Government Transparency: Opaque?

3/29/09

Last Wednesday, during the operations administration meeting, I brought up a potential ordinance that I wrote about, several weeks ago, on this blog.

The idea was that “ALL” ordinances and resolutions must be made available to the media and city council a minimum of one news cycle (defined as the Wednesday or Saturday edition of the Missourian) before it can be considered in a public session of the city council.

Initially I wanted to see the entire ordinance posted in the paper so the citizens could see exactly what is going on. But after looking at the printing cost, I determined that agenda items with plain language descriptions of ordinances/resolutions would be much more economical.

If an interested party wanted more detail, they could go the City of Washington website and read the full ordinance. The printings cost would be about $40 per week to have the information published in the Missourian.

Now, let me digress: Sometimes city councilmen can get City Council packages the Friday before a Monday City Council meeting. Not only does this make it difficult for the council to properly research agenda items but can make it equally or more difficult for citizens to know what government is up to.

For example: On Wednesday, 13th, 2006, the City Council voted unanimously amending Title V of the city code relating to certificates of occupancy and inspections of existing homes and buildings. (See story in Missourian.)

Here is where it gets interesting: Quoting from the Missourian, ”
No one expressed opposition to the code amendment Wednesday night. ” This is really rich considering no one in the community knew about the upcoming vote. Maybe that is because the story came out in the Missourian on the same day and hour as the votes was being cast – possibly giving some hint as to why “No one expressed opposition to the code amendment Wednesday night.”

Since 2002, the city had tried to pass this change to the code and every time was met with stiff resistance from the community. And only with a “no notice” vote, was it ever passed – all but annihilating  public opposition.  As if this wasn’t enough, the city went on to authorize buying private information from Ameren UE, so as to more effectively manage this new “safety” program of occupancy inspections. Some have gone so far as to suggest this entire ordinance was nothing more than an attempt at the gentrification of Washington.

Thomas Paine, in ‘Common Sense’ wrote: “Time makes more converts than reason.” I will let Paine’s words and ideas speak eloquently in ways I can not.

Bringing us back to the present, I was shocked (and somewhat appalled) when some on the city council actually felt the citizens have enough transparency in the way government works. Some actually, and with a straight face, suggesting $40 per week was a waste of tax payer money.

Councilman Dill asked me how many people would actually read the agendas. My response was that if only one read it, it would be worth the expense. The Mayor, along with Councilman Mohesky, opined that sources currently in place are more than adequate for an informed community to be in the know.

Current sources would be the broadcast video/audio of each city council meeting (even though this system is currently being upgraded and still has unacceptably poor quality issues). The Mayor intoned that people could go up to city hall and read the public postings or view the channel 10 bulletin board and that the staff does a more than adequate job getting information out to the public.

So there you have it; go to city hall each week, and read the public postings or watch the channel 10 bulletin board – never mind that most of us don’t even get channel 10. Or you could just view the agenda on the city website – after the vote has taken place.

Transparency is vitally important because it shines an uncomfortably bright light on some things that government would prefer kept in the dark. Apathy empowers government and if a mathematical equation should be derived expressing this relationship, it could be shown graphically that the less people know about their government, the more apathetic they become. Transparency is one of the few disinfectants that can keep and purify government and give citizens an active voice in how their money is spent.

Ironically,  shortly following this discussion on how $40 was too great an expense for a cash strapped city budget, what did we discuss? Kicking in between $12,000 and $23,000 dollars to help pave a joint use parking lot, that we don’t own, but us.

Sometimes being a councilman can be a real head scratcher.

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Red Flags Rule

3/12/2009

Red Flags Rule is an Identity Theft program that the council passed last week. Frankly, I did not put nearly enough thought into this ordinance as I should have. The program was described as being required for Federal Trade Commission compliance of Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2003, resulting in myself taking for granted the language of the ordinance.

By council passing this ordinance, the city now requires for new home owners and renters to present:

  • A driver’s license of other picture ID of all authorized parties.
  • Lease/Rent Contract, Utility Bill, or closing statement showing new service address.
  • For a business; “no sales tax due’ statement.
  • Completed Identity Theft prevention form for all listed on account:
    • Name
    • Social Security Number
    • Drivers License number
    • service address
    • mailing address
    • day phone
    • evening phone
    • employer
    • employer’s phone
    • do you own or rent
    • landlord and his phone
    • signature and date
  • Occupancy Permit Number
  • $50 deposit for new renters

For existing customers:

  • Drivers license or other picture ID of all authorized parties.
  • completed identity theft prevention form – see above.

I have asked staff, with consent of the city council,  to re-evaluate the need for so much private personal information. The FTC does leave considerable discretion as to how this program is complied with and that the program should be tailored to the size of the municipality.

I have asked that the bare minimum personal information be required – exclusive of full social security numbers and copies of leases. I also want to make sure the city has proper security in place to make absolutely sure that this private data will not be compromised.

At a minimum, I have asked for the following assurances:

1. Ensure that its website is secure or provide clear notice that the website is not secure.
2. Where and when allowed, ensure complete and secure destruction of paper documents and computer files containing customer information.
3. Ensure that office computers are password protected and that computer screens lock after a set period of time.
4. Change passwords on office computers on a regular basis.
5. Ensure all computers are backed up properly and any backup information is secured.
6. Keep offices clear of papers containing customer information.
7. Request only the last 4 digits of social security numbers (if any).
8. Ensure computer virus protection is up to date.
9. Require and keep only the kinds of customer information that are necessary for utility purposes.

Also, I enquired from the police and utility departments if they were aware of any recent Identity Theft occurrences and both departments said they were not aware of any.

The following is a copy of correspondence I recently received from the Federal Trade Commission, Red Flags Division:

Thank you for your inquiry regarding the Red Flags Rules.  Attached to this email is an article for utilities that provides general information regarding the scope of the Rules.

