Monday, March 9, 2015

Dallas Morning News Red Light Cameras

Red-light cameras have caught a lot of folks in the act, but they’ve also succeeded in changing behaviors — making people hit the brakes, not the gas.

Of all the innovations that have made life safer for us, I wonder which one is the most hated.
I remember lots of grumbling about seat belts in the beginning. And so many motorcyclists hated helmet laws that Texas threw out the mandate.
I’m sure construction workers still gripe about some OSHA protections. I know I’m irked at times by all the safety paraphernalia on my lawnmower.
But I’m going to bet that the least-loved lifesaving innovation is the red-light camera.
Last week, a judge in Tarrant County cleared the way for Arlington voters to decide on a ban of red-light cameras in their city. A legal challenge arose after a petition drive put the matter on the May ballot.
In Chicago, red-light cameras have emerged as a major issue in the runoff next month between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Garcia has promised he will rid the city of red-light cameras on his first day in office.
Me, I’ve always liked red-light cameras.
Many hate them down to their toenails, however. And while I’ve never understood that level of revulsion, I do get the milder forms of distaste.
There’s something a little Big Brother-ish about an automated system that catches and convicts us of our wrongdoing. It’s so cold and remote — and relentlessly effective.
The things never rest, while cops seldom seem to have the time for traffic enforcement these days.
But I guess it comes down to picking your poison. Would you rather have the irksome cameras keeping watch over us? Or would you rather turn intersections into a free-for-all?
Just last week, I easily stopped when a light ahead of me turned yellow. The car behind me whipped around and shot through the fully red light.
That’s not a common sight these days, but I can remember 10 or 15 years ago when it became rampant. When a signal light turned green for you, it was routine to see a car or two zip through the intersection on red before you could go.
That was the situation that brought red-light cameras into widespread use. And I believe the cameras succeeded in changing behaviors. People began to hit the brakes, not the gas, at yellow lights.
The debate over red-light cameras has gotten bogged down in conflicting studies over how much they increase driver safety. Some studies find that decreases in side crashes are offset by an increase in rear-end crashes.
But those tend to be minor — and they illustrate the extent of our problem. They happen when the driver of the second car has every expectation that both he and the driver ahead will blow through a changing light.
I don’t really care what the studies show. I’m satisfied with what the cameras show — and that’s people plainly, clearly, boldly driving through red lights.
That is so dangerous to my family and to yours that I would think we’d welcome almost any measure to stop it.
Another rap against red-light cameras is that they produce so much revenue for both cities and the camera companies. Again, to me that just illustrates the frequency of the violations.
Now, I’m completely sympathetic to complaints that some red-light cameras have been operated unfairly — with unusually short yellow lights, for example.
Every state should set clear regulations on how cities can use the cameras — giving a little extra yellow light time, if anything, at monitored intersections.
I don’t love the cameras. But I have visited countries where red lights are treated as suggestions and intersections become a game of chicken.
I love that even less.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Constitution vs. Red Light Cameras II

Article VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. 

Really, you want us to draw a jury for a $20 civil municipal case.  It is important to know the value of a dollar.  Back in colonial days $20 was a lot of money.  A $20 piece of currency in 1800 is worth $356 today. The gold alone in a $20 gold piece is probably worth over $1,200 alone.  So as you can see the monetary values have an effect on what is reasonable when considering drawing a jury.  However, you are still entitled to a jury trial in a civil case if the case is federal, not local.  A good illustration is the OJ Simpson trial not the criminal but the civil, he got a jury.

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Due process!  If you run a red light and hit and kill someone you are going to get more due process than you can handle.  Ms. Kowlonski ran a red light and killed Mr. Clark and crippled his passenger for life at the corner of Green Oaks and Cooper. Both were 21 yrs. of age.  She was caught on a RLC and is doing 28 yrs. in a federal prison. 
7th Circuit Idris   “It is enough to say that photographs are at least as reliable as live testimony, that the due process clause allows administrative decisions to be made on paper (or Photographic) records without regard to the hearsay rule.  And that the procedures Chicago uses are functionally identical to those it uses to adjudicate parking tickets, a system sustained in Van Harkin v. Chicago.”  “substantive due process depends on the existence of a fundamental liberty interest, and no one has a fundamental right to run a red light or avoid being seen by a camera on a public street.” 
6th Circuit  Mendenhall   “The Akron ordinance as well as its implementation, satisfies due process concerns.  First the ordinance provides for notice.  Second the ordinance provides for a hearing.  Third a record is taken at the hearing and Fourth the ordinance provides for the right of appeal to the Common Pleas Court…on an adverse decision.”
Conclusions: We have discussed the 4th 5th 6th 7th and 14th amendments and we have learned through these precedent setting decisions that no Constitutional Rights are being violated with the use of RLC’s.  I have given you decisions from the Supreme Court, the 5th 6th 7th Circuit Courts and Texas State Law.  So it is important to realize that those people screaming about their Constitutional Rights being violated are all wasting their collective breath.  These are simply lies.  To them a goat simply has 5 legs.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Constitution vs. Red Light Cameras I

