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Letter to the Editor: More Years of Red light cams in Solana Beach?

Honorable Mayor and Council:

The former five year contract between the City and Redflex expired in October, and since then – I am told – staff has been negotiating a new contract and the parties are very close to agreement.  Since I don’t know for sure that staff will present the new contract to your Council for review, or when they might do that, I am taking this opportunity to raise a few points.

Shouldn’t the program be evaluated, for effectiveness, before a contract is negotiated or signed? Among other things, wouldn’t you like to know why ticketing has not decreased after years of enforcement but is in fact rising, with 2014 ticketing 40% (or more) higher than in previous years?  (Data from highwayrobbery [dot] net.)  May I suggest that the evaluation be done by a person having professional credentials in statistics and who is completely independent of the City and the sheriff?  May I also suggest that after such an evaluation is published, and before any hearing is held before the Council, there should be a review period of a couple weeks to provide time for the public to comment on the evaluation?

If you determine that the program should be continued, then there is the question of the rent.  For the last five years the City has paid $2364 per camera per month, and I have been told that the proposed new contract may continue at that same amount.   You have had your Redflex cameras for a long time, since 2004; here is how Redflex has agreed to reward another City’s loyalty.

redlight_table
Table from the Mar. 2014 contract between the City of Elk Grove, California and Redflex, for that City’s system of five cameras.

If Solana Beach agrees to another five year extension and continues to pay the old price, the City will pay an extra $103,680 over the five years (compared to Elk Grove’s prices), and to cover that rent it will need to issue tickets to an extra 1037 motorists (assuming the City receives $100 of revenue for each ticket issued).

Finally, I want to pass along a couple remarkable statements.

  1. From a Dec. 26, 2014 Wall Street Journal interview:  “Mr. [James] Saunders [president of Redflex] suggests jurisdictions refrain from issuing a [rolling right] ticket except when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk.”  The headline was, “Can the Red-Light Camera Be Saved? – Money-hungry politicians discredit a hopeful safety innovation.”  (A Jan. 22, 2015 column in the Dallas Morning News confirmed the statement The Journal had attributed to Saunders:   “When I asked Redflex spokeswoman Jody Ryan about her boss’ comments urging cities to lighten up on rolling reds, she answered, “It only makes sense that Jim is going to say, ‘Look, we need people to be thoughtful about how they are implementing these programs and how they are issuing citations.’ It wasn’t that shocking.”)

Saunder’s statement is highly relevant to Solana Beach because 66% of the City’s tickets are for right turns.  You can see the annual report here

  1. From an editorial in the U-T, published at the time the Poway city council was about remove the cameras from that city:

“Let’s eliminate every trace of this bad civic memory.
And to city leaders in Oceanside [closed in late 2014], Vista, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar — it’s time to do likewise.
The cameras are simply not doing the intended job.”

Sincerely,

Jim Lissner