On October 22, 2008, the Commission issued an Enforcement Policy statement that delays enforcement of the Red Flags rule until May 1, 2009

The following link will take you to a news release about the Rules and there is a link to the text of the final Rules on the right-hand side of that page (http://ftc.gov/opa/2007/10/redflag.shtm).  The preamble to the Rules (pages 63718-63752) provides guidance regarding the rationale behind the Rules and the scope of coverage.  The text of the FTC rules can be found at pages 63771-63773.  The Guidelines (pages 63773-63774) provide compliance guidance and address a series of issues that covered entities must consider in developing their Identity Theft Prevention Program.  The Supplement to the Guidelines (page 63774) provides a non-exhaustive list of 26 red flags that covered entities may wish to consider incorporating into their programs.  Additionally, on the FTC website, you can find a news release (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/redflagsfyi.shtm) and Business Alert (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt050.shtm) that provides general information regarding the scope of the Rules.

Please check our website (www.ftc.gov) periodically for new guidance.

Sincerely,

FTC Staff (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/10/redflags.shtm).  This does not affect enforcement of the address discrepancy and card issuer rules.   Nor does it affect compliance for entities not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission.

If you have gotten this far, give yourself a gold star. If anyone wonders why I get so aggravated with big government, read the above.

Guy Midkiff

Occupancy Inspections

3/7/09
Occupancy inspections have been a pet peeve of mine since I first heard city council was considering their passage.

I objected to them because they struck me as just another growth in government and invasion of peoples privacy. There was an ordinance passed that also allowed for the city to contract with Ameren UE to purchase private customer data in order for the city to determine more efficiently who is moving in and out of property. I think this is a miserable trend, and can only see such programs getting larger – not smaller.

(In full disclosure, I own several rental properties.) Last week I met with the city inspector in order to voice some of my concerns, such as:

  • Having the same rental unit inspected multiple times in one year.
  • Having escape path lighting installed on the outside of small buildings.
  • The fact that rental units that have the same occupant in them for 10 years or more, will never be inspected.
  • Several older commercial buildings will possibly never be inspected or have external emergency lights installed, because they 1) Will not change ownership 2) Will not have remodeling work which require permits.

The city does, however, have a very strong case for inspections – at a certain level. The inspector had me look at some field photographs of  properties that, in my opinion, should have been immediately condemned. I saw buildings that had raw sewage stewing on basement floors and running down  plumbing fixtures. In one picture, several washers and dryers were literally standing in water. Others had electric wires, in a tangled mess, running haphazardly from service panels. It was obvious to even a non-electrician, that “double-lugging” had been used.

Admittedly, these properties kick the legs out from under any argument against occupancy inspections. I guess I am naive, but I just could not believe property owners could endanger the lives of others in such a flagrant manner.

There must be a system in place that can identify and remedy these unacceptable situations. Maybe the solution is to handle these violations the way we handle many code violations – as complaint driven occurrences.

We can not hang our hat on the safety hook and then overlook a large percentage of the buildings in Washington. This should either be an absolute ordinance – one without exception, or complaint driven. It is patently unfair to allow some to avoid occupancy inspections and then property owners such as myself, to be inspected multiple times in one year.

If the city wants to continue down the road of absolutism, then we should immediately begin a program that inspects 100% of all structures and then put them on a re-occurring inspection cycle of every 2 or 3 years. Of course, I am against such a proposal because it would broaden the size and power of government even more than it is now.

The common sense approach would have inspections complaint driven with fines and penalties that would be commensurate with the infraction.

Economic Recovery Program Coming to Washmo ?

2/5/09

During the February 2nd, 2009 City Council meeting, we were presented a wish list of what is euphemistically called “shovel ready” projects. Shovel ready is important because it means these are projects that can be  quickly approved, already have engineering and DNR approval. In short, shovels can begin digging immediately once approved by the Obama administration.

Here is list of Round One Projects:

  • W. Main and Grand Ave. resurfacing      $169,300
    W. 8th resurfacing                                        $290,000
    Clay resurfacing                                            $155,250
    Old H/W 100 resurfacing                           $42,000
    Camp St. Bridge construction                    $450,000

Round Two Projects:

  • Front and Elm Streetscape                                        $2,500,000
    H/W 100 widening to the west                                 $15 million
    H/w A to YY ditch & shoulder work                          TBA
    Old H/W 100 replace bridge                                       TBA

John Rhodes tried to pass a resolution that would remove the Camp Street bridge as a project. Ultimately, his proposal failed to gain council support and the Mohesky version passed, including all recovery items.

My thinking was that I would rather have a bird in hand than 10 in the bush. I commented that if we were to get approval for the Camp Street Bridge, I would go back to my constituents and seek their guidance for an up or down vote as to whether or not we should except the funding.

Most of my objection to the Camp Street Bridge was cost and justification. Many of my arguments are neutralized if the bridge is built free and “free” is what I really want to talk about regarding this subject of “stimulus.”

In the 1930’s America had their own version of the Obama stimulus package and it was called the “New Deal.” While many like to reconstruct history and romanticize about FDR and his “New Deal,” reality sometimes takes a back seat to popularized myths.

By 1939 Roosevelt’s own Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, had realized that the New Deal economic policies had failed. “We have tried spending money,” Morgenthau wrote in his diary. “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . After eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

The reality is that in early 1933, the unemployment rate was 25%. After 5 years of the “New Deal” and billions of “then” dollars spent, the unemployment rate was still near 20%. Big whoopty-do.

And as Obama attempts to create some 4 million government jobs for Americans, he will be re-tracing the exact same miss-steps and making the exact same mistakes as did FDR – growth will come from government not private industry, private industry that pays taxes and is the hallmark for innovation and true prosperity. Volumes have been written on how the New Deal eviscerated American competitiveness and created the hydra-headed monster of big business collusion.

In 1937 even Roosevelt admitted  the ineptness of his decision as a secondary depression crippled the economy. “The disappearance of price competition,” he said, “is one of the primary causes of the difficulties.”

I think, no, I know this is a bad idea. For a “very” short term gain, we will be strapping future generations of Americans with trillions of dollars in debt, as the treasury money presses go into hyper-drive. We will increase the government size in ways that can not even be imagined. If anyone thinks this is a good idea, go back and reread your history books. Look at New Jersey, now, a state that government has become the largest industry in that garden state, ditto for California. Citizens are fleeing those states faster than rats off of a sinking ship.