Driving is not a right it is a privilege.  In order to enjoy the privilege, you have to get a license, register a car, have it inspected, insure it, and lastly obey the laws of the state of Texas.  I am reminded of a saying by Abraham Lincoln when dealing with people that say their Constitutional Rights are being violated.  He says “if a goat has 4 legs and a tail.  And if we call the tail a leg, then how many legs does a goat have.  Ans: 4, just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”  The same is true with the Constitution.  Just because you say your rights are being violated doesn’t make it so.  We have judges well versed in the Constitution, and it is important that you respect their ability to judge.  

Article IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Privacy:  The Supreme Court describes driving as “a regulated activity on public roads where there is no personal expectation of privacy.”  

7th circuit Idris, “nobody has the fundamental right to run a red light or avoid being seen by a camera on a public street.”  “The fact that liability through the use of photographs taken by Automated cameras rather than tickets from absent police officers does not alter the constitutionality of the procedure available to alleged red light violators.”

Guilt:  7th Circuit Idris “ an owner cannot deny liability simply by claiming he or she was not driving the car at the time of the red light violation.” “Issuing a citation to a vehicle owner (or Lessees) instead of the driver is constitutionally permissible.” “A system of photographic evidence reduces the cost of law enforcement and increases the proportion of all traffic offenses that are detected.  These benefits can be achieved only if the owner is held responsible.”  “Owners will take more care in lending their cars and often can pass the expense on to the wrongdoers.”  Judge Easterbrook uses an example of you going to a tax lawyer and him making a mistake on your taxes.  The IRS still comes to you because you are responsible to pay the proper tax.  He also uses the case of Van Harken vs. Chicago, stating that parking tickets are made out to the registered owner not the driver.  I use the example of a Toll bill that arrives in the mail.  It was my car license that was witnessed using the road, therefore it is my responsibility and I can seek retribution from the person that used the road with my car.

5th Circuit;  (Arlington) “The governing body of a local authority by ordinance may implement a photographic traffic signal enforcement system and provide that the owner of a motor vehicle is liable to the local authority for a civil penalty if the vehicle is operated in violation of the instructions of that traffic control signal.”  Appellants have not alleged that they were improperly cited for traffic violations by the City of Arlington instead they have claimed their violations would not have been discovered were it not for ATS.  This interest in evading the law cannot create standing.  A Plaintiff’s complaint that the defendant’s actions “will make his criminal activity more difficult lacks standing because his interest is not legally protected.

6th circuit “it is clear that the type of evidence the hearing officer may consider when determining liability concerns whether a violation was in the owner’s car, not whether the owner was the person who committed the violation.  Thus an owner may be held liable for someone else’s actions.


Article V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

First let me state the instead of “Himself” it should read “Themselves”.  I state no authority in changing the Constitution, but women were granted the right to vote in 1893 well after the Constitution was written.  Also notice the word “Criminal Case.”  A red light ticket has been determined to be a civil offense by the state.  If you were testifying against yourself you would be stating that you ran the red light.  In this instance you are testifying for yourself stating that you didn’t run the red light, Big Difference!  The reason for not testifying yourself in a CRIMINAL trial is so that a lawyer doesn’t get you on the stand and let you talk yourself into a jail cell.  But you do have the right to testify on your own behalf if you feel compelled to do so.  I will discuss due process in Article 14.  But I want to talk about the “taking of Private Property without just compensation,” in this case $75.

The 6th circuit states rules that, “The citation informed Plaintiffs of 4 methods to resolve the issue.  1.  “to admit” the violation of which involved paying the fine.  2. The instructions “to deny” permitted them to check a box to indicate whether they desired a hearing, 3. wanted to demonstrate that the vehicle had been stolen or 4. wanted to demonstrate that the vehicle was not in their custody, care or control at the time of the infraction.  (Under their control would require producing the individual that was in control of the vehicle.)  In other words they had plenty of options that they did not pursue.  So the government was proper in taking their $75.

