sense of duty and “harmony” is to my constituents – end of story. My leadership style was molded in the Marine Corps and has been sharpened as a TWA and American Airlines Captain, holding previous elected office in New York City, and Washington business owner.

My philosophy is simple – conservatism. I have lived in almost every major city in this country and also two countries in Europe. I have seen first hand what unchecked government can do to businesses and the public. My motto is also simple: Less Government, Less Taxes, and Less Government Regulations.

The following are some of my core conservative principles:

* A conservative believes in the motto quoted by Henry David Thoreau, “That government is best which governs least.” A conservative’s vision of government was put forth by Thomas Jefferson: “a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another [and] shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.”

* A conservative believes that individuals and families are the basic units of society, and that anti-family policies (such as the current ultra-high tax rates on working families) should be ended.

* A conservative believes that, however unattainable the goal of moral perfection, people should strive to put morality and their families ahead of other concerns in their lives.

* A conservative has compassion for the poor and opposes policies, such as those based on socialism and on opposition to new technology, that cause or extend poverty.

* A conservative believes in the free trade of goods and services, but rejects the mercantilism (“welfare for corporations”) that masquerades as free trade.

* A conservative believes that great weight should be put on the wisdom expressed in the founding documents of Western civilization and American society, including the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution with its Bill of Rights.

* A conservative believes in the Rule of Law – that a law means what it says, as the language of the law was understood when the law was written. A conservative rejects the idea of a Living Constitution, under which lawyers and judges can change laws by undemocratic means. If judges are allowed such power, Jefferson noted, the U.S. Constitution “is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”

* A conservative believes that public policy should encourage advancement based on ability and achievement, not on membership in an actual or concocted group.

* A conservative understands that “the public interest,” as determined by governing elites, is not the public interest – that, not surprisingly, it represents the interests of the governing elites.

* A conservative has respect for those who have made sacrifices in the cause of freedom, and for those who put their lives in peril to protect others. A conservative has respect for people who work hard and play by the rules.

* A conservative sees the United States of America as a special place because of its history as a beacon for freedom-loving people from around the world. A conservative believes the United States is blessed by the presence of people from countless nations and cultures when those people are hard-working, law-abiding, and eager to interact with other Americans through a shared language.

A person does not have to adhere to a strict set of political principles to meet my definition of conservative. One of the characteristics I associate with true conservatives is that they believe in free argument and debate, not unthinking uniformity of opinion.

Finally:

* You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
* You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
* You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
* You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
* You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
* And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

-William J. H. Boetcker

• Volunteerism

Guy W. Midkiff
2-28-08
Volunteerism

Volunteerism is the willingness of people to work on behalf of others without the expectation of pay or other tangible gain. Volunteers may have special training as rescuers, guides, assistants, teachers, missionaries, amateur radio operators, writers, and in other positions. But the majority work on an impromptu basis, recognizing a need and filling it, whether it be the dramatic search for a lost child or the mundane giving of directions to a lost visitor.

In economics, voluntary employment is unpaid employment. It may be done for altruistic reasons, for example charity, as a hobby, community service or vocation, or for the purpose of gaining experience. Some go so far as to dedicate much of their lives to voluntary service. One way in which this is done is through the creation of a Non-Profit Franchise.

All of this came to mind, this morning, when my wife and I did our weekly 1/2 day volunteer service at Washington West Elementary. I had noticed a very polite lady who seemed to be always at the school and I assumed that she was a full time employee. I was having a particular problem with a project and asked her from some advice. During the course of the conversation, we got to talking about volunteer work and how rewarding it was to help others. I was floored when she told me that she put in 30 hours per week at the school. She went on to say how fulfilled the work left her and how much harmony it brought to her life.

I wished I could capture that spirit, bottle it, and hand it out to others. People like Mrs. “R” are at the heart of what makes the Washington community so special. In the immortal words of John F. Kennedy, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Some good advice to live by.

Published in: on February 28, 2008 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

• Lubbock Tx: Red Light Cameras Removed

Lubbock shuts off red light cameras

Red Light Cameras

LUBBOCK — Lubbock has officially done away with their red light cameras. 

American Traffic Solutions notified the city that it would suspend the red light photo enforcement as of Wednesday night. The cameras were officially turned off Thursday night. The city council voted 4-3 to end the program and terminate the contract with the company.  This comes from concerns that had been raised about more rear-end collisions happening at the intersections where the camera were placed.

Published in: on February 28, 2008 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

• Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents

•Arizona: Speed Camera Under Investigation in Fatal Crash[click]
•Rome, Georgia Red Light Cameras Increase Wrecks, Profit[click]
•Bakersfield, California Red Light Camera Accidents Up[click]
Stockton, California Report Shows Accidents Jump With Cameras
Houston Red Light Cameras Fail to Prove Safety Benefit

Red-Light Cameras Increase Accidents: 5 Studies That Prove It

From the National Motor Association: January 8th, 2008 Posted in Red-Light Cameras The NMA has been contending that red-light cameras (RLCs) are a detriment to motorist safety for many years.

