Tag Archives: Red Light Camera

Red Light Retrospective: Red Light Cameras and the Birth of Keep Columbia Free

While Missourians far and wide are celebrating the ruling issued by the Eastern District Court of Appeals regarding the legality, or illegality as it were, of red light camera programs in the state, it seems like the perfect time to take a look back at Keep Columbia Free’s relationship with Columbia’s own red light camera program. Most Columbians would not be surprised to find that Keep Columbia Free has long been opposed to the use of red light cameras, but few people know the seminal role these Orwellian cash machines played in bringing together this merry band of liberty lovers.

Early in 2010 a local liberty group known as Liberty on the Rocks, part of the national Liberty on the Rocks organization, was fomenting opposition to the deployment of Red Light Cameras in Columbia under the leadership of Liz DeFoe-Thomas. Another liberty group in Kansas City, The Liberty Restoration Project, had been sounding the alarm via social media and Liz had heard the call.

Mark Flakne had also heard the LRP call and, via some mutual friends on Facebook, was contacted by DeFoe-Thomas and invited to a sign-making party in preparation for Columbia’s first protest against the Red Light Cameras. It was at that party that Mark met Mitch Richards and the two immediately became fast friends.

The protest received a great deal of interest from the media and was a smashing success, drawing an endless chorus of enthusiastic honks from passing motorists.

Here are a few scenes from the party and the protest…

More protests and more honks followed…

As the first camera protest was winding down, local attorney Dan Viets stopped by and chatted with Flakne and Richards. Viets invited the two — and the rest of the group — to join in a local coalition he was forming to push back against another Orwellian camera scheme, the Downtown Safety Cameras. A week or two later, DeFoe-Thomas, Richards, and Flakne sat down with Dan, the then local ACLU, local Libertarian Party officials, and various other non-affiliated individuals concerned with government overreach. It was at this meeting that the first incarnation of Keep Columbia Free was born.

Following the failed campaign in opposition to the Safety Cameras, the committee was officially dissolved. Sensing the need for a liberty-centered organization with a broader scope, Richards and Flakne took on the mantle of leadership and re-registered the group as the political action committee you know today.

Over the last three-and-a-half years, Keep Columbia Free has often spoken against Columbia’s red light camera program. Here are a few tidbits from these past articles.

From Red Light Rip-Off:

The spin doctors in the Columbia City Manager’s Office have been hard at work twisting the reports regarding the city’s red light cameras. They claim that the red light cameras are to thank for fewer accidents at the intersections where they are installed. Both of our local papers have printed these claims without so much as a peep regarding the legitimacy of the study, so let’s break it down.

From Red Light Cameras: The Documents:

Was the practice of an all-red pause at intersections considered? An all-red pause and longer yellows would do more to improve the safety of intersections than red light cameras, but this change would not generate profits for Gatso and its partners at the City of Columbia. It’s all about the money, folks.

What it boils down to is that these statistics say nothing about the effectiveness of Gatso’s red light cameras. Assuming that Tony St Romaine and Bill Watkins are both intellegent enough to understand these statistics, it is frightening to see that our City Manager’s Office would attempt to distort the truth by feeding lies to the media and the citizens of Columbia whom they serve.

Does this prove that our city government couldn’t care less about the safety of our city, especially when there is a profit to be had?

From Toni and Tony Twist the Truth:

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.

From Is Tony St. Romain Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?:

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine might be smarter than a 5th grader, but when he talks about red light camera statistics, he’s definitely not smarter than a 12th grader.

I asked my 12th grade son the following:

The City of Columbia installed red light cameras at four intersections two years ago. The number of citations issued by the camera machinery dropped 28 percent in 2012 when compared with 2011. The City says that this indicates that the cameras are working. Is that a reasonable claim?

Without hesitation, my 12th grader reasoned that this claim could not be reasonable without knowing the traffic rates for the time periods in question and the number of citations at non-camera intersections during the same time periods (provided that enforcement patrol patterns had not changed at the non-camera intersections).

So why does Tony St. Romaine continue to claim that the red light cameras are a stunning success based on phony, partial statistics and tortured logic? Is he really a simpleton?

From Banning Red Light Cameras in Columbia:

I’ve written a couple of  blogs on the subject of red light cameras in Columbia, questioning the City Manager’s assessment of their effectiveness. You can read them HERE and HERE. I contend, and the city’s own documents support the fact, that red light cameras do not keep us safe from accidents at intersections. Instead, these Orwellian tools serve only to extract a profit for international corporate giant, Gatso, and the City of Columbia. Along with financial profits, the cameras added over $80,000 to the city budget and bureaucracy which gives a boost to the resume of any up and coming assistant city manager.

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Is Tony St. Romaine Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

smarter_desktop_1600x1200[1] copyAssistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine might be smarter than a 5th grader, but when he talks about red light camera statistics, he’s definitely not smarter than a 12th grader.

I asked my 12th grade son the following:

The City of Columbia installed red light cameras at four intersections two years ago. The number of citations issued by the camera machinery dropped 28 percent in 2012 when compared with 2011. The City says that this indicates that the cameras are working. Is that a reasonable claim?

Without hesitation, my 12th grader reasoned that this claim could not be reasonable without knowing the traffic rates for the time periods in question and the number of citations at non-camera intersections during the same time periods (provided that enforcement patrol patterns had not changed at the non-camera intersections).

So why does Tony St. Romaine continue to claim that the red light cameras are a stunning success based on phony, partial statistics and tortured logic? Is he really a simpleton?

In a recent issue of the Columbia Daily Tribune, Tony said:

“Our motive in installing the cameras was not profit-driven. The numbers support that,” St. Romaine said. “At first, we witnessed large numbers of red-light violations. We now see it dropping off on an annual basis because it’s working.”

