Redlight Cameras will Soon End

How do I know this? After months of silence and failed efforts at the state level to end this travesty of justice, how can I say this now?

Because it will happen. Because the constitution means something to all of us, especially us Texans.

A new initiative has started, right here in the Denton area. We’re changing the law. It will be hard. It has always been hard. But we need to take back our laws from the hands of corporations and special interest groups. We will do this, together.

You need to go to this site and signup. That simple. Do it now.

CAMFREETEXAS.

Provide your email address (no need to fill out the entire form if you don’t want to) and you will be provided with your first step to helping make this movement a reality.

First Denton, tomorrow the Lone Star state!

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The Time for Action – Ending Red Light Camera Scams in Texas

The folks over at Trash Your Ticket on Facebook have posted the following call to action:

The time for the statewide camera ban bill is getting close. Please call EVERYONE on the transportation committee and tell them to vote to pass the bill out of committee. It is SB340 that you should ask them to pass.http://www.senate.state.tx.us/7…/Senate/commit/c640/c640.htm

We’ve been quietly awaiting this legislation – a statewide ban is the most efficient solution to end the corporate greed that has infiltrated our local law enforcement and communities. If this fails, we’ll have no choice but to petition in each and every community across Texas. Red Light corporations and local governments have been showing resistance through legal action and denying legal petitions so they can hang on to their ill-gotten gains, but if it comes to that, we’ll be there. If this law passes however, we’ll have cut the problem off at the source.

For all of you that have contacted Free Denton and asked how you can help – this is your moment.

Interested in SB340? Read about it here. The bill does not harm or injure any local, home rule authority. The ONLY thing this bill does is change the wording of the EXISTING state law which allowed this scam to proliferate in the first place.

List of the members of the Transportation Committee and their contact info at the capitol:

The Honorable Robert Nichols
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0103
1-800-959-8633 (toll-free)

The Honorable Don Huffines
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0116

The Honorable Rodney G. Ellis
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0113
(512) 463-0006 (fax)

The Honorable Sylvia R. Garcia
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0106

The Honorable Troy Fraser
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0124

The Honorable Bob Hall
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0102
(512) 463-7202 (fax)

The Honorable Kelly Hancock
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0109

The Honorable Lois Kolkhorst
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0118

The Honorable Van Taylor
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0108

Not Out of the Woods Yet

Well, I’d been hoping with the impending implosion of Redflex here in the U.S. and the surge in communities across the country that are tearing down these unconstitutional driver shakedowns, that we’d be getting smarter here in Denton.

A document shared by Kevin Roden on his blog proved otherwise. Your elected city council plans to head to Austin with this on their agenda:

Oppose legislation that further restricts a city’s ability to implement a photographic red light enforcement system to use cameras at traffic lights and impose a civil penalty for running the light.

This is from their draft agenda for the 2015 State Legislative Agenda. They plan to go to Austin and continue to sell your constitutional rights to the highest bidder. Oh, and this is all about “public safety“…not profit.

They’re planning to speak out against House Bill 3304 which was left pending in committee two years ago and which, from my understanding, may finally see action this coming legislative session.

I left a request for a comment on his blog. Buckle up.

Exhibit1Denton-State-Legislative-Program-2015-copy

The Fight Ramps Up Across DFW

Other cities are getting wise to this and several county tax assessors REFUSE to enforce these unconstitutional “shake downs” by municipalities and local law enforcement. When will Denton wise up?

Corruption Charges Stick, City Employee Lies to DRC

First off, I want to apologize for getting so far behind on this fight. Partly, I was waiting to see the results of FrackFree Denton and whether our city council was at all interested in voting in the interest of citizen-led initiatives. Secondly, I’ve been swamped with my own business projects and unable to give enough time to this project.

On the good news, former Redflex Officials, including Karen Finley (another individual who worked with City of Denton officials) have been found guilty of bribery charges in the Chicago case. So while the wheels of justice grind slowly, they are effective and may just find their way to Texas.

These are the people your elected officials chose to do business with. Does anyone still believe everything was clean here in Texas?

A couple months back, Denton did finally comply with my Open Government request, providing thousands of emails and communications with city employees and officials. I have had time to perform a cursory review, but have not delved too deeply.

Despite the fact our city has kept the public largely uninformed about this multi-million dollar scam, there has been a tremendous amount of back and forth with the company. One interesting e-mail suggests that even more lies are going around.

In a July 2009 interview with the Denton Record Chronicle, Scott Fletcher of Denton PD spoke about a drop in the number of violations which had put the program into the red.

Fletcher said the cameras were never about making money. “We always intended from the beginning that if the system is working, the violations should go down” along with revenue, he said. “I didn’t think we’d drop off to that extent, but to me it’s an indication that the system is working.”

However, in an email exchange in February of 2009 with John Turner of Redflex, they were trouble shooting as to why the violations had dropped. Fletcher had this to say:

The first drop in violations was the yellow interval issue. We increased the yellow interval at three of the four intersections (5 of 6 approaches) due to a prior miscalculation of the interval time by our city engineer. The second drop in violations (October ’07) came as the result of the Texas Legislative action to essentially “formalize” RLC programs. Under the new State requirements, which went in to effect September 1 ’07, we moved the violation line back from the extension of the curb line to the marked stop bar. This change had a dramatic effect on our violation numbers.

Once again, we witness city officials lying to the public or public commissions to hide details about this money-grabbing scheme. Why would Redflex be “concerned” about a drop in violations if the POINT of this program was reducing violations and public safety? Why wouldn’t Mr. Fletcher tell the Denton Record Chronicle the TRUTH?