People, both in the media and in the general public, often dismiss this claim as opinion, suggest that there isn’t enough data available yet, ask why we support people who run red lights (we don’t), or write off the organization as being biased.

The only way to combat this is through hard facts and independent research. Luckily, we have both.

We reiterate our challenge: If it’s not about the money, then prove it.

No community has accepted, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the facts.

Here are five independent studies that demonstrate the failure of red-light cameras as a safety measure:

1) A Long Term Study of Red-Light Cameras and Accidents
David Andreassen
Australian Road Research Board
February, 1995

This study examined the long term effect on accident-types of red-light cameras at 41 signalized intersections in Melbourne, Australia. The cameras were installed in 1984, and reported accidents for the period 1979 to 1989 were used in the detailed analysis.

Quotes from the study:

“The results of this study suggest that the installation of the RLC at these sites did not provide any reduction in accidents, rather there has been increases in rear end and adjacent approaches accidents on a before and after basis and also by comparison with the changes in accidents at intersection signals.”

“There has been no demonstrated value of the RLC as an effective countermeasure.”

Download The Full Study

2) The Impact of Red Light Cameras (Photo-Red Enforcement) on Crashes in Virginia
Virginia Transportation Research Council
June 2007

The Virginia Transportation Research Council released a report expanding upon earlier research into the safety effects of red light cameras in Virginia. Despite showing an increase in crashes, this study was instrumental in the return of red-light cameras to the state of Virginia. With a proven negative safety impact, the clear incentive to bring back the cameras was money.

Quotes from the study:

“After cameras were installed, rear-end crashes increased for the entire six-jurisdiction study area… After controlling for time and traffic volume at each intersection, rear-end crash rates increased by an average of 27% for the entire study area.”

“After cameras were installed, total crashes increased.”

“The impact of cameras on injury severity is too close to call.”

“Based only on the study results presented herein and without referencing other studies, the study did not show a definitive safety benefit associated with camera installation with regard to all crash types, all crash severities, and all crash jurisdictions.”

Download The Full Study

3) The Red-Light Running Crisis: Is It Intentional?
Office of the Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
May 2001

This report was prepared by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s staff. It looks at the problems of red-light cameras and how to really deal with traffic-light violations.

Quoted from the study:

“And one should ask the question, if there’s a problem with an intersection, why don’t safety engineers in the field just go out and fix the timing?

In fact, before red light cameras arrived in the United States, that’s exactly what our regulations instructed them to do. If too many people enter on red at an intersection, engineers were supposed to lengthen its yellow time. But in the year that red light cameras first started collecting millions in revenue on our shores, those entrusted with developing our traffic safety regulations dropped the requirement to fix signal timing, instructing engineers to “use enforcement” instead.

Indeed, according to the Federal Highway Administration, these problem intersections serve as a great location to hold a press conference. The agency offers a script for local officials to exploit a tragically mistimed intersection to call for the installation of additional red light cameras and tout their safety benefits.

But none of the reports that are supposed to tell us that red light cameras are responsible safety benefits actually say that. First, they dismiss increases in rear-end collisions associated with red light cameras as “non-significant,” despite evidence to the contrary. Second, they do not actually look at red light intersection accidents. The latest accident study in Oxnard, California, for example, only documents accident reductions “associated with”—not caused by— red light cameras. Although that statement has little scientific value, it does have great marketing appeal if you don’t look too closely.

Every study claiming red light cameras increase safety is written by the same man. Before joining the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), he was a top transportation official in New York City at the time the city began looking into becoming the first jurisdiction in the country to install red light cameras. In other words, the father of the red light camera in America is the same individual offering the “objective” testimony that they are effective.

A similar conflict of interest affects those entrusted with writing safety regulations for our traffic lights. The Institute of Transportation Engineers is actively involved in lobbying for, and even drafting legislation to implement, red light cameras. They are closely tied to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which in turn is funded by companies that stand to profit handsomely any time points are assessed to a driver’s license.

In short, the only documented benefit to red light cameras is to the pocketbook of local governments who use the devices to collect millions in revenue.”

Download The Full Study

4) Investigation Of Crash Risk Reduction Resulting From Red-Light Cameras In Small Urban Areas
Mark Burkey, Ph.D. & Kofi Obeng, Ph.D.
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University
July 2004

A study prepared by the North Carolina A&T State University’s Urban Transit Institute for the United States Department of Transportation.