The same government that got us into this mess is now going to deliver us from it? I don’t think I am buying this horse hockey sandwich. This “Stimulus Package” was not good for America in 1933 and is not good for America in 2009.

Guy Midkiff. ………….. .COMMENTS BELOW SENT TO MY EMAIL ACCOUNT:

Guy,
I just wanted to vent a little on the Mayors comment on the Camp Street Bridge possibly being funded by the bailout funding. He said it will not cost the taxpayers anything. Where does he think its coming from? (THIS PORTION OF THE WRITERS EMAIL HAS BEEN REDACTED>>GWM)? It may be Federal Tax money or State Tax money but in the end it is still TAX MONEY.

Please forward.

Thanks,

SB 6 Modifying Mayors Voting Power

SB 6 –
Griesheimer – Modifies when a city mayor shall vote on ordinances, resolutions, and motions before the city’s governing body. Currently, the city mayor presides over the city council, but only votes in case of a tie. Under this act, the mayor would vote: 1) when the vote of the council has resulted in a tie, 2) when one-half of the council elected have voted in favor of an ordinance, resolution, or motion even though there is no tie vote, or 3) when a vote greater than a majority of the council is required.

While I have not had an opportunity to speak with Senator Griesheimer, on the surface it would appear that this bill will not serve the best interest of the citizen. I will do more homework on this bill, but it would appear to tip the balance of power dramatically favoring a city mayor. Mayors already have considerable power, being able to appoint members to committees, city administrative jobs, and appointments to vacated city council seats.

Making life easy for mayors is not always in the best interest of the democratic process.

UPDATE: I have been informed by the Washington City Attorney that the St. Clair City Attorney had asked Senator Griesheimer to propose a law that would expand a Mayors authority because St Clair’s city council (consisting of only 4 members) had a difficult time getting enough councilmen to show up and vote on ordinances. This is why the new law is being offered.

I find it baffling that such a far reaching bill would be suggested simply because one city is having a difficulty passing laws. St. Clair should consider adding more members to their council instead of asking for a law that would change the entire dynamic of the local Missouri political system

Guy Midkiff

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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H.R. 4040 : Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

Concerned individuals may contact senators and representatives and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

H.R. 4040:Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

To establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

View Votes (Missouri members: U.S. House of Representatives roll no. 1185)

Missouri
Yea MO-1 Clay, William [D]
Yea MO-2 Akin, W. [R]
Yea MO-3 Carnahan, Russ [D]
Yea MO-4 Skelton, Ike [D]
Yea MO-5 Cleaver, Emanuel [D]
Yea MO-6 Graves, Samuel [R]
Yea MO-7 Blunt, Roy [R]
Yea MO-8 Emerson, Jo Ann [R]
Yea MO-9 Hulshof, Kenny [R]

View Votes (Missouri Members: U.S. Senate roll no. 193)

Missouri
Yea MO Bond, Christopher [R]
Yea MO McCaskill, Claire [D

Concerned individuals may contact senators and representatives and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK
Is Feb. 10 financial doomsday for thousands?
New law could force companies into ruin
Posted: January 08, 2009
12:13 am Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Jacobsen Books in Clinton, Wis.

A new government regulation scheduled to take effect next month has thousands of retailers, thrift stores and small businesses worried they will be forced to permanently close their doors – and destroy their merchandise.

The law is expected to have such a devastating impact that Feb. 10 is now unofficially known as “National Bankruptcy Day.”

Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, or HR 4040, a retroactive rule mandating that all items sold for use by children under 12 must be tested by an independent party for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable.

All untested items, regardless of lead content, are to be declared “banned hazardous products.” The CPSC has already determined the law applies to every children’s item on shelves, not just to items made beginning Feb. 10.

The regulations could force thousands of businesses – especially smaller ones that cannot afford the cost of lead testing – to throw away truckloads of children’s clothing, books, toys, furniture and other children’s items and even force them to close their doors.

Will Obama bring the end of prosperity? Get the book that shows how higher taxes will doom the economy – if we let it happen.

Children’s books

Valerie Jacobsen and her husband, Paul, support their family of 13 by selling literature at Jacobsen Books in Clinton, Wis. Her family has contracts with local libraries to buy and sell overstocked books – an arrangement that draws income for both parties.

However, Jacobsen told WND that lead testing is estimated to cost $100 to $400 for each of her used children’s books because she does not buy in bulk, and each batch of merchandise is required to be tested.

“There’s a big difference between me and Wal-Mart or Toys ‘R’ Us,” she said. “They’ll have a batch of 50,000. Everything I have is a batch of one because I don’t know its history. I’m looking at a testing cost of about $1.2 million. I would normally sell my full inventory of all children’s products for probably $15,000. So, it’s effectively a ban.”

Valerie Jacobsen

The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that lead testing requirements apply to children’s books, cassettes and CDs, printed game boards, posters and other printed goods used for children’s education. While it does claim some printing inks will be exempt, paper, cardboard, bindings, glues, laminates and other inks are still subject to regulation and require testing.

Jacobsen said that unless the new law is repealed or substantially modified, it could devastate her family business.

“I don’t want to stop selling children’s books on Feb. 9,” she said. “I need that income. We provide a lot of reading for a lot of little kids. I went into this business because I thought that books were good for children’s mental development. That opinion hasn’t changed. And the government’s ruling is essentially saying they’re hazardous for children’s mental development because they might contain lead. We just have no evidence that they do.”

Children’s second-hand clothing

Jacobsen said she often shops at second-hand stores for her 11 children because she can buy quality clothing at low prices.

“Over the years I have always tried to make the most of our money, so we’ll go to Goodwill,” she said. “To be honest, I’d rather go to Goodwill and get a brand-name item that’s hardly been worn and pay $3.99 for it than to go to Wal-Mart and pay $13.99 for something that in six weeks from now is not going to worth anything.”

