Missouri Court Upholds Right Of Citizens To 'Vote' Traffic Enforcement Cameras Out Of 'Office'

from the the-unbearable-red-lightness-of-being-kicked-right-the-fuck-out dept

Citizens don’t care much for red light/traffic cameras. These revenue generators do little more than turn moving (or parked) vehicles into ATMs for the governments that deploy them. Obviously, local governments love them. They love them so much they’re willing to overlook badly-broken systems, crooked manufacturers and increases in vehicle collisions.

Sometimes the citizens win the fight against red light cameras. That’s when the government’s hate for the little people really shows through. Late last year, residents of St. Charles, Missouri, showed Redflex the door by voting for a ban on camera-based traffic enforcement.

In St. Charles, Missouri, it was the county council, not a petition, that put the question of a photo ticketing ban on the ballot. County Councilman Joe Brazil came up with the measure as a means of reining in automated ticketing in St. Peters. Len Pagano, the town’s mayor, insisted it violates “local control” to allow voters to decide such an issue. They did decide by a margin of 72.6 percent that the cameras should be banned.

It’s unclear if Pagano’s relationship with traffic enforcement camera manufacturer Redflex is as close as his predecessor’s was. The former mayor, Shawn Brown, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for soliciting a bribe from the traffic camera company — threatening to withhold approval until it paid him off. Redflex’s hands were clean in this incident (not so much in other cases).

Pagano hasn’t been tied to any financial malfeasance. That doesn’t necessarily make him a friend of the common man, though. Shortly before this measure went up for public vote, Pagano told constituents he would spend their money to prevent them from enacting the ban they clearly desired.

“There is the strong potential for litigation,” Pagano warned in a letter to County Councilman Joe Brazil, the amendment’s sponsor.

“You may be raising serious constitutional questions that may take several years and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to answer.”

Pagano said his city “and other interested parties at the local and state level and in the private sector” will carefully scrutinize any actions taken by the county that “restrict municipalities’ roles and responsibilities.”

The constituents of St. Charles County have been handed a victory by the court — something that will slightly lessen the sting of having to fight a taxpayer-funded opponent just to be granted the ban taxpayers had already overwhelmingly declared they wanted.

The cameras will not return to St. Peters after Judge Pelikan decided that counties in Missouri do indeed have the power under the state constitution to regulate “any and all services and functions of any municipality” through the county charter.

“Plaintiffs incorrectly contend the charter amendment invades the province of general legislation involving public policy of the state as a whole, contending the public policy of the state of Missouri delegate directly and exclusively to the cities the authority to control traffic on municipal streets, including, as applicable here, the authority to use ‘red light cameras’ and other ‘traffic control devices,” Judge Pelikan ruled. “The county relies on its police power in conjunction with the police power of the municipalities to enact its charter amendment to serve the public good. The acts contemplated by the charter amendment are squarely within the powers granted to the county and the municipalities and are therefore valid and enforceable.”

In essence, the government claimed the public couldn’t tell it what to do through the use of charter amendments. The court says it can indeed do this and that the use of charter amendments to force the government to give the people what they actually want is perfectly constitutional. The public gets a win, but nothing is more bittersweet than the last sentence of the order, which ultimately means nothing in this context. A single party is footing the court costs for both sides, even if the wording in the order makes the situation seem far more equitable.

Each party shall bear its own costs.

If only.

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Companies: redflex

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Comments on “Missouri Court Upholds Right Of Citizens To 'Vote' Traffic Enforcement Cameras Out Of 'Office'”

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35 Comments
tqk (profile) says:

Re: 'Representative government'? What's that?

… making it pretty clear that they don’t see their position as servants of the public …

Well no, not servants but shepherds of the flock. They believe the public is ignorant and deluded, while they know better what’s good for them, and they have the electorate to back them up. This is what they were elected to do, they believe.

It’s a clash of philosophies with neither side seeing the other’s downside arguments. Happily in this case, the tyrants have been shown the door and now have to try to understand why they lost this argument. They lost because the will of the people is supposed to rule even if ignorant and deluded, not the system attempting to guarantee order and good gov’t.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Representative government'? What's that?

So his next step will be to get his buddies in the state legislature to introduce legislation to “fix” this problem.

If he insists on escalating this confrontation, we can do him one better. He can meet up with Brutus and his buddies (“Sic semper tyrannis!”) or we can re-introduce him to Mr. Guillotine.

We invented democracy to get away from this stupidity. If we’re going to accept the need for gov’t., we need people to run the ship of state, but that was never intended to mean they get to say where that ship goes. We do, not our nominal rulers, because that doesn’t work for anyone, the rulers or the ruled.

It’s really annoying that these people are such slow learners. We’ve got to find a fix for this or we could end up killing each other for centuries. We’ve all got far better things to do than that. Life’s too short to put up with crap like this, and nobody should have to.

