BY BUDDY NEVINS
Plantation voters — at least the ones who answered the survey — don’t want red light cameras
The cameras were rejected by 63-27 percent, with the rest having no opinion.
That’s the results of a survey by Plantation Commissioner Pete Tingom as one of the opening shots of his re-election campaign in March.
The survey was mailed late last year to 7,000 voters with a history of participating in Plantation elections. At was returned by 1,183, — an amazing return rate of about 16 percent.
A return that large is even more surprising since about 90 percent of the voters paid their own postage. Approximately 10 percent answered online.
“People want to make themselves heard,” Tingom believes.
Maybe they want to especially be heard on red light cameras.
Despite their approval by local commissions, often after being hearing from industry lobbyists, red light cameras remain highly controversial. Their merits continue to be debated.
They became popular for cities hard hit by financial difficulties as a way to raise money without raising taxes. Commissioners often deny their motive is revenue-driven and claim the cameras improve safety, although studies on this issue are inconclusive.
A Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles study released last week had something for supporters and opponents of the cameras.
Between July 2011 and June 2012, all types of accidents dropped in Florida.
Of the 73 law enforcement agencies that use cameras, 41 reported fewer accidents at those intersections, 11 reported more accidents and the rest saw no change or didn’t have enough information from the previous year to compare.
There was no information on how many accidents occurred at each intersection.
Critics immediately pointed out that the state that did the study receives $83 of every ticket handed out by the cameras. Local governments receive $75.
Another consideration of the cameras is their constitutionality.
The Constitution says a defendant has the right to face his accuser, but how is that done with a camera? It puts defendants in the position of proving their innocence rather than the state proving them guilty, which many believe is unfair.
Commissioners in cities like Pembroke Pines, Sunrise and Fort Lauderdale should be ashamed of this whittling away of the principal of being innocent until proven guilty. All the cities mentioned have commissioners with law degrees, which makes the instillation of the cameras more offensive because they should know better. But all the cities mentioned have financial problems, which I believe is the real reason for red light cameras.
The Florida Supreme Court will take up the issue of the camera’s constitutionality this year.
The cameras also are due to be heard by the Florida House again this year, after “Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, filed legislation Friday seeking to end the use of the cameras, saying they unfairly dole out tickets to people who can’t defend themselves, noting that malfunctioning cameras can’t be cross-examined,” according to the News Service of Florida.
The rest of the story can be seen here.
I don’t expect much from the Legislature. The red light camera industry has literally dozens of lobbyists supporting it and the state has grown used to the money the cameras provide.
Meanwhile, those who answered Tingom’s survey clearly told the Plantation commission how they felt.
Although the survey is clearly not scientific, it does represent the opinion of 1,183 Plantation voters.
So it is no surprise that Tingom said the survey would guide his future votes. After all, he is running for re-election.