But now some thrift and consignment stores are in a panic over the new regulation because it extends to children’s clothing, shoes and other items as well.

Cindy Retmier owns a consignment store called Jordan’s Closet in El Dorado Hills, Calif. She told KXTV News 10 that the law could close her business.

“[W]e’ve been passing kids clothing down for centuries,” she said. “Now all of sudden you can’t do it because there might be too much lead in one item out of a thousand? I mean it’s ridiculous they’ve taken it to the extent they’ve taken it right now.”

Goodwill

She estimates testing for each of her clothing articles to run between $300 and $1,500. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it may consider exempting clothing and toys made from natural materials such as wool or wood, but paint and dyes on the products are still required to be tested.

“We only sell stuff for an average of $10 so, of course that doesn’t make sense,” Ritmier said.

Even Goodwill Industries told the station it may be forced to stop selling clothing and other children’s items if testing is too expensive. The move could affect consumers who donate items for tax write-offs if the stores are not able to sell them.

“A huge hit for us and a huge hit for consumers that are trying to save a dollar in this economy,” Goodwill’s Mark Klingler told KXTV. “We’ll have to analyze it. It may involve not selling if we can’t realistically test everything.”

Likewise, Shauna Sloan, founder of the Salt Lake City-based Kid to Kid Franchise, which sells used children’s clothing in 75 stores across the country, told the Los Angeles Times his business could end.

“We will have to lock our doors and file for bankruptcy,” he said.

Small toy businesses

All children’s toys and furniture also fall under strict requirements for independent lead and phthalate testing. Some small toy businesses say lead testing alone costs more than $4,000 per item – a price some say only large companies like Mattel and Fisher Price can afford to pay.

“The only people who can do that now are the ones who actually put this scare into effect and actually caused the problem,” Amy Evan’s, owner of Baby’s Boutique in Chico, Calif., told CBS’ KHSL.

Shelsie Hall told KXTV she makes hair bows and jewelry for children and sells them online to support her family.

Now her small business is threatened by the measure because those products must be tested.

“[M]y items sell for $4 to $10 and I make a lot of different things. So I couldn’t just test one; I would have to test every item,” she said.

One blogger who identifies herself as “Tina” has a home-based business making and selling cloth diapers online. She said a U.S. lab quoted a price of $75 to test each component of her diapers.

“I have at least two different fabrics, thread, snaps and elastic in a diaper,” she wrote. “$375 to test each different combination of fabrics/snaps/thread/size combinations? That is insane.”

She continued, “I am but one of many micro-manufacturers who will be forced to give up the American dream of owning my own business because of this legislation.”

Tina said retailers purchase inventory with loans secured by the value of that inventory.

“What happens to these lenders
and retailers when the value of that inventory goes to zero?” she asked. “It is conceivable, at least to me, that retailers will be the next group in front of Congress asking for a bailout.”

The act’s broad wording could extend to children’s items sold on eBay, Craig’s List, Amazon. Critics also say landfills will be hit hard if stores, distributors and families simply throw their untested items away rather than face prosecution. And new clothing, toys, furniture and books at large retailers could become more expensive to cover third-party testing costs.

Tentative exemptions

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission administers the law, it may only be changed by Congress. Some exemptions approved Tuesday by the commission’s two members, but not formally adopted, include the following:

* Items with lead parts that a child cannot access;
* Clothing, toys and other goods made of natural materials such as cotton and wood; and
* Electronics that are impossible to make without lead.

But the tentative exemptions do little to reassure most businesses and families who will be affected by the law. Final rules are not scheduled for approval until after Feb. 10, when the rules take effect.

Taking action

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Il., sponsored the measure along with 106 co-sponsors. In the House of Representatives, 424 members voted for the act, nine voted “present” and a single member voted against it – Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

In the Senate, the totals were 89 for, eight “present” and three against – Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

President George Bush signed it into law on Aug. 14, 2008.

The measure raises the CPSC budget each year until 2015, at which time the agency’s budget would be $156 million. It also allows state attorneys general to take civil action against those who violate the strict regulations.

While some may continue to sell their children’s products and disobey the law, Jacobsen told WND she’s not taking any chances at her bookstore.

“Would I ever get caught? Probably not,” she said. “But they are talking about $100,000 fines and jail terms of up to five years. I’m not comfortable operating with that law on the books.”

Instead, she said she will fight the measure and raise public awareness.

“I’m planning to put a chain across our children’s department and put up a sign that says, “Banned hazardous material,'” she said. “I’ll ask my customers as they come in to please write their congressmen, call senators and get the word out there. I will tell them, ‘I can let you in now,’ but four weeks from now, I won’t be able to do that.”

Jacobsen’s plans don’t stop there.

“I am going to go to my legislator’s office, and I’m going to take my children’s books there,” she said. “I’m going to ask him, ‘Do you want me to put these in the landfill? Do you want me to burn these?’ What am I going to do with them? I can’t just warehouse them until they come to their senses.”

U.S. Capitol

She suggested the public begin writing and calling lawmakers and demanding exemptions to the law.

“I think the whole thing should be trashed, personally,” she said. “It was so short-sighted. People who were doing the importing of lead are going to be rewarded when little companies like mine go under. When you take everything on a retailer’s shelf and tell them they cannot sell it, that’s bankruptcy.”
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Pelosi’s Toy Story – WSJ

In the tale of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” a child’s stuffed toy can only become “real” once all its fur has been loved off, and it’s missing a button or two. If only. Under a new law set to go into effect February 10, unsold toys, along with bikes, books and even children’s clothing are destined for the scrap heap due to an overzealous law to increase toy safety.

The damage comes from new rules governing lead in children’s products. After last year’s scare over contaminated toys made in China, Congress leapt in to require all products aimed at children under 12 years old to be certified as safe and virtually lead-free by independent testing. The burden may be manageable for big manufacturers and retailers that can absorb the costs of discarded inventory and afford to hire more lawyers. Less likely to survive are hundreds of small businesses and craftspeople getting hit with new costs in a down economy.

Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren’t certified as safe. When Congress passed the legislation in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boasted that “With this legislation, we will not only be recalling, we will be removing those products from the shelves.” Yeehaw. While large retailers may ask manufacturers to take back uncertified products, independent stores may be stuck with inventory that is suddenly illegal to sell. One Web site, NationalBankruptcyDay.com, is cataloging the costs faced by small businesses.

Small batch toymakers, many of whom make old-fashioned wood and sustainable products, say the testing requirements — which can cost thousands of dollars — are unaffordable. At Etsy.com, a Web site where entrepreneurs can sell their handmade items, many expect the new law to put them out of business. Also ensnared are companies that make products like bikes or childrens books. Because they aren’t toy companies, many were caught by surprise when it became clear the law would apply to them. The only lead that can be found on childrens bikes is on the tire, where it poses no risk to a child not in the daily habit of licking the wheels. And while childrens books may contain no more noxious materials than paper and ink, under the new rules they would still need a test to prove it.

Responding to the uproar, CPSC has issued a rule-making notice that would exempt natural materials from having to be certified as lead-free — but it will need to go further to avoid an economic trainwreck in February. The real responsibility lies with Congress, which rushed through “kid-friendly” crowd-pleaser legislation without considering the consequences. Despite warnings from small businesses, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush and California’s Henry Waxman pushed provisions that now require pulling products from the shelf. Mr. Waxman demanded lead standards without allowing compliance to phase in.

Now even their allies are skittering away from strict enforcement, fearing the looming fiasco could force Congress to amend the bill. Last week, consumer groups that once flogged the law, including Public Citizen, Kids in Danger, and the Naderite U.S. Public Interest Research Group, wrote a letter urging the CPSC to “take the initiative . . . by providing prompt, common-sense, and explicit interpretations regarding exemptions to CPSIA.” Now they tell us.

Congress has beaten down the CPSC for allegedly not doing enough about toy safety, but last year’s toy law was an election-year overreaction by Congress. The Commission needs to implement the rules without putting more companies out of business in an already tenuous economy.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.

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More news on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
05:52 PM PT, Jan 7 2009

Goodwill Many consumers and small businesses are up in arms about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The law was passed last year to try to stem the tide of toy recalls. But in requiring that anyone selling children’s products ensure that the products have been tested for lead content, lawmakers may be putting thrift stores and clothing makers out of business, retailers say.

There are signs of a reprieve, though. On Tuesday, the two-member Consumer Product Safety Commission, which interprets and enforces the law, gave preliminary approval to four exemptions to the law. They involve products made from natural materials, electronics and products that have lead that is inaccessible to children. But no final changes will be made before Feb. 10, and that’s the date after which all products not tested for lead content will be considered hazardous.

Now Congress is getting involved again. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican congressman from Florida, sent a letter today to the chairwoman of the CPSC expressing his concern that the law will have a negative effect on thrift and consignment stores.

“I have heard from retailers in my district who are greatly concerned that they will be forced to stop providing such products on Feb.10, 2009, because they lack clear and consistent guidance on how to meet the new law’s mandates,” the letter says. “These constituents have indicated that they may be forced out of business because of their inability to comply with the law’s third-party testing requirements.”

Whether his letter will prompt a change in the law is unknown, as the CPSC can only interpret the law, not change it. It is up to Congress to make any major changes to the law.

Meanwhile, we’ve been deluged with questions about whether people can still sell children’s clothing on eBay, who enforces the law and what retailers can do about it. Look out for a Q&A on these matters and more in an upcoming edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Alana Semuels, LA Times

Concerned individuals may contact senators and representatives and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“He’s A New Yorker!”

6/8/08

(2/27/2009 This post has been updated. Please read the last two paragraphs.)

Usually I don’t like to respond to gossip and innuendo. I was raised to believe that such talk was the work of idle hands and the devil.

Let me back up for a moment. One of the things I learned during my campaign was that many of our senior citizens get up quite early and have breakfast at at least a half dozen restaurants across our fine city. It struck me as no better place to get a feel for the concerns, likes and dislikes, many in Washington have for community. I see them as a canary-in-the-coal-mine, a barometer for me to gauge public sentiment, things that work and things that are concerns – like taxes, quality of life, and cost of living issues.

These folks continue to be my go to people, people I rely on to make good, sound decisions.

Unfortunately, there is a small, vocal and powerful group (emphasis added on last two adjectives) that appears threatened by the emergence of new blood in the city council. I have proven to be something of an enigma to them and they have resorted to actually trying to paint me as a “New Yorker,” “A big city boy, with big city ways.”

Hmmm. I have been called a bunch of things in my life, but a “New Yorker?” Granted, I did live in New York for about 10 years, so if some are comforted believing proximity makes me a “New Yorker,” knock yourselves out.

Again, allow me to back up. I ran my campaign under the Reaganesque principals of: less government, less taxes, less regulation. The city of New York could not have enough regulations, taxes, and government. From occupancy inspections, to buying your personal data from utility companies, to increasing taxes, to red light cameras, or even charter government – these are all big city ways, New York ways and now, Washington ways. Who is the “New Yorker,” here?

I am an unabashed conservative. Conservatism is my compass, my rudder. I grew up in a town in Texas that had a population of about 100. It was a farming and oil community. We were all very blue collar and fiercely independent. We believed in hard work, and the American way. I went on to one of the most conservative schools in America, Texas A&M (where I graduated with a degree in agriculture economics.) Had I not gone into the Marine Corps and became a pilot, I would no doubt be working, today, in either agriculture or the oil business. I am a card-carrying member of the NRA and believe the second amendment is just as important as the first (Mr. Miller).

I believe in tradition, controlled growth, and citizens having a person that will speak for them at the government level. I also know that wealthy people create jobs and give back huge sums to the community. I do not believe in class warfare and singling them out for onerous tax treatment. Conversely, we (tax payers) should not be in the business of subsidizing buildings, developments and airports for our wealthy, because of their power and influence. The path to power should not bi-pass the path of principals.

