Red Light Camera Petition

It's not up on the Town website yet, but here's the press coverage: Chapel Hill Herald, News & Observer, and Daily Tarheel.

And here's the text of my petition on red-light cameras that is on the Town Council agenda for Monday:

To: Town Council Members
From: Council Member Kleinschmidt
Re: Petition to terminate the Town of Chapel Hill contract with ACS, Inc.
Date: January 12, 2004

Since the Town’s earliest discussion regarding the implementation of red-light cameras, the program has been beset by criticism. The program abandons traditional methods of law enforcement by converting a once criminal sanction to a civil action. Most disturbingly, the program has transferred police power to a private corporate entity. Citizens no longer have the same rights of confrontation to challenge witnesses against them, and have lost the discretionary use of power once relied on by citizens to avoid mechanical, thoughtless law enforcement. The installation of the SafeLight Program introduced a corporate third-party between resident and government and fundamentally changed the relationship between the municipality and its citizens.

Additionally, many citizens offered evidence during public hearings that the claim of safe red-light camera intersections is largely a myth. Evidence was introduced that rear-end collisions increase at red-light camera intersections. Questions were also raised regarding the sincerity of a business plan that profits from red-light running, yet claims to want to decrease or eliminate red-light running. These questions were buttressed by evidence that ACS and other red-light camera operators have been sued in other jurisdictions for calibrating the timing of photographs to maximize the number of citations.

Also, many citizens were concerned that other methods of adjusting the timing of red and yellow lights would have been more effective at controlling red-light violations, yet were not attempted. Evidence was introduced that adjusting the timing of lights at intersections decreased violations without the costs of camera installation or the costs associated with a changed Town-Citizen relationship.

These arguments along with some dissatisfaction that the 96% of the money collected from red-light violators was being sent to the corporation now enforcing red-light running are now joined by evidence that the program fails to serve as a deterrent to red-light running. Evidence indicates that only 33% of the photographs taken by the cameras result in citations. Consequently, 2 out of 3 drivers whose photographs are taken fail to receive a citation in the mail.

The failure of the program, along with the insult to many traditional Chapel Hill values, requires us to end the program now.

I petition the Town Council to terminate its agreement with ACS Inc., the operators of the SafeLight Program in Chapel Hill, by exercising its powers under Article 7 Section 1 of the Town’s contract with ACS.

Issues: 

Total votes: 230

Comments

RLC cameras cause accidents. Right, just like knives cause stabbings. If the person driving the vehicle that plows into the back of another car wasn't tailgating, then the RLC could not have "caused" the accident.

"But the car in front stopped short. I couldn't stop in time." Bzzt! It is still your fault if you were tailgating. If you were not tailgating, you would be able to stop in time, no matter how quickly the car in front of you stops.

Show some backbone people! If you screw up, take responsibility for it! Don't blame the camera.

You say, "We are not public servants nor are we managing public resouces or performing a police activity on behalf of town government. We are not taking town moneys to do so."

And I say, how do we know?

You say, "However, when council members become mouthpieces for service vendors and their PR flacks, then that's a problem."

And I say, is that the real issue, or is it that someone has deviated from the "party" line?

Thanks for the positive comment; I appreciate it. But what you are telling us is "they" are forcing you to adopt the very tactic that you find reprehensible when "they" practice it. Is that about it?

Fred, I hear you did a great job as MC of the MLK dinner, but you are a bit thick here.

For we, anonymice, to hide out is our way of life. We are not public servants nor are we managing public resouces or performing a police activity on behalf of town government. We are not taking town moneys to do so.

However, when council members become mouthpieces for service vendors and their PR flacks, then that's a problem.

I think that's what's bothering folks posting above. And bothering me. We, anonymice, may be creepy in our way, but the way this is playing out is as if much lower living creatures were involved.

In public politics, sunshine goes a long ways.

And yes the rules are different, you or even officals can post here under any name you like. Heck you can use mine and you may have.

Better yet, instread of just stopping at "lobbying rules," let's have a rule that says if you want to be taken seriously, you have to use your own name. If it's important enough for people to pay attention to what you say, it's just as important for people to know who is talking.