Quoted from the study:

“Using a large data set, including 26 months before the introduction of RLCs, we analyze reported accidents occurring near 303 intersections over a 57-month period, for a total of 17,271 observations. Employing maximum likelihood estimation of Poisson regression models, we find that:

The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.”

Download The Full Study

5) Evaluation of the Red-Light-Camera-Enforcement Pilot Project
Ontario Ministry of Transportation
December 2003

This report from Ontario, Canada’s Ministry of Transportation’s concluded that jurisdictions using photo enforcement experienced an overall increase in property damage and fatal and injury rear-end collisions. The report also concludes that there was an overall reduction in serious accidents and angle collisions. However, a closer look at the data found in this government-sponsored report show that intersections monitored by cameras experienced, overall, a 2 percent increase in fatal and injury collisions compared to a decrease of 12.7 percent in the camera-free intersections that were used as a control group (page 21).

In fact, the non-camera intersections fared better than the camera intersections in every accident category.

Quoted from the study:

“Exhibit 2 indicates the red light running treatments have:

* Contributed to a 4.9 per cent increase in fatal and injury rear-end collisions; and
* Contributed to a 49.9 per cent increase in property damage only rear-end collisions.

The rear-end collision results are similar to findings in other red light camera studies.”

Download The Full Study

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can find more studies on the NMA website here: Photo Enforcement Studies.

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• I’m Against Red Light Cameras

Guy W. Midkiff
February 27, 2008
Red Light Cameras

Recently, when I spoke at the Washington Women Republicans luncheon, the issue of Red Light Cameras came up. My opinion was that I found them intrusive and just one more example of our civil rights being diminished, but if they saved lives then it would be hard to ultimately argue against them. It is not hard to visualize your family being killed by an impaired driving slicing through a red light.

But, none-the-less, there was something that really bothered me, an itch I couldn’t scratch, regarding these lights. First, and foremost, when government has a program that generates cash, then I try to follow the money and see where it ends up and how it is used. Today, I don’t think the City has clearly articulated the transparency of the money trail. The City of Arnold is now being sued over red light cameras and even the City Council members are being named in the suit.

But also, I dare to ask questions, which has riled feathers on more than one occasion. Personally I have become just a little annoyed by the City using the “Safety Card” every time they want to ram through another program or ordinance. (Think $36K light poles, occupancy inspections, traffic quotas, and the pending Camp Street Bridge (or what the locals call the “Walmart Bridge”)

Do I care about safety and the sanctity of life? Heck yes I do care about life. I found it very interesting, though, that one does not have to go far when it comes to finding research on red light cameras. Recently the mayor of St. Peters, Missouri, Shawn Brown, was found guilty of soliciting a bribe for passing a city ordinance regarding red light cameras. He is now facing 20 years in the pokey and a $250,000 fine. The corrupting influence of money should never be underestimated.

Jay Nixon has come out against RLC’s (red light cameras), legislation is pending against them, Alaska actually terminated their RLC’s, not to mention considerable scientific statistical research that flies in the face of the claim that RLC’s improve safety (more on that later). I think one of my biggest complaints against the RLC is that the presumption of innocence is tossed out the window. Presumption of innocence is the corner stone of our legal system and we should think about the unintended consequences before we go monkeying around with these Constitutional Rights. When you came your surprise-o-gram from the City, you will be presumed guilty. It will be up to you to prove your innocence – kinda turns our entire legal system on its rear end.

And now for the eureka piece, the pièces de résistance, the trump of all trump cards: SAFETY. Many communities, which have installed RLC’s, are producing anecdotal data to support their safety argument. These findings are not scientific and are of practically no value. For valid results, large sample sets must be used over a long period of time. It is impossible to install RLC’s, point to a specific trend and say, “Ah ha, RLC’s saves lives.” Please read my blog (click here) on the RLC Myth for more on the scientific study that was conducted by the North Carolina A&T State University which irrefutably dispels the safety claim for RLC’s.

I feel that RLC’s are not good for the community. I think history proves that corruption, conspiracy and controversy mark RLC’s. My opinion is that they are just another extension of the long arm of big brother and is an invasion of your civil rights. And did I mention the money? Some very conservative estimates are that the City of Washington will rake in somewhere around $350,000 per year, PER INTERSECTION! Sure, it’s all about your safety.

DON’T BELIEVE ME. LISTEN TO HOW THE RLC COMPANIES ARE PITCHING THEIR CAMERAS:

Camera Maker Admits Ticketing is Addictive
Cities get addicted to red light camera and speed camera revenue according to the CEO of Affiliated Computer Services.

Lynn BlodgettA top vendor of speed camera and red light camera services told investors that his company represents a great investment opportunity because the cities who use his product cannot resist the steady revenue stream it creates. Lynn Blodgett, CEO of Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), spoke earlier this month to the Technology, Telecom and Internet Conference hosted by the Thomas Weisel Partners investment bank. Blodgett made the pitch that no matter how bad the economy might get, there never be a lack of demand for outsourcing large-scale government programs to ACS.