Update 2/27/2009 When I wrote the above, my information was based on observations that the average citizen would conclude. After having the privilege to work with some of the sharpest and most talented members of the community that sit on the 353 Redevelopment Committee, along with economic development department, my opinion has matured. Cities compete vigorously for businesses to locate in their communities. Washington is a shining example of what happens when a city focuses limited resources in smart and meaningful ways.

Yes, I wish we didn’t have to spend substantial tax dollars on blue chip airports and shovel ready spaces at out industrial park. But those are the rules of the game. We can either adopt to these harsh realities or join the dust bin of other failed communities. We have also spread our bets in a way that makes it impossible for the failure of any one business to have a major impact on our tax base or community. As I write this, many communities are being buffeted by a lack of spending restraint. And while we are feeling financial stress from reduced tax income, we are still light years ahead of most other communities.

Guy W. Midkiff

• Washington: A Bright Future

3-28-08
Guy W. Midkiff

When someone runs for a political office, they usually speak in vague generalities, almost the way a fortune teller does, so that their message has broad appeal and collects the most favorable opinions possible, but rarely is there any substance in their message.

I am not a professional politician. I am an airline Captain, with a military background, and a business owner. I have a degree in economics (agriculture economics) from Texas A&M University. I make no excuses for my conservative beliefs and am a fervent student of Reaganomics. And unlike my opponent, I am very clear about what I stand for.

Specifically:

1. reduce the growth of government spending,
2. reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital,
3. reduce regulation,
4. control the money supply to reduce inflation.

I believe the City of Washington has strayed dramatically from our fiscally conservative heritage and quite possibly may be causing serious problems for our future. On a micro-economic scale, we can do nothing about item “4.” But we can certainly address items 1-3, though.

Speaking of regulation, it comes in several forms. Regulation is necessary to ensure the public good, but can quickly over-reach. Here we must have balance. Many good construction jobs have been lost to surrounding communities because some builders find the Washington regulatory environment too restrictive. This is not my opinion, but based on actual conversations I have had with builders and developers.

Part of the problem comes from the fact that very few people in our city government has ever run a business or had to meet a payroll. No doubt, all are extraordinary people in their own right, but have never had to develop a budget or analyze complex projects based on returns on income or generally accepted accounting principles.

One only needs to read the local newspaper to see the recent and many wrong turns on capital expenditures, this city government has taken. We have and are spending money in areas that can either wait or be tabled permanently. The water sewer treatment plant is a classic example. No doubt we will need the plant, but…did we go about the financing of the project in the proper manner? Is it possible that we could have avoided the almost tripling of water/sewer rates and the $20M bond financing? Did we consider the dramatic affect a near tripling of water/sewer rates will have on those of us on fixed incomes??

Maybe we could have spent less on other projects and focused more on the basics – things we need, as opposed to things we want. The spending spree we have been on for the last 5 years is not conservative, it is big-city-ways, that will get us in big-city-problems. To show how far we have strayed, our city council actually tried to pass an ordinance requiring a certified arborist to trim our own trees – give me a break.

We must begin by rolling back the tax rate, each and ever year. Are we conducting city business as efficiently as possible? The first thing a corporation does when belt tightening begins is slashing costs. One dollar cut from cost is significantly more valuable than one dollar of tax revenue raised. Dollars cut goes directly to the bottom line, one tax dollar brought in, does not translate to one full dollar because of the inherent inefficiencies of the tax collecting and distribution process. So, taking in less money will force new efficiencies in the system.

Also, while we lavish dollars on large corporations through corporate welfare handouts, let’s not forget that one-dollar spent on an indigenous business keeps three times as much of that dollar in the local community, than does a dollar spent on a nation chain. (The local business: buys a local car, eats in a local restaurant, and uses a local bank, doctor, lawyer and mechanic. I could go on and on.

Also, never forget that that fancy fortune 500 corporation will not hesitate giving pink slips to 500 people and moving their jobs to Mexico – over night.

So go ahead and build them their $6.5 Million dollar runways, but never forget the vital importance of local businesses.

As we move into the future, I would like to see varied businesses develop here. We all ready have:

• Outstanding work ethic.
• Natural proximity to the Missouri River and a major interstate.
• Geographically centered.
• In place banking industry.
• In place industrial park.
• Dramatically growing medical facilities.
• Nearby university.

Some new areas we should consider:

• Bio-technology
• Medical-technology
• Hi-Tech
• Communication
• Research
• Alternative Energy

We should aggressively pursue developing the infrastructure and framework to attract such companies. I would like to see a venture capital forum convene here next year and begin committing to the type of venture capital such businesses need for seed money.

A fresh look should be given to developing Initiative Teams to develop new, successful, growth strategies. We absolutely must make sure our core competencies are well represented at the state and federal levels.
Washington must be seen as a business friendly community that not only caters to corporate America, but also the boutique and entrepreneurs that will retrench larger portions of their profits, back in our community.

If we want to keep our child and children’s children, in our community, we simply must make a huge commitment to advanced educational programs.

Better Education = Better Jobs

Our Future is Bright!
Guy W. Midkiff

• Ameren Selling Customer Info to City Of Washington

3.25.08
Guy W. Midkiff

1984.jpg

On 08-06-2007, the City of Washington passed ordinance no. 07-10277, introduced by Councilman Tim Brinker. To quote:

An ordinance to enter into an agreement with Ameren UE for notification to the city by Ameren UE Company when there is a successor of existing utility service, in The City of Washington, Franklin County, Missouri.

The ordinance goes on to pay Ameren UE $200 (Not clear if this is per month or one time) for the customer information, of course paid with our tax dollars.

Here is an email exchange with a representative from Ameren:

My name is Guy Midkiff and I live in Washington, Missouri. Can you please tell me whether or not Ameren UE is providing or selling their customer data base to the City of Washington, Missouri.
From: SGallagher@ameren.com
Subject: RE: Selling Customer Data Base
Date: March 23, 2008 11:02:32 AM EDT

We don’t share our customer names to my knowledges with any outside party. Can you explain?