Fred, Let me start positively. I really appreciate your good work with the NC Food Bank. Congratulations on your successful project there.

Some of us must crawl out at night tho. We know you don't respect that, but we are in some ways close to those who hide who is speaking through them. In this case, a company who is making money off local taxpayers is managing supposedly public meetings held by public officials.

When we crawl out, we see the folks from that company and their PR machine in the shadows with us. But we aren't taking or administrating public funds. They are.

This just in from Town Hall to the Ministry of Truth:

"Council Members Jim Ward and Dorothy Verkerk have arranged a forum on the Town's traffic signal photo enforcement program, known as the Chapel Hill Safelight Program. The vendor, [ACS], for the program will be present to answer questions and provide information.

The forum will be conducted at the Chapel Hill Public Library beginning at 10:00am and ending no later than 12noon on Saturday, January 24, 2004 and is sponsored by Council Members Ward and Verkerk."

--

And from the Memory Hole:

Also attending with be the vendor's PR firm, Blakey and Agnew, disguised as the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. See also Duncan's post above for background.

Yesterday's press conference by pro-Red Council members brought a new light to the problem of the cameras.

According to the Chapel Hill Herald, Dorothy Verkerk requested help from "a Washington, D.C., public relations firm helped organize the event. Jeff Agnew with the Blakey and Agnew firm was in Chapel Hill on Thursday morning but wasn't inside Town Hall while the news conference was under way.

The firm's Leslie Blakey also is director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running, which shares the firm's address and is described as an "industry-funded, advocacy initiative guided by an independent national advisory board." Affiliated Computer Services, the private company that operates the red-light cameras in Chapel Hill, is the founding sponsor of the campaign."

http://heraldsun.com/orange/10-438596.html

The conflicts here are enormous. Verkerk spoke from vendor supplied and uncritically reviewed data and largely from the vendor's PR company's script including the organization of the press conference.

Lobbying rules anyone? Or perhaps some guidelines to make it clear who is speaking for.

Just a little empirical thing - but I went through the Estes-Airport intersection during the caution light (it was the right thing to do given the traffic movement, but I still thought - Oh, here we go, I might ne nailed) & thought, that was the shortest orange light I've ever experienced.

Mark

Based on the engineering drawings for Estes/Airport,

the absolute minimum yellow is 4.0 seconds. The red-red

is generally 2.0 seconds. Minimum green for direct traffic is

7 seconds, for turning traffic on one approach, 12 seconds.

Of course, you could always video-tape it and measure

the real delays - that's what others have done.

Terri, two comments about your great quote.

One, ITRE has said that they're not sure about the effectivity of RLCs, thus their doing this study. BUT, the town and ACS keep pointing to ITRE as if ITRE's participation implies RLCs work. This is misleading.

Two, they point out that this is a research project only - they're not actively participating.

ITRE's study is not justification for this system - until recently the 'importance' of the study was never brought up. Now you have Councilmen Verkerk and Ward arguing we should keep the RLCs because we'll ruin 'the study'. What happened to the pedestrian safety argument? What happened to "we'lll install them at the worst intersections"?

Now it's "Don't stop our precious study." And the goal posts keep dancing around the field!

To heck with that. No real safety improvements, incredible increases in rear-end accidents, stripped due process, riggged grace period, improperly calibrated and deployed, etc. This has become a complete farce.

It's time to STOP THE EXPERIMENT! Let ITRE and ACS go experiment elsewhere with someone elses safety and liberties.

Duncan, given that there are real, measurable facts about RLR and other intersection-related accidents in our community, how shameful do you find this local groups activities vis-a-vis misrepresenting the scope and nature of the problem to gore some of the council oxen?

I'd say, "pretty shameful."

signed,

confused

Thought I would acknowledge that I may have been naive about the possibility of misuse of red light camera usage. Although initially I thought the RLC was a bad idea, after doing web research, I started believing that they may have safety value AFTER other measures, such as intersection engineering, had been applied. However, today a new search engine/social network combination was announced (http://www.mediapost.com/dtls_dsp_news.cfm?newsID=234981) that immediately makes it clear that my actions on the web are not private. If someone is tracking my search activities closely enough to build a search routine around them, then maybe the RLC and other devices can be misused as well. I don't like conspiracy theories (except in the DaVinci Code), but maybe, as I said above, I'm too naive.

