Opinion

Lockwood: Hickenlooper’s torrid red-light camera love affair continues

Author: Jonathan Lockwood - June 5, 2016 - Updated: June 5, 2016

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Jonathan Lockwood
Jonathan Lockwood

Coloradans are still left wishing Gov. John Hickenlooper knew how to quit red-light cameras. His torrid love affair with the red-light camera industry continues to be exposed with his latest move to veto, for the second year in a row, a bipartisan bill to restrict red-light cameras in Colorado.

We have said it before, and we will say it again, big government and special interests have ganged up on Colorado drivers in an effort to fill up their own bank accounts at the expense of ours. These cameras are nothing more than one more weapon in the pocket of gangster government that endanger our safety and violate our privacy.

Following the governor’s veto, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who has carried the bill for the past three years, explained to KCNC-CBS 4 that the cameras are hated across the board by members and constituents of both parties because “they have a high error rate, increase rear-end collisions and are an invasion of privacy.”

Questionable evidence that red light cameras improve safety, coupled with charges of corruption, cast doubt on the real motivations behind the use of these devices. Hickenlooper claims his priority is to keep the streets safe and that traffic cameras aid in this objective. A study out of Chicago, and others like it, actually come to a different conclusion: Red-light cameras cause an increase in accidents and therefore endanger more drivers.

This year, Hickenlooper received kudos from the Traffic Safety Coalition. The “coalition” claims that red-light cameras prevent accidents. The last time anyone checked, all the red-light cameras do is take a photo, they don’t drop down a forcefield or a net to prevent a driver from flying through an intersection.

Not only are red-light cameras highly questionable with respect to safety vs. revenue, but also the entire process has come under fire for corruption. Reports of bribery by the red-light camera company Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., have sparked outrage and legislative action to take them down across the country. Karen Finley, the former CEO of Redflex, was indicted on federal corruption charges. Finley, shocking no one, pleaded guilty to a $2 million bribery scheme in Illinois. Redflex employees, including Finley, stand accused of showering government officials in up to 13 states, including Colorado, with lavish gifts and fancy dinners, in the hope that officials would sign contracts with Redflex. We all would like to know who has received bribes in Colorado.

Denver collects $6.5 million a year in fines from red-light cameras. Denver’s cameras target drivers for minor infractions, such as ticketing vehicles that stop with their front wheels slightly over the white line at intersections. In 2011, this revenue-enhancing strategy increased citations by 465 percent, according to The Denver Post. And while Denver generates $6.5 million of revenue a year, Redflex could have pocketed up to $1.1 million annually when it previously had the contract. Two years ago, Fort Collins raked in more than $650,000 in ticket revenue and paid Redflex nearly 60 percent of that total. Now that’s a “public-private partnership” plundering Colorado drivers that only a crony could love.

Not to unravel the message here, but one could, I suppose, say that it’s not about revenue collection for the city but rather for red-light camera companies. And if the red-light camera company is the one getting the majority of the “revenue,” it then raises the question, why would politicians be okay with the majority of the money being raked in going not to the government, but to a company, unless they were getting bribed?

Paul Houston, a local activist, has provided Coloradans with an example of what to do now. Rather than waiting on the statehouse to get its act together and for the governor to sign a bill, he launched a petition to force a special election to remove red-light cameras in Sheridan. Sheridan’s city budget shows it recently raised about $1.46 million from red-light camera and photo radar fines. When turning in his petition signatures he told KDVR-Fox 31, “This is historic. It’s never been tried before in the state of Colorado. The city said it’s about safety, but they can’t point to any valid study that proves that.”

Coloradans need to be up in arms over Hickenlooper’s continued defiance on this issue and demand their legislators push back on his totalitarian view on road safety and privacy. The best way to push back against the governor is to make it local, petition in local areas and take care of it at the city level. Hickenlooper may have a pen, but he doesn’t have a sword, and its time we free ourselves from the tyranny of his love affair.

Jonathan Lockwood

Jonathan Lockwood

Jonathan Lockwood is a Portland, Oregon-based Republican communications consultant who was the head of Advancing Colorado, a nonprofit that garnered international attention with its multi-media campaign against the Iran deal.