Bottom Line: Your personal information is being sold, by Ameren UE, to the City of Washington, so as to police their occupancy inspections. You had no say-so in the matter, nor what measures The City of Washington is taking to protect your personal and private information.

This is a continuation of this administrations big government and intrusive big-city-ways, slowly disregarding the rights of its individual citizens. Remember, it is only for your safety.

•Occupancy Inspections
•Red Light Cameras
•Ticket Quotas
•Video Cameras at Intersections
•Accessing Your Private Information

Call Ameren and the City of Washington. Tell them to stop using your personal information.

Ameren UE: Mrs. Galagher (314) 554-2175
City of Washington: Mayor 390-1000

Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

• Red Light Camera: Resource Page

Guy W. Midkiff

    Studies and Reports (source TheNewsPaper.com)

stop-red-light-camera.gif

Popular Studies

Red Light Camera Study Roundup

2008 Florida Public Health Review

2007 Virginia DOT: Cameras Increase Injury Accidents

2005 Washington Post: Accidents Doubled with Cameras

2004 North Carolina: Red Light Camera Study (Burkey-Obeng)

Majority Leader Armey Red Light Camera Report

Longer Yellows Reduce Crashes (TX Transportation Institute)

HOV/Carpool Lanes Cause Accidents

4/9/08
Hundreds of RLC Tickets Tossed Out

3/30/08
Tennessee: Red Light Camera Causes Another Serious Accident

3/27-08

6 Cities Caught Shortening Yellow Lights for PROFIT!

3/21/08
Georgia Senate Restricts, Maine Rejects Red Light Cameras

3/21/08
Red Light Cameras in Georgia, It’s About The Money!

1/11/08
Texas Study: Red Light Camera Crashes Up 52 % in Lubbock
10/24/07

Stockton, California Report Shows Accidents Jump With Cameras
8/22/07

Seattle Red Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents

8/7/07

Delaware Report Uses Bad Math to Support Red Light Cameras
7/10/07

Avondale, Arizona Red Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents
7/5/07
2007 Virginia DOT Report Shows Red Light Cameras Increase Accidents
10/20/06
Swampscott, Massachusetts Report Rejects Red Light Cameras
5/26/05

2002: Baltimore Judge’s Report on Red Light Cameras
3/29/05

Study: Cameras Increase Fatal Rear End Accidents (Ontario)
3/16/05

US Intersection Fatalities and Camera Enforcement
2/4/05

Raleigh, NC Red Light Camera Study
1/27/05

Virginia DOT Study Shows Cameras Increase Injury Accidents
12/28/04

Impact of Red Light Camera Enforcement on Crash Experience
12/10/04

Burkey-Obeng Red Light Camera Study
12/1/04

San Diego Smoking Gun Documents
10/28/04

Red Light Running Crisis: Is it Intentional
10/28/04

Australian Study of Red Light Cameras (Andreassen)
10/28/04
Weekly Standard Expose on Camera Enforcement
10/3/04
San Diego Red Light Camera Defense Team Report

Studies and Reports

6/24/08

Summary of RLC’s(*This is a must read)

4/5/07
Minnesota Supreme Court Strikes Down Red Light Cameras
2/9/07
Oregon Appeals Court Applies Speedy Trial Protection to Photo Tickets
2/2/07
Michigan Attorney General Says Red Light Cameras Illegal
9/25/06
Minnesota: Appeals Court Rules Against Cameras
5/16/06
North Carolina Appeals Court Rules Against Red Light Cameras
12/16/05
Courts Act to Protect DC Camera Program
2/28/05
Costa Mesa, CA Red Light Camera Decision

CAUGHT ON CAMERA
Places using red-light cameras and how many communities use them:• Arizona: 8 communities
• California: 82
• Colorado: 6
• Delaware: 5
• District of Columbia: 1
• Florida: 1
• Georgia: 22
• Illinois: 5
• Iowa: 5
• Maryland: 24
• Massachusetts: 1
• Missouri: 6
• New Mexico: 1
• New York: 1
• North Carolina: 5
• Ohio: 9
• Oregon: 4
• Pennsylvania: 1
• Rhode Island: 1
• South Dakota: 1
• Tennessee: 6
• Texas: 24
• Washington: 6Sources: Federal Highway Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Published in: on March 10, 2008 at 7:15 pm  Comments (2)  

• Red Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents

D.C. Red-Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents
By Del Quentin Wilber and Derek Willis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 4, 2005; Page A01

The District’s red-light cameras have generated more than 500,000 violations and $32 million in fines over the past six years. City officials credit them with making busy roads safer.

But a Washington Post analysis of crash statistics shows that the number of accidents has gone up at intersections with the cameras. The increase is the same or worse than at traffic signals without the devices.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said citations for red-light running have dropped by about 60 percent at intersections that have the cameras.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said citations for red-light running have dropped by about 60 percent at intersections that have the cameras.

Monitored Intersections
The D.C. government installed the first of its red-light cameras in 1999. By the following year, 37 intersections were covered in the city, some with more than one camera. The number of traffic accidents at the 37 intersections has gone up since the cameras were installed. The increase is the same or worse than at the 1,520 intersections with traffic lights that do not have red-light cameras.

Three outside traffic specialists independently reviewed the data and said they were surprised by the results. Their conclusion: The cameras do not appear to be making any difference in preventing injuries or collisions.

“The data are very clear,” said Dick Raub, a traffic consultant and a former senior researcher at Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety. “They are not performing any better than intersections without cameras.”

The District started the camera program in 1999, and from the beginning, officials said they were aiming to curtail red-light running and accidents. At the time, Terrance W. Gainer, then the second-highest ranking D.C. police official, said the cameras would “get people to stop at red lights and avoid crashes. . . . Hopefully, we’ll have a few less messes to clean up.”

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he remains convinced that the devices are worthwhile. Even if the number of crashes is not going down, he said, citations for red-light running have dropped by about 60 percent at intersections that have cameras.

Ramsey said the number of accidents would be even higher without the cameras, adding that he would like to install them at every traffic light in the city. He pointed to last year’s steep decrease in traffic fatalities — 45 people died compared with 69 in 2003 — as evidence that the program is working.