I also decided to contact the NC State PI to find out directly about his research study. Here's what he had to say (permission to quote) " We are using a before and after withcontrol sites methodology to overcome the traditional regression to the

mean bias in studies of countermeasures like this. In English, that

means that all previous studies of the safety of rlr cameras examined their effects at high-collision intersections. However, collisions naturally fall from their peak levels at these intersections even if one does nothing to them (they regress back toward their mean levels). Thus, we are not sure with these other studies whether collision reductions were due to camera installation or this natural regression. The Town of Chapel Hill allowed us to select the intersections for camera installation randomly from a pool of pre-qualified intersections, so that we did not necessarily install cameras at the high-collision intersections. Therefore, we have accounted for regression to the mean and will have much less bias in our results. We will have a much better answer to the question, "Do rlr camera reduce collisions" than ever before. This is a truly unique study and should be informative for Chapel Hill and dozens or hundreds of other jurisdictions across the U.S. should the study be allowed to proceed."

More loony civil libertarian opposition to red-light cameras from those bleeding hearts on the le....errr... right.

The Weekly Standard weighs in:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/078ftoqz.asp?pg=1

No need to be dissonated, Duncan. The even-righter Washington Times has covered red light camera and automated enforcement abuse for quite a while too. Why? I suspect that when you read the articles that you will see that the right actually expects law enforcement to enforce laws effectively and to promote the public safety. Not to create the illusion of safety at public expense.

http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20030824-110934-9216r.htm and http://www.washtimes.com/metro/20030825-095232-5246r.htm for the report on Lon Anderson, director of public and government relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic, 's speech to the Governors' Highway Safety Association's national convention.

Further the Times did investigative reporting on the issue and found that yellow intervals were being shortened, as to obtain more convictions -- err billings, and thus making the intersections more UNSAFE! http://itzlaw.com/bb-news/home/bb-news/newswt.php will also show how much Lon Anderson's attitude toward cameras has changed in a few years of operation. For in 2001. Strongly against in 2003.

Duncan, these articles do a pretty good job of pulling together the salient facts and puts some meat on them.

For instance, consider the completely cynical way a small political action group (you know, the ones that launched campaign 2005 with this issue, the ones that are still fighting the last campaign) has presented the NHSTA statistics and tried to extrapolate them to our community.

From this series:

'That said, NHTSA's databases are the best we have. Automated-enforcement boosters cut and paste from its findings all the time, causing one NHTSA spokesperson to allow, "People extrapolate from our statistics, but we don't stand behind them. Scientifically speaking, we don't have accurate statistics on red-light running based on our databases." This is a fairly significant admission, since camera advocates love to depict speeding and red-light-running "epidemics," with old ladies being mowed down in crosswalks and children being slaughtered like lambs by runaway lead-foots.'

As these and others fear-monger, they 'conveniently' omit discussing our local data, which we have.

One example. Rear-ending at both covered intersections accounted for 77 accidents over a 5 year period or about 16 per year. In 83 days there's been 19 or an effective yearly

rate of 85.

To bolster their 'epidemic' claims, the local group has disingenuously continued to imply that violations equal RLR. Incredible! Again, the facts show that many of the 421 'violations' occurred within what is normally considered the grace period.

As the above linked article points out, 'rigging-the-game' is all part of this cynical process.

I find it strange and sad that this local group is pushing an agenda at the expense of safety and the diminishment of our due process rights. If this is their behavior now, it's hard to imagine what depths they'll plumb to win their 'lost' seat.

Winston,

I'm not really dissonated, because the outrage of the Wash Times and The Weekly Standard sounds much more like the conservatism of the old GOP, the one I grew up with, rather than the new statist, authoritarian GOP.