“As an overall statement, people are typically in tougher economic times,” Blodgett said. “Our clients are typically more attuned to outsourcing and doing more because they need to save money. And so in that way we tend to — we say we’re a good company in good time and we’re a great company in bad times and it’s because the services we provide are mission-critical.”

The most critical programs for state and municipal governments in tough economic times, Blodgett argued, were those that transfer money from taxpayers to the government. He suggested that once a city tries red light cameras, it will never go back.

“The government services that we provide are either funded as part of entitlement programs, or they help generate revenue,” Blodgett said. “I mean, a red light camera system for a city generates a lot of revenue and so they’re not going to cut back on those type of areas in an economically challenged time.”

• Red Light Camera MYTH



Guy W. Midkiff
February 27, 2008
Red Light Camera Myth

The following is the result of a large statistical study done on red light cameras (RLC’s). While many communities make anecdotal claims of magical reductions in accident rates at intersections, these results are most often self-serving and anything but scientific. I am only paraphrasing the entire document of several hundred pages. You are welcomed to go to the North Carolina A&T State University School of Business and Economics to download the full study. (click here to download entire pdf file )

Executive Summary

This paper analyzes the impact of red light cameras (RLCs) on crashes at signalized
intersections. It examines total crashes and also breaks crashes into categories based on both severity (e.g., causing severe injuries or only property damage) and by type (e.g., angle, rear end). Prompted by criticism of the simplistic methods and small data sets used in many studies of red light cameras, we relate the occurrence of these crashes to the characteristics of signalized intersections, presence or absence of RLC, traffic, weather and other variables.

Using a large data set, including 26 months before the introduction of RLCs, we analyze reported accidents occurring near 303 intersections over a 57-month period, for a total of 17,271 observations. Employing maximum likelihood estimation of Poisson regression models, we find that:

The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.

An overall time trend during the study indicated that accidents are becoming less frequent, about 5 percent per year. However, the intersections where RLCs were installed are not experiencing the same decrease. When analyzing total crashes, we find that RLCs have a statistically significant (p<0.001) and large (40% increase) effect on accident rates. In addition, RLCs have a statistically significant, positive impact on rear-end accidents, sideswipes, and accidents involving cars turning left (traveling on the same roadway).

The one type of accident found to experience a decrease at RLC sites are those involving a left turning car and a car traveling on a different roadway. When accidents are broken down by severity, RLCs were found to have a statistically significant (p<0.001) and large effect (40-50% increase) on property damage only and possible injury crashes. There was a positive, but statistically insignificant estimated effect on severe (fatal, evident, and disabling) accidents.

These results run contrary to the many studies in the RLC literature. Previous studies have sometimes found an increase in rear-end accidents, but often find offsetting decreases in other types of accidents. While this study incorporated many advances in methodology over previous studies, additional work remains to be done. Because accident studies rarely use a true experimental design and data are not perfectly observable, additional careful study of RLCs is warranted to verify our results.

*This is an update to the October 2003 version of this report. Using the latest available data, we include an additional 12 months of accident data. Additionally, several data coding errors were discovered in the original data set, and corrected for this report. Therefore, results from the October 2003 report should be disregarded.

1.1 Problem Statement
Nearly half of all accidents in the U.S. occur at or near intersections (US DOT, 1999, p. 50). Consequently, many studies have been conducted that relate various aspects of intersections to safety and accident rates to develop improvement strategies. One such strategy is automated enforcement of traffic signals using cameras, i.e., red light cameras (RLCs), which has been suggested and used in some cities to reduce red light running. The potential of these cameras in reducing accidents and improving safety have been reported in few studies, with most studies reporting mixed results. For example, Retting et al. (1999a), Retting and Kyrychenko (2002), and Milazzo et al. (2001), using before and after data found RLCs reduce crashes at intersections. On the other hand, Andreassen’s (1995) longitudinal study spanning a 10-year period found reductions in crashes at high accident sites and increases in crashes at low accident sites. McFadden and McGee (1999) add another twist in their review of studies on automated enforcement of red light running.

While accepting reductions in violations and cost savings as benefits, they suggested that improved methodology and more data are needed to validate and quantify the effects of RLCs on crashes, thus casting some doubts on prevailing views on the benefits of RLCs.