Mr Big Content says:

"Democracy" Is Two Sheep Voting To Have A Wolf For Dinner

This is what happens when you let noname ideas capture the so-called “popular” vote. This is why we need Checks and Balances, in the form of certain accredited responsible groups to keep these ordinary riff-raff citizens from getting out of control and having there way willy-nilly.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: "Democracy" Is Two Sheep Voting To Have A Wolf For Dinner

This is what happens when you let noname ideas capture the so-called “popular” vote. This is why we need Checks and Balances, in the form of certain accredited responsible groups to keep these ordinary riff-raff citizens from getting out of control …

I have no idea what any of that signifies. Who’s the “accredited responsible groups”? FBI/NSA/DEA or KKK?

You may know what you’re writing about and it may even make sense, but it’s pretty hard to tell from here what you’re even saying.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

took a lawsuit to force the county government to act in accordance with the wishes of those in the area is absurd

Not quite. The county govt discerned that the public wanted red light cameras abolished, put it on the ballot as a charter amendment, and the voters approved it by an overwhelming margin. Thereafter the county government acted in accord with the voters’ expressed desires.

Which is more than you could say for the plaintiff municipalities. They sued the county to prevent it from acting in accord with the voters’ wishes expressed through charter amendment.

I would commend that county and hold it up as an example to be emulated here, where the county govt has (successfully) sued to prevent the citizens from amending the charter. Charter government in Florida is occasionally described as a necessary evil. I am unsure as to the “necessary” part of that. In those counties which have adopted a charter, the results have been uniformly bad, so the “evil” is beyond dispute.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Am I a fan of red light camera and photo radar, no I am not. It’s due to the fact that most cities are not pitched on the safety that these devices are alleged to encourage, it’s the fact that these cities are pitched on the revenues from these devices they can make.

In the city I live in photo radar and red light camera is used more here than in any other city in my country. In fact our city has lowered the threshold as to when a speeding ticket is issued to within a 1 to 3 difference over the posted 50 speed limit, that revenues went up from 10.3 million to 45.8 million dollars a year.

Yet the claim is always how it is about safety and we need people to slow down in school zones and in neighborhoods. If you look at where these locations are set up though, you will see it is no where near any of those locations of where they stated the speed needs to be controlled.

Rather we see it in high traffic high volume locations were they are playing the odds, knowing that is lets say 55k cars are going thru such and such a location a day, they are going to get a certain percentage of driver over that 50 speed limit.

If they used theses were they said they would and for what they said, I’d be fine with it, but when they are abusing these devices and doing nothing more than playing the odds to gain revenue, then I have an issue with it.

The potential for abuse is ripe and these machines are not infalliable, and the companies and police departments are loathe to give up information on the technical specs to fight a ticket in court because they know the technology is not perfect by any stretch.

Anonymous Coward says:

I choose not to live or do business in a municipality that makes use of red light cameras, and avoid them whenever possible. I am aware of more than 3 cases wherein American Citizens residing in the continental U.S.A. have received letters from their state of residence threatening to revoke their driving privileges due to alleged red light and speeding camera violations, unless of course they pay up. All were easily refutable but the vehicle owners had to prove that the plate reader was “mistaken”, and that their vehicle could not have been in the municipality that issued the ticket. In one case a tag with the same numbers as the accused citizens tag was not a tag from the same state as the one on the accused vehicle. Enough is enough, I guess they have forgotten where and whom they serve. A tag is issued for a vehicle, a ticket should be issued to the vehicle, and of course vehicle in and of itself is not economically viable. If this unconstitutional, reprehensible, and unwarranted behavior continues we will be compelled to take matters into our own hands.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

it’s always been this way, but now we see the various governments realizing they no longer need to pretend to serve the people.

It’s always been this way under kings, princes and tyrants. Democracy was supposed to fix that. Some people are slow learners and think getting elected makes them rulers instead of caretakers. We need to educate these people not to do that. Or we’ll kill them when they do. Smiple [sic].

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, we need to educate the public in how to hold and keep these people accountable. They’re not doing that, they’re outsourcing governance to the politicians, slouching back to their armchairs to watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” and sipping their beer, oblivious to what is going on around them until something annoys them.

At work, if a subcontractor doesn’t do his job I will replace him with someone who does the job right and supplies me with the relevant information and paperwork in a timely fashion. It’s my job to keep an eye on jobs from start to finish. Shouldn’t we be taking a similar attitude to our elected representatives?

If they’re going to serve the public by representing their interests they need to be reminded on a regular basis that they can be replaced if they don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

RedFlex

RedFlex got into some trouble in Columbus, Ohio related to bribes.

The Mayor was retiring and RedFlex was bribed to “donate” to the Democrats new front man for mayor.

At least the Democrats have found a neat way of hiding the flow of money.

A lobyist bribes redflex, they pay him.
The lobyist donates the money to the local Democratic party.
The party then dontates the money to the candidate ( who claims he had nothing to do this this bribe)

The lobyist and RedFlex person pleaded guilty.
The candidate benefiting from the bribe gets elected and claims he heard no evil and saw no evil.

Just an average day in politics I guess….

Anonymous Coward says:

Amending rights for all of us

Did anyone else notice how many laws have been passed lately that ignore the rights granted to us in the bill of Rights? If I am not mistaken, those have to be amended to change. Mere laws can’t do anything to change them, but lately people have been acting as if they did. Jury nullification is the only option left to us, so we should all be demanding trials by jury and stating this in our opening arguments.