I'm just sorry this debate has seemed, weirdly, to become yet another right-left grudge match in this town, when both the right and the left have much common ground on this issue. Good government, liberty, accountability, policies based in fact rather than wishful thinking, and the efficient use of public money are goals we can all agree on, can't we? Those aren't ideological positions; those are bedrock values, our common ground.

But as I said before, in the surprisingly bitter politics of this town, one's position often depends on whose turn it is to have their ox gored. (Ginny alludes to this, in another thread, regarding attitudes to the Chamber of Commerce, which I've slagged often and with great zeal. I am guilty, guilty, guilty.)

Hell, if anything, ACS has found more willing partners in the Democratic Party, which should be a matter of shame to all Democrats. (I have received information from a lurker to indicate that ACS contributes more money to the campaigns of Democrats than to the campaigns of Republicans.)

ACS, its artificial "grassroots" advocacy group, and the group of auto insurance carriers, are proving that you can go a long way making false claims, so long as those claims sound plausible to the uninformed. In fact, much of our public discourse works on this principle now -- arguing points that are plausible, even likely, in the absence of facts. I think I've cracked the code of punditry! Next stop, The Factor! Or Crossfire!

Todd,

My comments above to Joe already dissect Dr. Robertson's letter and exposes it for what it is.

Major among its problems is a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of how the review process works and the real scale of RLR in our country, state and town.

Thought people get a kick out of the article on page 14 of the

Carolina Journal http://www.johnlocke.org/acrobat/cjPrintEdition/cj_2003_july.pdf.

Quote "Red-light cameras paved the way for other electronic enforcement."

As the NMA points out '...condemning the driving population at large for wanton "red light running" was a red herring from the get-go. The real gold mine is, and always was, camera-based speed enforcement. '

Chapel Hill, get ready for getting ticketed for going 1MPH over the speed limit.

Great article. Why is it that here in Chapel Hill everything is turned on its head? In this article we have a group of Republican legislators arguing for the right to be free from onerous and unecessary government intrusion, which didn't used to be a radical stance in the GOP (surely this principle is the reason the article appears in John Locke's Carolina Journal magazine, which is conservative in the more traditional sense), and it's the Democrats from Mecklenburg County who are all for more cameras and more intrusion.

Then we come to Chapel Hill, and everybody switches sides. It's something in the water. Or maybe it's a question of whose ox needs to be gored....

Anyway, good article. And, there's lots of stuff on education in that issue, including a profile of John Taylor Gatto, the author and NYC teacher whose work Mark Marcoplos has been recommending.

My mind is spinning from the cognitive dissonance. ;)

In case you missed this is the Chapel Hill Herald. Sorry for the long copy and paste, but links to letters to the editor die in days in this paper/site (check out who wrote it).

Red-light camera program is effective

I was dismayed to hear that several members of the Chapel Hill Town Council wanted to end the red-light camera program that was just put in place a short few months ago.

Intersection crashes resulting from red-light running are a serious safety problem. Based on information from the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 900 people are killed and more than 200,000 injured in the United States each year by this driver behavior. Fatal crashes at intersections with traffic signals increased 18 percent during the 1990s, and more than half of those deaths were pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles hit by red-light runners. During that same time frame in North Carolina, 147 people died from car crashes attributed to red-light violations, placing North Carolina 20th in the nation with respect to death rate from this cause.

Catching red-light runners using the traditional law enforcement technique of observation, chase and citation is both difficult and dangerous.

Using red-light cameras is a safe and effective way to enforce traffic laws and protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens. Citations are issued by law enforcement officers who review the photographs, not by camera vendors. The use of cameras have shown a 40 percent reduction in red-light running in 90 communities across the country.

The witness to a violation is the photograph, which citizens have the right to appeal.

With respect to the issue of privacy protection, the American Civil Liberties Union has stated that it does not oppose the use of such cameras for enforcing specific traffic violations, provided that the cameras capture only those images that are necessary to enforce the traffic laws.

Observing and citing traffic law violations is fundamental to highway safety programs. Thanks to today's technology, this principle can be applied safely and effectively to those who choose to endanger themselves and others by running red lights. I ask that you give the red-light camera program time to prove its effectiveness.

