Monday, April 27, 2015

Vote No on Prop 1 and Keep the Cameras

A letter in support of RLC's by the Chairmen of the National Safety Coalition.  We have an opportunity to keep our intersections safe.  Early voting starts today.

Dear Legislator X

We write to express our support for continuing Texas’ red light camera programs and urge you to vote against [BILL #] at the [NAME] committee on [DAY], [DATE]. Texas communities use traffic safety cameras to reduce red light running, reduce crashes and save lives, and these programs have had enormous success. However, [BILL NUMBER] seeks to ban, limit or place restrictions on the use of red light cameras and put the public’s safety at risk.  This would drastically reduce the ability of our Texas police departments to enforce and hold accountable drivers who run red lights. 

Law enforcement officials understand the dangers affecting their communities, particularly the dangers we face on our roadways.  Local police departments know the needs of their communities and understand the need for the added enforcement on our roadways. We believe they should have every available technology at their disposal to enforce the crucial traffic safety laws that keep us safe and hold red light runners accountable.

The data is indisputable that Texas’s red light camera programs have successfully changed driver behavior and reduced red light running, crashes and injuries on our state’s roads.  The most recent statistics from police departments show traffic safety cameras have reduced crashes at the state’s most dangerous intersections:

  • Ft. Worth: 83% reduction in the number of collisions after one year of installing safety cameras (Star-Telegram, 2/1/15)
  • Arlington: 75% reduction in the number of collisions at photo-enforced intersections (The Shorthorn, 2/11/15)
  • Sugar Land: 59% reduction in the number of intersection crashes at photo-enforced intersections (City of Sugar Land, 2012).
  • Plano: 50% reduction in rear-end collisions, 43% in intersection collisions, and 20% in red light running collisions at photo-enforced intersections (City of Plano, 2013)
  • Killeen: 47%  reduction in red-light violations (Killeen Daily Herald, 8/3/2014)
  • Austin: 40% reduction in the number of collisions at photo-enforced intersections (Austin American-Statesman, 3/5/12).

We are concerned if the red light camera programs do not continue we could see dramatic increases in red light running and crashes, as has happened in other communities:

  • Houston: The Houston Police Department reported a 117% increase in collisions – from 4,100 to almost 9,000 – and a 30% increase in fatal crashes since safety cameras were turned off in 2010 (ABC 13, 10/28/14). Injury crashes increased by 350% and one dangerous intersection saw crashes increase by 1,300% (KTRK-13, 6/8/11).
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: 584% increase in speeding and red light running five months after cameras were turned off (KRQE, 5/27/11).
  • Garfield Heights, Ohio: 214% increase in speeding after safety cameras were turned off (City of Garfield Heights, 2011)

Even more, many Texas police departments face resource challenges. Red light cameras have served as force multipliers, allowing them to address other public safety needs without having to sacrifice the enforcement of our most basic traffic safety laws.  Local police officers have utilized safety cameras to make roads safer for all of us, and they have worked.  If municipalities had not had the right to determine what is best for their roads, who knows how many more accidents would have occurred?  Unfortunately, for many families, it is already too late. 

Photo enforcement keeps our roads and residents safe, but we need your help to make sure these traffic safety camera programs continue to be successful. In the next ten hours, at least one person will be killed on our Texas roadways.  We cannot wait for more innocent bystanders to be killed while we allow more drivers to ignore our most basic traffic safety law – red means stop.  We urge you to oppose any effort to ban or limit the use of traffic safety cameras.



Paul and Sue Oberhauser                                                    
National Co-Chairs, Traffic Safety Coalition

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 14 Council Meeting

I’m sorry I did not post after the Council meeting on the 14th, but I left town very early the next morning.  There were two items of interest on the agenda.  The first was the issue terminating the agreement with the developer on the Sapphire Project.  That was a student housing project on Center St. and Hosak.  This project was approved two years ago and never got off the ground due to lack of funding.  The city paid the developer to demo some ghetto apartments that were on the land in question, but funds were never available to start construction.  In the last moments the developer produced a financier to start the project, but it was too little too late.  The Council voted 9-0 to cancel the agreement.  I was never in favor of this project because it allowed 172 students per acre.  I stated at the time that I would not allow 172 dogs in an acre of land much less students.  I was the only no vote as I recall.

The second item was the request by the Athos Academy (Bardin & Bowen Rds) to increase their student count from 1206 to 1416.  The residents were concerned because of the increase in traffic.  I spent 4.5 hrs. watching traffic from 7-8:30 and 3-4:30 on three separate occasions.  I took this issue seriously and came away with the fact that after each green light interval the traffic queues were empty.  I drove the area and found that travel was manageable and acceptable.  So traffic was not the issue for me.  The issue was trustworthiness.  You see the school had an agreement with the city to operate at 1206 students.  They didn’t honor that agreement for one day.  They opened the school with over 1300 students.  At the time of their request they were operating in the 1390 range of students.  So residents were not telling the truth about the traffic and school management didn’t uphold the agreement with the city.  What finally blew me off the fence was a letter from the school’s attorney stating that they were in full compliance with state statutes and only had to comply with certain numbers of teacher to student levels.  The ratios were K-8th grade 1 teacher for 28 students and 9th-12th grade 1 teacher for 34 students.  Now the school employs 78 teachers so if you do the math, the school could go to over 2300 students according to their lawyer and be within the guidelines of the Commissioner of Education’s rules for Charter schools.   In defense of the school, they stated that they would bus any number over 1200 students in an effort to ease traffic concerns.  But since I could not trust them to comply with the 1206 number, I certainly couldn’t trust them to maintain their word concerning the proper number of students to bus.  That is the reason that I voted no on this issue.  The issue was denied 5-4.  When asked how they could regain my trust in the future, I simply stated that they should operate within the confines of the original agreement with the city and readdress it as we see what the impact it is on the community.

Of note also, there was a Reinvestment Zone established for General Motors.  The reason for the RZ is to establish an abatement, should General Motors decide to make an investment of $1.2 billion in the Arlington Plant.  I believe that this abatement will be approved at the next Council meeting, setting the table for GM’s decision.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Town Hall Meeting

I will be holding a Town Hall meeting on the 23rd of April at Shackelford Jr. High.  It will be an update on the projects that are going in mostly in North Arlington.  I will also discuss the library and 100 Center street project. 

Topics to be covered:

Arlington Commons, I30/360 Interchange, Ditto Golf Course, TXDOT Property, Viridian update, Aloft Hotel, Convention Hotel, General Motors update, Roquemore and Eddie & Debbie Peach Elementary Schools/Boys & Girls Club, Library, Champion's Park, 100 Center St. and the MGM Grand hotel.  If I have left anything out your questions will surely cover it. 

I hope to see a good turnout as we usually do.  I will start the power point presentation promptly at 7:00.  And as always I look forward to an active question and answer period.

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.