__________________________________________________________________________
The following gives one of the best studies I have yet read on RLC’s:

If you haven’t already done so, please read highwayrobbery.net’s Home page

Back to highwayrobbery.net’s Links page

Cong. Armey’s Website & His Report: “The Red Light Running Crisis – Is It Intentional?
___________________________________________________________ Also, if you follow the following link, you will find one of the better arguments against RLC’s. I will caution the reader that the link will take you to an ACLU website, where the data was compiled. As a disclaimer, I have major philosophical differences with this organization, but I do believe the information, there, to be accurate. CLICK HERE

For another report, go to the Washington Post: DC Red Light Cameras fail to Reduce Accidents.

• RLC – More Research

Red Light Camera Studies Roundup (From TheNewsPaper.com)
A collection of red light camera studies over the last decade shows red light cameras have serious side-effects.

Over the past decade, a number of studies have examined the use of red light cameras. The most relevant studies examined the devices in light of changes in traffic and engineering conditions made at intersections during the study period and pulled actual police reports to examine the particular causes of each collision. The following studies are the most comprehensive available:

  • A 2007 Virginia Department of Transportation study found:
    “The cameras were associated with an increase in total crashes… The aggregate EB results suggested that this increase was 29%… The cameras were associated with an increase in the frequency of injury crashes… The aggregate EB results suggested an 18% increase, although the point estimates for individual jurisdictions were substantially higher (59%, 79%, or 89% increases) or lower (6% increase or a 5% decrease).”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 1mb pdf
  • A 2006 Winnipeg, Canada city audit found:
    “The graph shows an increase of 58% in the number of traffic collisions from 2003 to 2004…. Contrary to long-term expectations, the chart shows an increase in claims at each level of damage with the largest percentage increase appearing at the highest dollar value.”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 541k pdf
  • A 2005 Virginia DOT study found:
    “The cameras are correlated with an increase in total crashes of 8% to 17%.”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 1.7mb pdf
  • In 2005, The Washington Post found:
    “The analysis shows that the number of crashes at locations with cameras more than doubled, from 365 collisions in 1998 to 755 last year. Injury and fatal crashes climbed 81 percent, from 144 such wrecks to 262. Broadside crashes, also known as right-angle or T-bone collisions, rose 30 percent, from 81 to 106 during that time frame.”
    Read a summary
    Full article on the Post website
  • A 2004 North Carolina A&T University study found:
    “Our findings are more pessimistic, finding no change in angle accidents and large increases in rear-end crashes and many other types of crashes relative to other intersections.”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 1.7mb pdf
  • A 2003 Ontario Ministry of Transportation study found:
    “Compared to the average number of reported collisions occurring in the before period, the average yearly number of reported collisions increased 15.1 per cent in the after period.”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 1.5mb pdf
  • A 1995 Australian Road Research Board study found:
    “The results of this study suggest that the installation of the RLC at these sites did not provide any reduction in accidents, rather there has been increases in rear end and adjacent approaches accidents on a before and after basis and also by comparison with the changes in accidents at intersection signals.”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 2.4mb pdf
  • A 1995 Monash University (Australia) study found:
    “a simple correlation analysis was undertaken for red light running data in the current study and revealed no significant relationship between the frequency of crashes at RLC and non-RLC sites and differences in red light running behaviour.”
    Read a summary

Related Reports and Studies

The importance of the yellow warning signal time in reducing the instances of red light running is found in the following reports:

  • A 2004 Texas Transportation Institute study found:
    “An increase in yellow duration of 1.0 seconds is associated with a [crash frequency] of about 0.6, which corresponds to a 40 percent reduction in crashes.”
    Read a summary
    PDF Version Full copy, 1.5mb pdf
  • A 2001 report by the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives found:
    “The changes in the yellow signal timing regulations have resulted in the inadequate yellow times. And these inadequate yellow times are the likely cause of almost 80 percent of red light entries.”
    Full version with summary
Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 12:42 pm  Comments (1)  

• Red Light Camera’s & Corruption

•St. Peters, Missouri: Mayor (Shawn Brown) Indicted for Taking Red Light Camera Bribe
MORE:

•Something fishy at the St Louis Metro Police Department and Red Light Cameras[click]

Camera Vendor (Redflex)Under Investigation for Mail Fraud

Texas: City Caught Manipulating Yellow Time for Big Profit

Texas: Mayor in Trouble for Red Light Camera Lobbying
MORE…….

GEORGIA:

Red Light Cameras Exposed Thousands To Identity Theft
Canada: Bribery and corruption charges

ACS faces criminal charges of bribing city officials after a lengthy Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation into the 20-year, $90-million photo enforcement contract. The high-ranking Edmonton police officers are facing charges of accepting bribes from ACS . The charges allege the officials accepted bribes from the Dallas based company in return for recommending the company’s system. If convicted, the officers could face maximum sentences of 5 years on each charge. A preliminary hearing for ACS is scheduled for September 1, 2007

MORE:

More Cases Against Red Light and Traffic Cameras

  • Sioux Falls and Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. alleging city traffic cameras violate South Dakota state code. (Nov-21-06)

  • City of Davenport, IL alleging city traffic cameras violate Illinois state code. (Aug-30-06)
  • Baltimore City et al. alleging inadequate time on amber lights.
  • San Francisco Motorists Win $400,000 settlement in lawsuit claimed the systems are illegal because they are either operated by for-profit companies, or the company is paid a fee from any tickets issued.
Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

• Red Light Challenged:City Council on Hook!