Doug Robertson

Chapel Hill

January 15, 2004

Director, UNC Highway Safety Research Center

Fred,

Well researched! Good point and a good question.

Indeed, I personally don't like the idea of cameras run by the government stationed at intersects watching for people committing crimes or infractions. My concerns about privacy are subjective. As I said in my remarks on Monday, I also recognize that these observations made to a Ms. Williams 18 months ago, aren't, as a legal argument and in the minds of many citizens, as compelling. Additionally, I've become convinced that despite my subjective concerns about privacy, the expectations of privacy while driving down the street are limited.

At the end of the day, the arguments I reference above, in my petition and in my remarks on Monday are very important policy considerations that compel termination of the program. I felt it was necessary to restate that I'm not bringing up privacy since many people seemed confused by the two terms "privacy" and "privatization."

But it should be noted that my privacy concerns even in June 2002 were secondary to the privatization issues that I'm still talking about. In the context of Ms. Williams complete article it is clear, I have many objections and privatization, not privacy was "most important[ ]" to me.

SAIC (like most of the players in this area) is primarily a defence/intelligence company. RLC's are a way of plowsharing a lot of technology that no longer needs to be as classified as it once was.

Used to have a lot of NSA alums; not as cool as Lockheed, but still got a lot of geek cred.

Simon

I have no reason to believe that Dr. Robertson has any personal reason to support the ACS's contentions about the cameras. But perhaps it should be noted that, before coming to the North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, he was involved in the selling of similar camera systems known as Video Enforcement Systems (VES). He was a former Vice President and Regional Operations Manager for Science Applications International Corp., in Alexandria Va. ( http://www.hsrc.unc.edu/pressrelease/director.htm ). SAIC sells a lot of products, but one of the products it sells is something called TollVision, which are automated cameras mounted at toll booths that catch toll booth runners ( http://www.saic.com/products/transportation/tollvision/index.html ). As far as I can tell, SAIC is not in the business of actual enforcement, just supplying the means of enforcement. But one might guess that Dr. Robertson, having had some experience in the area and having been involved in the selling of such systems, might have some lingering interest in defending their efficacy. (To be fair, TollVision is only one of many SAIC products.)

Joe,

I'm afraid the current RLC program has little safety value, addresses a narrow range of problems and is being deliberately applied by ITRE to intersections that have fewer instead of more accidents.

Already, as predicted, based on the quarterly report, it appears rear-end accidents have increased several-fold at the covered intersections. There's much better alternatives discussed here and elsewhere that could reduce rear-ending, t-boning, side-swipe, etc.

Remember, a safe intersection is a well-engineered intersection. RLC puts the safety focus in the wrong place. It's a “set-it and forget-it” paradigm.

As to Dr. Robertson's letter, to my dismay I'm sorry to tell you that there appear to be several serious problems.

First, he's incorrect about law enforcement reviewing the citations. That's done by our traffic engineers and ACS. It isn't relevant to the due process problems, but having an officer review a photograph is not sufficient, as all the lawsuits in CA show (electronic signatures were affixed in one location!). If a police officer could attest to the proper functioning of the system, to the fact the evidence hasn't been altered, to the fact there weren't extenuating circumstances, etc. - even then, having him or her involved is next to worthless.

Next, the statistics he quotes (900 national, 147 in NC over all the '90s) refer to all intersection-related accidents, not just to the type of accident, angle accidents, that the RLC is supposed to help control. Of course, a significant number of these accidents are caused by DUI – but of course those numbers aren't broken out. In Chapel Hill, the only fatality at an active RLC site was caused by DUI. FYI, DUI accounted for 601 deaths in NC in 2002. The %18 increase in to intersection-related fatalities in the '90s grew at a much smaller rate than the overall traffic growth (you've been around for awhile Joe, traffic seem heavier now?).

According to the statistics ITRE and the town are using we don't have a problem in Chapel Hill.

Finally, as far as the statistics, that %40 reduction wasn't in 90 communities, if he's quoting the IIHS study, it was one community, Oxnard, California. The study involved a set of extremely high accident rate intersections. Further, this study and another that ITRE's own Prof. Hummer participated in, conclude that extrapolating these reductions to low accident intersections was inappropriate.