Supreme also ruled that the taking of property is just when it is used in a manner that is unlawful.  A car can be confiscated if used in a crime like a robbery or the sale of drugs.  It can be confiscated without any compensation.

Article VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense. 

Confronted by his accuser:  State Transportation Code 707.014 a)  A person who receives a notice of violation may contest the imposition of the civil penalty…by filing a written request for an adjudication hearing.  b)  The local authority shall notify the person of the date and time of the hearing. c)  A hearing officer shall conduct the hearing. d)  Issues must be proven by a preponderance of evidence.  e)  The reliability of the photographic system must be attested to by the officer.  f)  The officer must fill out an affidavit attesting to the violation being based on the photographic recorded image: 1) admissible in the adjudication hearing and in an appeal 707.016.  2)  Evidence of the facts contained in the affidavit.  g)  At the conclusion of the hearing the officer must issue a finding in writing of liability/no liability, signed and dated.  h)  the finding will be filed.

State Transportation Code 707.016 a)  The owner of a motor vehicle determined by a hearing officer to be liable for a civil penalty may appeal the determination to a judge filing an appeal petition with the clerk of the court… e)  An appeal under this section shall be determined by the court by trial de novo. (new trial)

I will discuss Article VII and XIV in the next posting. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Discussion on Red Light Cameras

I have accepted an opportunity to discuss the topic of red light cameras at the next Arlington Republican Club meeting.  The meeting is onThursday, February 26th at 7:00 at Humperdinks on Six Flags avenue.  I will be discussing this topic with Ms. Faith Bussey, of the Arlington Tea Party.  The moderator is Mr. Dale Attebery.

We will be discussing the benefits of the red light cameras and what the expected outcome of removing these cameras from our city will include.  The issue of Constitutional violations is sure to come up and also how the funds are utilized within our city.  I look forward to bringing the truth to a group of fellow Republicans and like minded people.  It should be an evening of enlightenment.  Come early and get a good seat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Council Meeting 10 February

This evening several interesting things were on the agenda.  First was the narrowing of Abram St.  I have never been a fan of this effort.  The downtown organization has been trying to make Abrams a pedestrian friendly area for the last couple of years, by narrowing it to three lanes.  I for one wanted to keep Abrams at four lanes.  I thought that the setbacks were wide enough on the north side of the street and that one lane could be taken out and the sidewalk widened on the south side for walkability.  I was the only vote not to narrow Abram St.

The second thing was a muffler shop and I must admit it was a nice planned development.  But the problem was that it was in violation of the Unified Development Code (UDC) of the city.  We have put a limit on the type of zoning that will allow an automotive business.  This business was in conflict with that code, so I voted no.

Lastly was the election concerning red light cameras.  If the people want a vote to remove red light cameras then I have no problem with it.  I simply want the voters to make an educated decision concerning their existence.  I always pose the same question.  If I had an intersection with 100 accidents a year, and could install a device to reduce the accident rate by 75-80%, would you want me to install that device?  I haven’t had one citizen tell me that they want that device removed.  In 2013 accidents were reduced from 106 in 2006 to 27 in 2013. (75%)  The rate in 2014 was 21 accidents. (80%)  So as you can see the cameras perform a valuable service to the city.  I will be debating the Tea Party at Humperdinks on 26 Feb. at 7:00pm.  If you have time please come and listen.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Red Llight Cameras III

On Tuesday a citizens group dropped off a petition to city hall to put the removal of Red Light Cameras on the ballot for the May 9th election.  The required number of citizens signed this ballot for some reason.  I was told by one individual that the people seeking signatures were not forthright in presenting the issue to voters.   (That is hearsay)

Last Friday evening Kel Walters was killed at the intersection of Burney and Green Oaks.  The best lead that the police have in this murder investigation is a camera from an insurance company.  If we had a camera at this intersection we would know immediately who committed this crime. 
The reason that we have Red Light Cameras at all is the fact that you wanted people to stop running red lights.  That was the number two topic of concern on a survey conducted by the Arlington Police Department in 2005.  Enter the Red Light Cameras in 2007.  Accidents are down 75% at the 19 intersections equipped with Red Light Cameras. 

The city of Houston voted to get rid of their Red Light Cameras in 2010.  Since that time, accidents are up 117% and fatalities are up 30% in the intersections that had Red Light Cameras.  These are facts that cannot be refuted.  Public safety is my number one concern.  Please be informed when entering the ballot box.