So far, as I’ve detailed in previous articles, every public engagement on this program has been to spread mis-information designed to prop this for-profit law enforcement scandal up. When will the city own up to this?

The answer is most likely “never”. Even if we were to approach the city with a signed petition showing our concerns, money and corruption would kick the can down the road. The city council has shown they are unwilling to engage myself and other citizens on this topic, even the local paper seems not to care that they have been used to print lies supporting this scandalous program.

I’m doing my best to keep an eye on things and if anyone would like to assist, I will continue to post all of the information I receive. Until then, do your best to fight this and make it known to your elected officials and city employees that we are on to their game.

Email Entitled: RE_ Contract Renewal Proposal

Steps You Can Take Now

While I continue to demand accountability from our local representatives, here are steps you can take now to fight red light camera fraud:

Sign the statewide petition: http://www.campaignforliberty.org/petitions/ban-the-red-light-cameras-in-texas/

Let your state legislator know that you support HB3304 to make it illegal for counties to refuse to register vehicles based on these tickets. Find out who to contact here: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx

Let your voice be heard!

Traffic Safety “Yes” Men

Yes, I’m still plugging away trying to get to the bottom of this colossal fraud perpetrated not only on the citizens of Denton but across the United States. Redflex continues to make news across the country where a New Jersey class action suit saw them settling on millions of dollars of fines which were pulled in through shortened yellow lights.

In California, officials have wised up and across that state, they have cut cameras from over a hundred municipalities operating these scams to now just 43. Most recently, the City Manager of Laguna Woods, one of the latest to dump the program, found that the cameras had no significant effect on collisions.

So, when will we wise up?

For the community to get wise requires transmission of truthful information. What the city has done is keep everyone as much in the dark as possible while spreading misinformation to support their money making scheme.

I have requested hundreds of documents through the Texas Open Government Act from the City of Denton. The entire history of the red light enforcement program is one of closed door and “special” meetings. Ordinances to be voted on are then buried in a sea of “business as usual” considerations on the public meeting floor before being given unanimous approval.

The closest thing Denton has had to public oversight of this program can be found in the Traffic Safety Commission, which has had a checkered history at best.

In August 2007, in response to state legislation, the city placed the Traffic Safety Commission in charge of advising the city on the installation and operation of the Red Light Camera program.

As previously documented and reported, this body was then completely stripped down and reformed a year prior to the first expansion of the red light program since the ’07 state law. Several members have resigned or repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the commission which, at this point, serves simply as a rubber stamp for city policy.

However, the blame can’t be laid entirely at their feet. In the ten years the Red Light program has been operating, I have only found two recorded instances of the Commission being involved in the decision making process between 2004 to 2013.

In January of ’08 (Possibly February of ’08 – Draft Minutes seem to indicate a different date), the meeting minutes are limited and the addition of three more cameras is discussed. Questions were asked regarding grace periods, revenues and when the new cameras (at University, Carroll, Fort Worth Drive) would be installed. No additional information could be provided regarding this meeting.

The next time this “advisory” committee was consulted on the program was five years later in April of 2013.

I have discussed this meeting at length and even mention it in speech. Further documentation I have gathered shows the extent of the misinformation campaign.

There are no outright lies, but there are constant omissions of truth and fact when any information about the Red Light Camera program is presented to the public. As shown, there was a complete failure to mention the scandal Redflex was embroiled in which has now become the subject of a far-reaching federal probe.

Locally, there has also been a consistent attempt to misrepresent facts of the effectiveness of these cameras. At that April meeting, city staff presented the following information (emphasis added):

As depicted in the chart below, crash data from our two most recent camera system expansion intersections indicates a significant decrease in overall crashes and red-light related crashes, but no increase in rear end red-light related crashes. The chart compares crash information and percentage changes from the pre-activation report for the intersection (Pre) versus crash information from the first full year of camera operation at the intersection (Post).

april_2013_meeting-1

Note the careful wording: “first full year” when presenting post camera installation data and no mention of the time span represented by the pre installation data.

What they fail to mention to the committee is that they are comparing 18 months of pre-activation data to one year of post-activation. Once you annualize the data, you find the accident trend unconvincing. Annualizing the 18 month data makes the Fort Worth and I35E accident totals for pre and post exactly equal. The 380 and Mayhill data shows a savings of 3 accidents and not a difference of seven as is reported.

Had these trends been properly evaluated, it might have been possible to predicted the complete lack of effect on accidents as has been reported by presumably more astute cities such as the previously mentioned Laguna Woods, California.

Further, we might have been able to remove the cameras and avoid the current disaster at these two intersections which is now this:

11 total accidents at 380 and Mayhill
and 17 total accidents at 377 and southbound I35e

(Information for July 2012 to June 2013 as provided by TXDoT.)

Which, when compared to the annualized 18 month data shows an INCREASE in accidents of over 150% and 200% respectively.

Instead, the city extended the contract and has plans for MORE cameras.

Currently I am involved in a back and forth with the City District Attorney regarding the refusal to respond to another request for public information which I made on May first. So far, they have inflated costs (and doubled them again), missed state law required deadlines for providing this information and, most telling perhaps, completely ignored a request for data involving the business travel of our city staff and elected officials.

When I have that information, you, the citizens of Denton, will be the first to know. Maybe we can wise up a bit and call for change.

Sources:

The following are meetings minutes I requested based on a list of Red Light Camera related meetings provided in other documentation I uncovered:
Red_Light_Related_Council_Meetings_1.pdf

Red_Light_Related_Council_Meetings_2

Traffic Safety Minutes
 – From 2004 to April 2013 the rest are located here.

LARGE FILE: This one contains all the available “Packets” handed out at the Traffic Safety Commission Meetings since 2004:
Traffic Safety Minutes