Steve says:

So....

If these cameras are always deployed in inappropriate locations why are we not pushing for appropriate use rather than abolition.
How many of the people opposed to these systems are car drivers? Because take it from me as a (oh my god!) permanent pedestrian i would see these systems in place at every pedestrian crossing everywhere, it really does feel like my life depends on it sometimes.
My view of a good proportion of car drivers is that anything goes as long as you don’t get caught and when you do get caught, scream “unfair revenue generation!”
All these kind of discussions say to me is “Hey pedestrian, FUCK YOU!”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: So....

Although I drive, I spend more time as a pedestrian, so I hear you. What I think you want, though, is for drivers to be better at adhering to the traffic laws rather than red light cameras as such. There’s a difference: red light cameras don’t seem to have that much effect. Not surprising, since that’s not their goal. Their goal is revenue generation.

The cameras appear to make the roads more dangerous, not less.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: So....

What I think you want, though, is for drivers to be better at adhering to the traffic laws rather than red light cameras as such.

I really, really wish we would just make it harder to get a driver’s licence. I wish we would force people to pass an intensive defensive, safe driver’s course before allowing them on the road. A few tons of metal and plastic hurtling down the road in the company of others doing the same is fscking dangerous !@#$, but this’s seldom brought home to prospective drivers. Who cares if you can parallel park? Can you be trusted to stay in your lane and watch three cars ahead of you, and know when to pull over and take a break?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So....

I think people do little to blame the layout of the road sometimes. For instance often times states have very strict, reasonable, layouts that roads must follow when being constructed. In the city where I live they recently worked on the boulevard about a year ago and the street itself violates many state standards. I wish they left it the way it was before, there was nothing wrong with it. Now the street is confusing, frustrating, difficult and inconvenient to navigate, dangerous, and results in jams. One driveway entrance into the angled parking area has traffic from two streets that can enter at the same time (those entering from the main boulevard parallel to the entrance and those entering from the side street where they turn right) with no clear indication of who has the right of way when so two cars could, theoretically, crash since it’s difficult for the car turning right to tell if a car traveling in the far most right lane on the boulevard will decide to enter the angled parking island. Before the construction, for as long as I remember, there wasn’t a single accident on this one crosswalk right next to the aforementioned parking area (though there were injuries/deaths in the past from illegal jaywalkers that ran across the street between the crosswalk and the next street over because they didn’t walk to the crosswalk). When they redid the street I complained to the city it was dangerous and confusing. Within the first month like two people got hit on that crosswalk. The city eventually tried to compensate for their shortcomings by putting up way too many signs and colors everywhere and now it looks ridiculous. There are so many other things wrong with this street and everyone complained about it before members of the city eventually admitted they screwed up but they can’t afford to fix it right now.

There have been studies showing that things like road layout have a huge impact on things like crime rates and safety. Some layouts may facilitate the process of running into a place, stealing something, and making a quick getaway while others may deter it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So....

How many of the people opposed to these systems are car drivers?

St. Charles is basically St. Louis, so pretty much everyone except the homeless have to drive.

This might be one of the reasons Ferguson was able to make so much money off of relatively poor citizens: you have to drive, but you can only afford a junker. Any excuse to pull someone over is practically a guaranteed vehicle code violation for a LEO; even with failures to pay, govt. can issue so many tickets that even a fraction of them being paid is still plenty of money. Plus, they eventually get to throw anyone who can’t pay in jail.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think the more relevant question here is how did someone who thinks public opinion should have no say in government decisions ever get into a position of power?

Blame your public education civics classes. They’re not teaching the nuts and bolts truths of how democracy should work. They’re teaching how to be good little compliant taxpaying citizens and consumers.

Anonymous Coward says:

the will of the people is supposed to rule even if ignorant and deluded, not the system attempting to guarantee order and good gov’t

congranulations, you have encapsulated precisely the arrogant and aristocratic mindset that is going to be the ruination of this great country. .our forefathers and foremothers would be proud.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

the will of the people is supposed to rule even if ignorant and deluded, not the system attempting to guarantee order and good gov’t

… you have encapsulated precisely the arrogant and aristocratic mindset that is going to be the ruination of this great country.

I have no idea what you mean by that. I’ll agree I overstated a bit. Democracy shouldn’t be a tyranny of the majority. Besides that, you’re making no point I can see or understand.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: Re:

Democracy shouldn’t be a tyranny of the majority.

Well no, but it shouldn’t be a tyranny of the rich or of anything else. That’s why we have laws that protect people from discrimination, etc. That’s what the Bill of Rights is for.

The “Get rid of government!” brigade appear to like pretending that they don’t exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Democracy was supposed to fix that

yes. it was kings, princes, and tyrants, as you say, that our forefathers and foremothers wanted so badly to get away from. it has taken this long for our half-ass democracy to get completely out of the way and let the kings, princes, and tyrants that we elect and hire get on with it straight, without the elaborate dances and feints.

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