 
Suit challenges Arnold’s red-light camera tickets
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
02/27/2008
camera to photograph drivers
October, 11, 2005– Mark Rodell, an employee with Gerstner Electric Inc., adds an additional sensor traffic sensor to the intersection of Highway 141 and Jeffco Boulevard in Arnold, Mo.
(Dawn Majors/P-D)

Arnold, the first Missouri community to install controversial red-light cameras, is now the first to face a federal lawsuit challenging their legality.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, seeks to outlaw a system that a growing number of cities describe as a safety tool, but which critics regard as a revenue engine.

It alleges that the ticketing process is illegal and unconstitutional as a violation of drivers’ civil rights and a racketeering conspiracy that collects fines through fraud and extortion to benefit the city and its red-light camera contractor.

It demands unspecified actual and punitive damages from Arnold, the mayor, police chief, City Council, a police officer and the contractor, American Traffic Solutions Inc.

Fenton residents James and Kara Hoekstra got a ticket in the mail from Arnold on Aug. 15, 2007, accusing them of running a red light in a 2005 Jeep at Highway 141 and Astra Way Drive on the afternoon of July 29. It demanded a $94.50 payment.

The Hoekstras’ ticket was one of 13,921 citations issued between October 2005 and Jan. 24, 2008, according to city records. Of those, 9,745 have been paid.

But James Hoekstra balked. The lawsuit he filed says he was threatened with arrest but that the city dropped the ticket after he got a lawyer.

The suit, and Hoekstra’s lawyer, Chet Pleban, say that Arnold’s red-light ordinance violates a state law requiring that points toward suspension be assessed against the license of a driver charged with a moving violation.

The city is committing mail fraud by extorting payment, the suit says.

The case also claims the tickets unconstitutionally require drivers to prove their innocence instead of forcing prosecutors to prove the drivers’ guilt.

The cameras don’t photograph the driver, so the city can’t prove who is driving. The registered owner is presumed to be at fault. If the owner denies it, he or she must fill out a form or otherwise identify the true driver.

The ordinance forces you to come forward and “basically declare your innocence,” says Washington University law school professor Peter Joy, who reviewed the suit at the request of the Post-Dispatch.

In essence, it sort of compels you to finger your wife or child or someone else you loaned the car to,” he said.

But Joy said that red-light camera ordinances have been upheld in most parts of the country, in much the same way as prosecutors can argue that drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer test during a drunken-driving investigation can be presumed to be under the influence.

It’s a privilege to be able to drive … it’s not an absolute right,” Joy said. “A reasonable regulation can be imposed.”

And he said the city would probably argue that safety justifies use of the cameras.

In fact, Police Chief Bob Shockey said the cameras are working. Crashes at the intersections with cameras dropped 22 percent in 2007, he said, and there have been no deaths since the cameras were installed. “This is a safety tool,” he said.

Shockley said he could not comment on the suit. City Administrator Matt Unrein also declined to comment on the allegations.

Arnold’s prosecuting attorney, Paul D’Agrosa, said that the city was told by ATS lawyers that the cameras are legal.

“It will overcome any challenge on any basis that has been thought of and in fact has withstood challenges in other states,” D’Agrosa said the city was told.

He likened a red-light ticket to a parking ticket. “The enforcement authority doesn’t have to prove who parked the car,” he said. “They’re presumed to be responsible for the parking violation.”

D’Agrosa said the city will continue to issue citations “until somebody says otherwise.”

Pleban hopes to be that someone. He said he also may sue the city of St. Louis, too, one of more than 20 communities in Missouri and Illinois that also have cameras.

Pleban noted that some state legislators and Missouri Attorney Jay Nixon also have criticized the tickets. But the cameras are still there.

I guess nobody’s challenging them,” he said. “You do what you get away with.”

Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

• What is it with Washington?

by Guy W. Midkiff

2-23-08

One thing that I have noticed that really sets Washington apart from many of the surrounding communities are the property values. Even as much of the rest of America suffers from depressed property values, Washington really appears to be rock solid and really hanging in there.

I think the reasons are many, but I think mostly it is because of the people that live here and the pride that many take in this community. With leadership from the community and a very charitable spirit from people that have been blessed in life, Washington is able to capitalize on its many attributes.