“I’d rather have them than not have them,” Ramsey said. “They make people slow down. They reduce the number of traffic violations, and that’s a good thing.”

City officials attribute the increase in accidents to higher traffic volume. But that does not explain why the presence of cameras has failed to slow the rate of accidents at those intersections, Raub and others said. The outside experts suggested that the cameras might be more useful at other locations, and D.C. officials said they are studying the issue.

The city has cameras at 45 intersections. They take photographs of cars running red lights, generating tickets that are processed by a private contractor. Police oversee the issuance of tickets, which carry $75 fines, and the money goes into the city’s general fund — nearly $5 million last year.

The Post obtained a D.C. database generated from accident reports filed by police. The data covered the entire city, including the 37 intersections where cameras were installed in 1999 and 2000.

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. Traffic specialists say broadside collisions are especially dangerous because the sides are the most vulnerable areas of cars.

The number of crashes and injury collisions at intersections with cameras rose steadily through 2001, then dipped through 2003 before spiking again last year.

The results were similar or worse than figures at intersections that have traffic signals but no cameras. The number of overall crashes at those 1,520 locations increased 64 percent; injury and fatal crashes rose 54 percent; and broadside collisions rose 17 percent.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said citations for red-light running have dropped by about 60 percent at intersections that have the cameras.

Monitored Intersections
The D.C. government installed the first of its red-light cameras in 1999. By the following year, 37 intersections were covered in the city, some with more than one camera. The number of traffic accidents at the 37 intersections has gone up since the cameras were installed. The increase is the same or worse than at the 1,520 intersections with traffic lights that do not have red-light cameras.
reader forum

Overall, total crashes in the city rose 61 percent, from 11,333 in 1998 to 18,250 last year.

Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the data reinforce the motor club’s view that the red-light effort is targeted more at generating revenue than at reducing crashes. “They are making a heck of a lot of money, and they are picking the motorists’ pockets on the pretense of safety,” he said.

Red-light cameras are used in 12 states, including Maryland, where they are deployed in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. In Virginia, the General Assembly eliminated red-light cameras this year partly because of concerns raised by some legislators about civil liberties. The action affected six Northern Virginia jurisdictions: Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Falls Church and Vienna.

The District installed its first batch of 26 cameras in 1999. City officials added 14 the next year. Some intersections have more than one camera to cover different approaches. All told, the cameras installed in 1999 and 2000 covered 38 intersections; a camera subsequently was removed from one of them.

Ramsey said city officials put the cameras where police noticed the most red-light running. At the start of the program, police officials said they also received advice on camera placement from residents and from the private contractor that operated the devices.

Nine more cameras were installed in July, boosting the number of monitored intersections to 45. Most of those drivers ticketed come from outside the city. In August, for example, less than one-fourth of the citations were issued to motorists from the District.

D.C. police also operate photo-radar devices that take pictures of speeding motorists. Because many of these cameras are mobile and used at varying times, they were not included in The Post’s review.

Douglas Noble, the chief traffic engineer for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said his office was examining crash data and plans to review the red-light camera locations. The department collects the data from police reports and advises police about where to install the devices.

Noble said that no studies have been conducted on the District’s red-light cameras in several years but that he “would not disagree” with The Post’s analysis. “I don’t necessarily have an explanation” for the trends, he said.

He added that he believes the severity of injury crashes has decreased at camera locations. The city crash database does not categorize the severity of crashes.

D.C. Red-Light Cameras Fail to Reduce Accidents

AAA and other critics have accused the city of installing cameras in high-volume locations where they could generate thousands of tickets, regardless of how many accidents happened there.

The analysis raised questions about where police installed the cameras. Nine intersections with cameras had two or fewer crashes annually in 1998 and 1999; seven reported no crashes that led to injuries or fatalities during that period. Officials installed cameras at six of the 20 most crash-prone intersections in 1998, data show.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said citations for red-light running have dropped by about 60 percent at intersections that have the cameras.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said citations for red-light running have dropped by about 60 percent at intersections that have the cameras. (By Gerald Martineau — The Washington Post)
Graphic
Monitored Intersections
The D.C. government installed the first of its red-light cameras in 1999. By the following year, 37 intersections were covered in the city, some with more than one camera. The number of traffic accidents at the 37 intersections has gone up since the cameras were installed. The increase is the same or worse than at the 1,520 intersections with traffic lights that do not have red-light cameras.

Seventeen of the 45 intersections now covered by red-light cameras were ranked among the 50 most accident-prone locations in the District last year.

Individual results at intersections vary, the analysis shows.

The camera at New York Avenue and Fourth Street NW, for example — on one of Washington’s busiest commuter routes — has generated the most tickets in the city: more than 150,000 since 1999. Although the number of monthly citations there has dropped 65 percent, crashes nearly doubled, from 12 in 1998 to 23 last year.

The number of crashes has decreased in recent years at another busy spot, Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue NE, where cameras have generated more than 73,000 tickets. The intersection had 35 crashes in 1998, 88 in 2001 and 71 last year.

The camera at Wisconsin Avenue and Brandywine Street NW has produced nearly 30,000 tickets, but its crash totals have hovered around two a year.

Advocates for the cameras point to research such as a recent national study by the Federal Highway Administration that showed the number of broadside crashes dipped 25 percent at sites with cameras. The study found that rear-end crashes rose 15 percent at camera locations. But because broadside crashes are more dangerous and cause greater damage, the study concluded that the cameras can help reduce the costs of traffic accidents.

Gang-Len Chang, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Maryland, said cameras can be useful in reducing serious crashes if deployed properly.

Chang and the other traffic specialists said the city should not abandon red-light cameras. Rather, they said, the mixed results indicate that D.C. officials should conduct a thorough review of camera sites.

“They definitely should look at the locations and find where the cameras would be much more effective,” said Nicholas J. Garber, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Virginia who studied the use of red-light cameras in Fairfax County.

Published in: on March 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

• 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

• 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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