We have extremely low accident intersections.

In other words, “your results my vary” (something, when I hear it on TV, usually leads me to believe it's a major SCAM).

More troubling, especially coming from Dr. Robertson, is the continued fear-mongering that waving these exaggerated statistics around is supposed to engender. It's a shame.

Dr. Robertson should also be aware that RLR is not just done by scofflaws. Based on many pro-RLC studies, it's very apparent that many RLRs are caused by poor engineering, thus the RLC, designed to change human-behavior will create little, no or possibly negative improvements.

.

On to his other points.

“The witness to a violation is the photograph, which citizens have the right to appeal.”

A camera, operated by an entity with a profit motive, does not constitute a reliable witness. ACS is allowed to alter the photograph. They don't indicate which citations were altered.. The calibrations, as the recently settled CA lawsuits show, can be extremely suspect or incorrect. GIGO, Joe, GIGO. (garbage-in, garbage-out).

When Dr. Robertson turns to 'privacy protection' as the only civil rights concern, you know he's taking a play from the playbook of ACS's astroturf front group, the National Campaign Against Redlight Running (which might as well be called the National Campaign to Spread Fear in Order to Improve Profits).

Sure, I think it's creepy that we have surveillance cameras and is a nasty harbinger of even more intrusive monitoring, but that isn't my rights issue.

It's my right to due process, to untainted evidence, to confrontation, to timely notice, to equal protection and on and on that I'm concerned about. Inverting the argument and making it about privacy is a pretty predictable strategy. While almost everyone is offended by the “guilty until proved innocent” nature of a RLC system, most seem unconcerned about being photographed. Again, very disappointing to have someone like Dr. Robertson present this smoke-screed.

Finally, he says that monitoring citations is an appropriate metric for a program like the current RLC. In this he goes against NHSTA, CA-DOT, Michigan-DOT, ITRE (!!!) and a slew of other pro-RLC programs.

Joe, maybe you can get Dr. Robertson to explain why he's joined the fear-mongers and presented RLC as the only solution.

Red Light Cameras: A Modest Proposal

As many of you may be aware, Chapel Hill has contracted with Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) to enforce laws on red light running using a system of fixed cameras. ACS installs cameras at selected intersections, and pays the town of Chapel Hill a 4% cut out of the $50 charged for each paid ticket.

These fully automated systems cost a lot of money to install. As a result, only a few intersections can be monitored, and drivers quickly learn where the cameras have been installed. The deterrent effect would be far stronger if any red light might be being monitored.

Fortunately, there is a much better way to deal with the problem of red light violations. Instead of following the old-fashioned neo-statist approach of granting a contract to a single, monopolistic supplier, the Town should instead allow anyone to claim the $48 bounty for paid tickets from drivers they catch running lights.

An enteprising college student with a single use disposable camera can move from intersection to intersection as fast as a bicycle can carry her. An impoverished vetran reduced to life at the IFC can conceal himself from approaching violators in ways that ACS's concrete emplacements can never hope to emulate.

Since red light violations are civil matters, our bounty hunters only need to prove their cases by a preponderance of the evidence; on appeal the courts will easily be able to determine whether they have done so or not. Since under my proposal there will always be a human witness present at the scene and available for cross-examination in the courtroom, the evidence available will be much stronger than that collected by ACS's purely mechanical contrivances.

What sayeth the council?

An enterprising college student might hang out near his ex-girlfriend's house until he gets her running a red-light.

Mark

Not a problem; this is a civil matter, so vindictive prosecution isn't a factor.

Hi Y'all,

I've not weighed in on the red like cameras because I have mxed

feelings about them: While I think they will help the safety

issue, I don't like the privatization of our police efforts.

In my tenure on the town council, several times we fielded complaints

of one kind or another against the police department, and

it was crucial to have the direct link of responsibility

(council-manager-chief-officer) to resolve the issues. Inserting

a corporate and distant vendor in this chain really bothers me. However this morning, Doug Robertson who directs the NC Highway

Safety Research Center, for whom I have the greatest

respect, wrote a letter in the CH Herald in support of the

cameras. It contained this quote:

"Citations are issued by law enforcement officers who review the

photographs, not by camera vendors."