Washington was built on the “right” side of the Missouri River. We have major industrial corporations that provide a good quality of life through good wages. We have two outstanding hospitals that can provide for many of the medical needs of the community. Did I mention our schools? Education of our youth is taken seriously in Washington. I would hold up our public and parochial schools to any in the nation. Our crime rate makes us look like Mayberry RFD, more times than not. Also, via highway 100 and 47, residents have great access to interstate 44, St. Louis, Kansas, Chicago and beyond. We are within a stones throw of Spirit Airport (a major regional airport) and of course Lambert St. Louis International Airport.

Anyone reading this post, I can highly recommend this community of 14,000. I love this place and see it as a fine wine that, to date, is a well kept secret. So, for now, Washington, your secret is safe with me.

Published in: on February 23, 2008 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

• Occupancy Inspections

2-14-08
Guy W. Midkiff

This week the city rolled out the usual suspects usual-suspects.jpgand reported on occupancy inspections and how successful they have been over the last year. Some may recall that I vigorously opposed occupancy inspections, last year, because they represented another needless expansion of city government. The city’s argument was that we needed them for safety reasons (sound familiar) and suggested many miraculous benefits (such as reductions in municipal insurance rates) would come from these big-city inspections. (Remember, our city has not had a single loss of life from a fire in decades, thanks primarily to a great fire department and natural safety barriers such as; insurance and liability requirements, and potentially devastating law suits.)

During a City Council live broadcast, I looked into the eyes of each city councilperson and the Mayor. My question was simple, “If this new ordinance is so vital to the city, how many of you have actually read and understand the full scope of this ordinance.”

Almost immediately, literally every eye shifted to their desk and one, maybe two hands (at most) slowly unfolded towards the sky. The room was packed and almost in unison, most people leap to their feet and began clapping. My point was made. Ultimately we did not prevail, but we did manage to change the positions of several of the council.

Unfortunately, the local newspaper chose to side with the Mayor and inaccurately painted the opponents of inspections as being merely “landlords” with an agenda. But anyone that attended the meetings knew this was inaccurate, as a cross-section of residents was in attendance.

Defects. Many residents have the mistaken view that the city somehow expresses a warranty in the event a defect is found after a real-estate transaction. Unfortunately this belief is unfounded. According to city ordinance:

bad-sign.gifSECTION 500.100 CERTIFICATES NOT A WARRANTY.

The City clearly makes no warranty or representation, whatsoever, as to the condition of any building. So in plain English, you’re on your own and the inspection is not worth the paper it is written on. Which brings us full circle, in this discussion: Why do we need them?

The Actual Ordinance: √SECTION 500.100 CERTIFICATES NOT A WARRANTY.

In issuing a Certificate of Occupancy, the City does not intend to, nor does it warrant, insure, or guarantee to the holder thereof, to his or her assignee or to any other interested person, that there are no violations of any provision of this Section or any other ordinance. The City makes no warranty or representation, whatsoever, as to the condition of any building.

I think it is clear that property inspections, initially, were envisioned as just another way to gain revenue for the City. The proof of my assumption was made clear when the City Attorney rolled back, considerably, the cost of inspections out of fear that pending Hancock litigation would recognize the inspections for what they were – just another tax by the city, on its citizens. This would make the City liable for tens of thousands of dollars in return obligations, a risk they sought to mitigate by bringing the fees back to parity with costs – a smoke screen.

Government Growth. As predicted, the inspections required new men and equipment to be purchased, expanding ever more, the tentacles of City Government.

Let’s be clear, the vast majority of property owners in Washington roll the cost of these inspections right back onto the shoulders of its renters. So once again, city government is hurting those in our community who can least afford it.

Like our airport, maybe this is just another way for us to appear uptown.

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Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

• Time For A Change!

guy-pic.jpg
Guy W. Midkiff
2-23-08
*****

Washington, Missouri is a well-kept secret, nestled on the banks of the Missouri River. It is a special city that traces its rich heritage back to German immigrants that saw similarities to their old country. They left Germany for a fresh chance and new opportunity – it was time for a change away from their old country.

 

Now more than ever, it is time for a change in Washington, Missouri. Many of our aspiring national candidates are using the phrase, “Time for a Change.” Citizens of Washington have been saying so for several years now, that is is truly “Tme for a change.”

 

But unlike those national candidates, I quantify what change really means. Change just for the sake of change is not always a good thing.

 

Our city budget has grown at a breathtaking 100% in less than 7 years. In the exact same time span, the total gross income, raked in by Washington, Missouri, has grown by an eye-popping 200%. I ask you, have you seen a 200% improvement in Washington? Has unchecked government spending made your life anywhere near 200% better? The answer that I have heard, without exception, is “NO.”

 

Has our population grown at anywhere near the 200% rise in city income? No. The population over the same time frame has grown by 6%.

