Once again, City of Columbia bureaucratic functionaries are playing fast and loose with the truth about Columbia’s red light camera program. The last time Tony St. Romaine was caught spinning statistics in the city’s favor he was merely an Assistant City Manager, but his spin skills have since earned him a promotion to the position of Deputy City Manager.
In a recently published article in the Columbia Missourian, a new Toni joined the mix — Columbia Public Communications Director Toni Messina. As if fulfilling some sort of homophonic destiny, this bureaucratic Tony/Toni duo teamed up for some dizzying spin in an attempt to explain why the City has opted not to install the previously planned, additional red light cameras.
In the story, Messina and St. Romaine make the argument that the plan for additional cameras was scrapped due to a marked decrease in the number of red light violations and that the the four existing cameras could be credited for the drop due to some sort of magical “spill-over effect.”
That might indicate that the red-light cameras already installed have caused drivers to be cautious throughout the city, St. Romaine said. “I think it’s had a spill-over effect into the rest of Columbia.”
Messina made a similar claim:
“They’re not seeing the type of violations that they had seen earlier. The number of red-light violations has leveled off to a point where it’s looking like they [red light cameras] had the desired effect,” she said
So according to these two, the four red light cameras have worked their Gatso magic and cured Columbians of their dangerous red light running addiction.
But the two disagreed slightly on the influence money made on the decision to abandon the camera expansion plan. Of course, St. Romaine has always claimed that the increased revenue was not important and he stuck to his story.
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said that revenue had no bearing on the decision not to install more cameras.
“The reason red-light cameras were put in was to make the public more aware of the potential consequences of running red lights,” he said.
Messina was singing a slightly different tune and admitted that money was a factor. Perhaps she is just a more effective spin doctor. After all, the best lies always contain a little truth.
Messina went on…
“…they had the desired effect,” she said. “When that happens, it generates less revenue and the vendor is affected by that as well.”
I think we all know that the system is all about the money. A silver-tounged salesman comes in from out of town and with a little Harold Hill song and dance, convinces Mayor Shinn — er– Hindman that there’s trouble in River City that only Gatso cameras can fix. Of course, the city loves the plan — they get to add money to the general fund. The City Manager’s office loves the idea because their respective résumés appear more robust as most of the funds are used to add to our already bloated city bureaucracy. And who can argue with the plan? Heck, it has to make us safer. It’s for the children, right?
What these government agents… I mean… city officials have failed to tell us is the real reason red light violations are down in Columbia. It has nothing to do with these silly cameras.
You see, earlier this year MODOT, in an attempt to reduce accidents at intersections governed by stoplights, changed the timing of the lights by adding more time to the yellow portion of the light timing. And, wouldn’t ya know it, all of Columbia traffic cameras are at intersections governed by MODOT.
We at Keep Columbia Free have always argued that a longer yellow and an all-red pause would do far more to make intersections safer than any camera system could hope to. The problem with simply adjusting the lights instead of installing cameras is that nobody gets rich by merely adjusting the lights.
Now it’s time to get rid of the four remaining red light cameras in this city. Let’s run these Gatso rats out of town once and for all. The cameras were installed with little to no public input and have done nothing but fill the coffers of the corporate giant Gatso and increase our city bureaucracy. We encourage you to write to the city council and demand that these terrible Orwellian red light cameras be removed immediately.
Here are the email addresses for the Mayor, City Council and City Manager.
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; CityMan@gocolumbiamo.com
We also encourage you to get behind our efforts to have these cameras banned once and for all. A rough draft of our ballot language can be found HERE. Look for finalized language and a petition soon.
Special thanks to Matt Hay of Wrong On Red for his help with and hard work on this issue!