And let’s not forget that the timing of the yellow lights at these intersections was changed after the 2011 reporting period and before the 2012 reporting period. Could this timing change be a factor? Ummm… yes…

Ol’ “Red Light” Tony has made similar claims in the past. You can read about them at the following links.

Tony and Toni Twist the Truth

Red Light Rip-Off

Red Light Cameras: The Documents

This type of behavior would not be tolerated in the private sector unless there was money to be made. Of course, no one should be surprised to see stupidity among government bureaucrats, but it does leave one wondering, is Tony really a dumbfounding dolt or is he being paid to make these outlandish claims. Either way, he should be fired. My son needs a job and is at least more qualified than Ol’ “Red Light” Tony.

 

 

 

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Toni and Tony Twist the Truth

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. 

Interested readers can read all about the previous false claims HERE  and HERE

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.

mayor@gocolumbiamo.com; ward6@gocolumbiamo.com; ward5@gocolumbiamo.com; ward4@gocolumbiamo.com; ward3@gocolumbiamo.com; ward2@gocolumbiamo.com; ward1@gocolumbiamo.com;  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!

Mark Flakne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Banning Red Light Cameras in Columbia

I’ve written a couple of  blogs on the subject of red light cameras in Columbia, questioning the City Manager’s assessment of their effectiveness. You can read them HERE and HERE. I contend, and the city’s own documents support the fact, that red light cameras do not keep us safe from accidents at intersections. Instead, these Orwellian tools serve only to extract a profit for international corporate giant, Gatso, and the City of Columbia. Along with financial profits, the cameras added over $80,000 to the city budget and bureaucracy which gives a boost to the resume of any up and coming assistant city manager.

While accidents at some of the surveilled intersections did decrease, others stayed relatively static or saw marked increases under the watchful eye of the cameras.

Read the City Manager’s report here.

See the actual accident statistics here.

And let us not forget that red light cameras represent one more step in the ever encroaching tide of government surveillance. In a few short years our local government has embraced iris scanners, license plate readers, downtown surveillance cameras, and red light cameras all in the name of public safety. None of these “tools” have made us safer. Instead they have moved us closer to the day when government officials can track us from the moment we leave the house  until the moment we return home.

With this in mind, Keep Columbia Free and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) will begin collecting signatures for a proposed red light camera ban in Columbia. Several other municipalities around the state and around the country have banned red light cameras and it’s time Columbia did the same.

See the Keep Columbia Free Red Light Camera Ban ballot language here.

We’ll be gathering signatures all over town soon. If you want to sign the petition, check our contact us page and drop a line one way or another.

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RED LIGHT RIP-OFF

 

The spin doctors in the Columbia City Manager’s Office have been hard at work twisting the reports regarding the city’s red light cameras. They claim that the red light cameras are to thank for fewer accidents at the intersections where they are installed. Both of our local papers have printed these claims without so much as a peep regarding the legitimacy of the study, so let’s break it down.

The Missourian reported that according to the CPD “the number of accidents declined by 10.6 percent in the intersections after red-light cameras were installed, from 157 to 142 in comparable time periods.”

The city manager’s office is touting this drop as proof that the cameras are working and the local media is apparently buying it. Take a look at this headline from the Trib: “Cameras lead to city profits, fewer crashes”. At least the Trib got the “profit” part correct.

Now, that’s all well and good until one looks at the bigger picture. What does it really mean to simply point out that the number of accidents declined under the watchful eye of Big Brother Gatso? It really means nothing unless we have more data to compare.

For instance, what was the traffic count before the cameras? Were there simply more cars traveling through the camera intersections before the cameras? Higher traffic volume would mean more potential accidents. Fewer cars after the camera installation would mean fewer crashes. Of course, this information didn’t make it to the public eye.

What about comparing the number of accidents at non-camera intersections to the camera monitored intersections during the same time period? Perhaps accident rates dropped at all intersections across the city. What if the rate of accidents actually dropped by a larger number at non-camera intersections? Would the city then claim that the Gatso cameras are causing accidents? Could Columbians then sue Gatso?

How about looking at the rate of overall traffic accidents citywide? Are Columbians simply becoming better drivers as the economy continues to falter and insurance rates go up?

Maybe I’m wrong and maybe the rest of the numbers do support the notion that cameras equal safety, but doesn’t it seem just a wee bit disingenuous for the city to not conduct a complete study or release all of the statistics to the press? The numbers printed by both of Columbia’s major newspapers are meaningless, but that doesn’t matter to the majority of readers or voters. I fear that most people will read right over the story believing that if it’s printed it must be true and go right back to dreaming of being a contestant on American Idol.

What I do know is that the city’s original estimate that claimed the city’s camera system wouldn’t break even was wrong. These camera-jockey bureaucrats added over $18,000 in profit to their coffers. Heck, the international mega-corporation Gatso pocketed over $58,000 from the wallets of the citizens of our little city and will continue to profit as long as their cameras fail to stop red light violations.

 And the Tribune printed this little gem from the lame duck city manager Bill Watkins,

“The discussions with Gatso have shown that at other intersections, it has reduced some of the red-light running,” Watkins said. “At some of the intersections that the initial intersection study indicated should have them, it is not as much of a problem.”

I’m a little confused by this statement, but it seems that Bill is relying on information from the for-profit camera company to determine the need for and the effectiveness of its product. He probably received his talking points at the same meeting. Who runs this city anyway, the voters or Gatso?

I also know that the over $18,000 profit comes after our already bulging city bureaucracy grew to the tune of nearly $82,000 to fund the tasks surrounding ticketing. I guess taking from the pockets of citizens in order to grow government is stimulus, right?

When a city bureaucracy learns to self-fund through partnerships with multinational mega-corporations, nothing good can come of it.

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