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by Tim Cushing
Tue, Nov 17th 2015
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).
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.
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.