I wrote to Doug, asking exactly who are these officers who

issue the citations, but have not yet heard back from him.

If indeed officers of the CHPD do make the decisions and

issue the citations, then I feel a whole lot better about the

cameras. Does anyone know for a fact who actually

makes the decision on whether to issue a citation to an

alleged red-light runner?

Mark,

Earlier this month, you posted, "In order to respond to some emails I've been receiving, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not concerned about privacy in regards to RLCs. Civil liberties and the Bill of Rights protect a lot more than that. Please re-read the petition and my subsequent posts. I don't bring up privacy rights, but nor do I claim people should run more lights, or run even them with impunity.

Posted by: Mark K. at 6:16 PM 01/10/04"

In a June 19, 2002 interview by Jennifer Williams, she indicates that you stated: "Kleinschmidt also said he disagrees with the ethics of having red light cameras at intersections. 'I think it’s a civil liberties issue,' he said. 'I’m not comfortable with having spy cameras at intersections, watching people do things.'”

What caused you to change the rationale for you opposition to the RLCs?

Eric,

Thank you for adding the link of your analysis of my privatization concerns. I understand your point about the parallel criminal and tort systems. But I think there's an important distinction to be made. Sure, civil actions are available to provide redress for personal claims. But I contend that although the private civil law tort system exists to regulate the relationships between private parties, it's an inappropriate response to conduct that has historically been a violation of public interests. Tort exists to compensate individuals for specific damages, a necessary element to any tort...crimes are defined to regulate offense behavior to society (notwithstanding the availability of punitive damages in some cases, but even those require specific damages to be established first.)

Isn't there a difference between a government-citizen relationship and a citizen-citizen relationship? and isn't that difference underscored in those instances where the government has traditionally regulated a bad act by defining it as a crime or infraction that has also been provided the accompanying civil liberties/due process protections? Isn't' the difference in the relationship the source of concern that led to the development of civil liberty guarantees in the first place? Sure, governments and citizen lives intersect at many different points. Red-light running has been one of those intersections that has historically been regulated in the criminal sphere. I think we should be very careful before we change the rules of interaction. I don't believe we're being careful when the expressed concern of many is that we're not tough enough on red-light runners. How is eliminating the toughest sanctions getting tough? How is eliminating the protections honoring that relationship?

Surprisingly, ITRE has DELIBERATELY placed the RLCs at minimally dangerous intersections, all to enhance their study, not our safety.

Professor Hummer, quoted from the DTH http://www.dailytarheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/01/12/4002a286b2d88

'Hummer said he chose Chapel Hill's cameras for the study because they are located at intersections that do not have a high number of annual collisions. "Every other study has been based on intersections with a high number of collisions. This is the first study without such a bias."'

Isn't this "bias" the whole reason for having this loser in the first place?

So, we have a program run by ACS, a business that stoops to having their astroturf organization contact each of our council members without identifying their associations to ACS (and which criticizes the lead council member against their position and even more ridiculous behavior), coupled with an organization that doesn't want to place the RLCs where they're most needed.

All this, in spite of better alternatives.

My family, my friends, my co-workers are ready to opt out of Prof. Hummer's research project. Don't play research games with the safety of our citizens.

If this bothers you as much as I contact Ms. Verkerk and Mr. Ward, tell them It is now time to STOP THE EXPERIMENT!

Terri, I don't have that info at my fingertips; it is something that was explained to me when I received my "training" to be an appeals officer for the red light camera program (a position from which I resigned without ever having heard an appeal).

Kumar in the engineering department over at city hall would be able to give you chapter and verse, if you're interested.

Eric--you say that the current implementation of RLCs are 'part of an ongoing study of their effectiveness that will not be complete until late this year." Do you know where to find the description of that study, including the variables they are investigating and how they plan to analyze the data for policy purposes?