 

Change means rolling back tax levies to the maximum extent possible every year. It means spending your money smartly and not on wasteful schemes such as the recent $36,000 light pole fiasco. It means using windfalls intelligently and not used as patronage programs or plowing the funds back into the ever-expanding city budget. Change means seriously considering how we are doing business at city hall and what areas wastefully overlap into other departments. We must do a better job prioritizing expenditures and realizing we don’t get everything on the wish list.

 

Many feel that the opportunities that attracted the original founding families here only exist now for a select few. I am a firm believer in capitalism and growth – smart growth. My experience with government has proven that governments will take every penny from the taxpayer that they can. I have also learned that governments must differentiate themselves from corporate America and cast off any such ties. The closer this unholy alliance becomes, the greater the temptation and ability there is for tax payer dollars to end up in corporate welfare schemes. A perfect example of corporate welfare, at its worst, is Washington Regional Airport. The taxpayers have already dumped $7 million down this bottomless pit and city officials are preparing to dump another $8 million.

 

And why are we doing it? That is a good question and I am still looking for an answer. What I know is that we pay $48,000 annually to manage an airport that has no: airplane rentals, no airplane school, no airplane maintenance, no charter service, no freight service, no skydiving club, no airplane rides, nothing but hangar space for the manager to keep his private airplane and hangar space for some other privately owned aircraft. Corporate welfare is scant justification to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a community airport that should remain just that, a community airport.

 

So, how can you do your part in my campaign slogan of, “It is time for a change!” You can use the power given you by the Founding Fathers and our Constitution, you can vote.

• Windfalls

pigout3thumbnail.jpg
2-10-08
Guy W. Midkiff
*****

In December, 2007, the city of Washington reported an unexpected windfall of $420,000 as a result of resolved telecom litigation.

The funds will be used for:

1) Merit Pay Raises Reinstated for city employees, $115,00 (Click here for full story in local news paper).

2)”Relieve pressure on the city budget.”

One of the issues that I hear from people in Ward 3 is that they want to keep their children in the city they grew up in, after finishing school. Others want to have more volunteerism in the community.

What if we offered incentives for our children to return to our hometown after finishing college. We could offer scholarships, grants or special loans that budding entrepreneurs could use to invest in the community in new technology companies, medicine, or engineering, instead of being held corporate hostage to large companies that demand airports and other freebies before they agree to move here.

And instead of using the money in ways that some have described as patronage programs for city employees, we invest in new volunteer programs such as one that could make sure our seniors and handicapped are looked after.

It is worth debating whether or not more consideration should have been given to doing more with “our” windfalls than using it to feed the government.

Remember, government works for you, not the other way around.

• Status Symbols?

2-10-08
Guy W. Midkiff
*****

Infrastructure is the underlying foundation or basic framework of a system of public works.

Prioritization is the listing or rating of projects or goals in order of priority.

Cities set budgets because it is a method of setting spending limits on limited resources. Cities prioritize these expenditures so that the limited taxpayer funds are spent intelligently and in a way that serves the greater good of the community.

Washington, Missouri’s infrastructure is not so highly evolved that public works can be ignored in lieu of vanity expenditures. When I see $36,000 in taxpayer money being thrown away on vanity light poles, it worries me that we may have lost focus of our priorities and adherence to fiscal discipline.

A community airport at Washington Regional Airport makes perfect sense. But we are told that $650,000 spent on our airport is smart because the government (a euphemism for you and me – other peoples money) is kicking in $6.5 million dollars. Does anyone ask “Why?”

Who is now or will in the future, be using an airport that can justify a price tag that is about to go past $14 million? The airport has no flight school, no aircraft rentals, no glider club, no sport diving club, no flying club, and no maintenance facility – just hangars with airplanes parked in them. All the while, we are spending $48,000 annually to “manage” the aerodrome?

And what about the carrying costs? That price tag is somewhere north of $160,000 annually. This does not even take into account what that price would jump to if the airport, heaven forbid, had to actually pay interest and principal on $6.5 million. That payment would add another $600,000 per year to the cost of operations.

carrotstickjpg.jpgAnd the big orange carrot on the end of the stickstatus symbol and the “hope” that some large corporation will pick us for a dance at prom night. The latter of which is popularly known as “Corporate Welfare.”

The federal government has a poor record of picking industrial winners and losers, so the economic benefits that these programs are purported to create inevitably fail to materialize. Furthermore, corporate welfare programs create an uneven playing field; foster an incestuous relationship between business and government; are anti-consumer, and anti-capitalist; and create a huge drain on the federal budget.

The most efficient way to promote economic growth in America is to reduce the overall cost and regulatory burden of government. Ending corporate welfare as we know it would be a significant first step toward that goal of reducing the cost of government.