My gut instinct is that RLC'S are a bad idea. Last spring I nearly got rear-ended on Airport Road by the Trailways bus that flies through late in the day. I stopped for the yellow light because I knew I didn't have time to make it through the intersection--and I don't know WHY the bus didn't stop--perhaps the driver couldn't see the light because of the sun low in the sky?--but if the left turn lane hadn't been empty SOMEBODY would have gotten hurt. (Probably killed--that bus was doing 45 and never touched the brakes.)

I will reserve judgement however. I DO want to see some HARD DATA--and I DO want to know why so many of the "violations" are getting dismissed---certqinly THIS particular company isn't doing a very good job.

Melanie

Today's Durham Herald has an editorial and the editorial cartoon dedicated to the RLCs. http://www.heraldsun.com/opinion/hsedits/56-434871.html warns the Durham Council not to make the same mistakes as Chapel Hill has made in their contract with ACS or any other vendor. One quote that at least one poster here will enjoy:

"Red-light cameras, when installed and operated by private firms such as Affiliated Computer, in effect turn over part of the town's police function to a corporation. That's why Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt has led the charge against the cameras.

He's as right as rain. This is privatization taken a camera too far. Affiliated Computer isn't a charity; it installs and operates red-light cameras because they make money. Meanwhile, the town government just waits for its monthly cut."

BTW, here's the Channel 17 coverage of this story, from before the meeting. (Someone should tell them how local gummint works around here, ie: slowly)

http://nbc17.feedroom.com/index.jsp?auto_band=x&rf=sv&fr_story=f9c812ee0b2b6dd4325efcf528bd71e7fe43585d

(Beware, there's an ad that plays before the clip.)

Your assignment for today:

1) What do extremely vocal pro-RLC public figures have in common?

(hint: Bachman, Ward, Clapp, etc)

2) What common campaign contributors, if any, do Bachman (see her letter in the Herald today and compare to ACS support letters in other cities) and Ward share?

3) What is the mode of operation of ACS in other cities? (hint: local lobbyist and aggressive campaigns)

Resources: County Board of Elections, google, asking directly.

We at the Ministry of Truth await your reports.

Yeah, what's up with Ward? I can't remember many cases of Council-members voting against a receive/refer motion, especially when it's the petition of a fellow Council member. Kind of a slap in the face to Kleinschmidt in that regard.

Any thoughts on why Ward would go to the mat on this before it even comes up for discussion on the Council agenda?

The Council "recieved and referred" the petion, which is pretty much what they do with petitions. It should be back on their agenda in two weeks. Jim Ward fought hard against even referring the petition - he wants to wait a year until a study of the cameras comes out.

Does anyone have a summary of how things went?

If nothing else, can we at least the contract re-bid to University Massage?

Mike,

Thanks for an excellent and reasoned response. I also believe this is just the beginning of the discussion on automated enforcement in general. As we begin to live in a world with programs like CAPPSII , Patriot Act II, etc. where data mining, automated surveillance and enforcement will become more dominant and as the erosion of our civil protections accelerates under their influence, I think we'll see the RLC program for what it is, incongruous with the ideals our country was founded on.

Future generations will point to these type of 'innocent' programs as either one of our great follies or one of our worst decisions, depending on how far we let it go.

No, I was just curious how our police department feels about it. I think our elected officials have a responsibility to be as responsive and helpful to Chapel Hill's extremely professional, talented police force. Will, as you know through our many rigorous discussions, we agreed on alot of points and shared many concerns about RLCs. I still am not entirely against them; I do think there is alot of discussion left to be had on RLC. However, I firmly believe in propelling democracy, and the recent election along with other demonstrations of public opinion indicates that most Chapel Hillians want to get rid of RLCs. Democracy calls for elected officials to make beneficial policy decisions that are in accordance with the community's values. And for that reason alone, I support Mark's petition. The police department can offer a valuable perspective on RLCs, and I hope the council considers that before making a decision.

Mike,

Are you planning to go before the council and ask them to keep RLCs? I thought you'd change your mind after seeing all the technical issues, etc. with the system.

NBC 17 will attempt to get the police chiefs comments on the 6pm news tonight...

"I'd rather leave the law enforcement to the folks paid by my taxes to do it."

Does anyone know how our law enforcers feel about RLC's?

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