Pines’ Castillo: Legislature Ignores Needs Of Cities, Citizens

Vice Mayor, Pembroke Pines

 angelo costillo

Dear Friends,

My generation was taught not to leave to others the things we could do for ourselves. 

This lesson in self-sufficiency was handed down by our elders who had survived especially hard times.  It is a good lesson in self-reliance that comes to us not without exceptions.

For example, in cities, we depend on our State Legislature to fix statewide problems because they have the special powers, skills and tools to fix those problems best.  We rely on them to do those things for us, and expect them to stay out of our way when it comes to fixing local problems. 

They have their job, we have ours — this creates a certain order that should be reliable.

The problem comes when they refuse to do their job, when they allow statewide problems to go unfixed causing local concerns that we, as cities, are not in the best position to address. 

Should their refusal to act sentence city residents to suffer with unresolved problems?  At what point are cities justified in acting out of self-reliance when the state refuses to act on important statewide issues? 

Let me offer some examples of where cities are increasingly feeling forced to take actions to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents because our leaders in the State Legislature refuse to act.

Let’s start with sexual offenders and where they should live, the unchecked phenomenon of vicious dog attacks statewide, the needs of cities to use red light cameras to make our roads safer, and the fact that some public school students are deprived of your public tax dollars when others are not? 

All of these are issues best handled on a statewide basis.  Our cities are not best equipped to address those concerns. 

And yet the State’s refusal to address those issues has forced my city among others to take steps in all those areas.

It seems clear that the issues we need our Legislature to confront are the very ones they choose to avoid.  And the ones that they should be avoiding seem increasingly irresistible to them.

Intentional, not intentional, the disconnect is inevitably clear.  Our State Legislature’s has grown out of touch with us in cities and the priorities of our residents.  The Florida State Legislature’s leadership has fallen out of touch with our local needs and worse, they even refuse to try. 

What’s a city to do?  Cities should do what they must do.

Should we allow unchecked numbers of sexual offenders to take residence in our cities just because our Legislature refuses to act? 

Should we invite more motor vehicle deaths on our city roads beause our Legislature won’t establish rules to govern the installation of  red light cameras? 

Are we to allow vicious dog attacks to continue spreading horror throughout our neighborhoods because our State Legislature acts like they couldn’t care less? 

Shall our children suffer silently while our tax dollars are distributed unequally to some public school children but not others?

Shall we shrink in the face of adversity or stand tall and act as best we can to protect the public good?

In some cities, officials could probably get away with telling residents that the State just wouldn’t help them.  Not in my city. 

In Pembroke Pines we don’t suffer silently. The problems that confront our community are expected to be solved. We don’t allow ourselves to be held hostage by the inaction of others. 

Thankfully, we’re not the only city that feels that way.

Unfair criticism has been aimed at cities lately for taking charge when our State refused to act.

Recently, Attorney General Bill McCollum was touring Miami Dade’s sexual offender encampment wondering how to relocate all those people.  Frustrated, he blamed the entire mess on “city ordinances” adopted to protect the public from a perceived threat. 

It seems that Mr. McCollum forgot our city’s many calls as this issue was brewing. 

He forgot how we begged his cronies in the State Legislature to take control of the situation before hundreds of these individuals felt forced to relocate to our city. 

He forgot that the State Legislature refused to act. 

Clearly he forgot that we cities were forced to take matters best handled statewide into our own hands.

I didn’t hear him say that political cowardice is the reason that our State had refused to act on sexual predators, or vicious dogs, equal school funding and a host of other issues. 

Let’s not let anyone sugar coat this.

Perhaps our State’s Legislative leadership can afford to be cowards on local issues, but we city officials enjoy no such luxury.  You have to deliver where the rubber meets the road. 

The saying goes that when you live on the mountain for too long the problems of the valley become unimportant.  It seems to me that perhaps the leaders of our State have lived on our mountain too long. 

They no longer seem to speak or act for us.  They’ve lost their connection the people and promote a strange agenda that makes no sense to us. They us offer no solutions to our problems — not even the willingness to address them.  Instead they run from our issues and refuse to act. 

It’s time for a change on the mountain.

People ask me all the time.  Why is Pembroke Pines doing red light cameras?  Why are you all suing to get equal school funding?   Why is your city addressing the vicious dog problem.  Or fixing state roads?  Or trying to reduce our auto insurance rates? 

Aren’t all those things State issues? 

Well, the short answer is yes. 

A more accurate answer is because we asked the State to fix those things and they refused.  An even better answer is that we in Pembroke Pines refuse to be held hostage to the inaction of others when it comes to the health, safety and welfare of our residents.

 We choose to be self-sufficient in the face of refusal.  We here in this valley are never afraid to make things better.  And we deserve people living on the mountain who feel the same way.

14 Responses to “Pines’ Castillo: Legislature Ignores Needs Of Cities, Citizens”

  1. Pembroke Pines Resident says:

    Angelo Castillo is right about the Legislature. They do nothing to help the state or its citizens. In fact, they do harm with their ridiculous mandates which cost local governments money. They claim they hold the line on taxes and then look at how the drivers license fee doubled. Every member should be voted out.

  2. Come On says:

    Angelo is blaming the overreaching of the Pembroke Pines commission on the Legislature. No way.
    There is no reason to have cameras taking pictures at traffic lights except to hand out tickets and raise revenues. Its just as hypocratical as the Legislature by doing an end run around raising taxes.

  3. No Reason for Cameras? says:

    Dear Come On:

    No reason for red light cameras you say?

    I don’t know about you but in my city I see motorcycles doing wheelies down Pines Boulevard.

    At any given time, we see 10 makeshift memorials on Pines Boulevard, or more, marking the passing of somebody’s loved one, nearly all of them at or near intersections.

    I have seniors telling me they’re afraid to cross the streets.

    I see mangled bicycles on street corners way too often. Our auto insurance rates are OUT OF CONTROL and we cannot afford to have a cop stationed at ever red light in the city.

    When I learned to drive, they taught me that a yellow light means slow down. Here in South Florida, a yellow light means hit the gas. And so not only do our drivers go through way too many red lights, they go through them speeding. Sorry but that’s just reckless and too many are getting killed or hurt by it. It needs to stop.

    Red light cameras are proven to produce more careful drivers everywhere they are installed.

    Our state uses them to enforce toll collection on the Turnpike, but they refuse to allow them to be used by cities to keep our roads safer.

    Everybody points to fines revenue (not as much as people think) as the reason we are doing this. It’s a cynic’s argument.

    The truth is I’d support red light cameras even if the program cost us money. My interest is in saving lives and making the community safer. The little bit of revenue it produces is no incentive for me at all. And yes, I am on record saying these things.

    On top of all that, in a post 9/11 world, I’d like my police to have some real time sense of where the criminals are heading after the emergency call comes into dispatch. Cameras help us with all of that.

    If you are a safe driver you have nothing to worry about with red light camers. If you are a criminal the message the cameras send is go rob somewhere else. Both work for me.

    So no. This isn’t my city trying to be overreaching. We’re trying to saving lives and we demand a safer community. The Legislature didn’t take this issue up because they were afraid to upset folks in other counties. Fear. Also because they haven’t figured out yet how much of a take THEY want from the camera fines.

    Talk about who’s motivated by money…

    Anyhow, thanks for the comment.


  4. Willy says:

    Proven to reduce accidents by who? The lobbyist for the devices.
    We could also reduce accidents by putting cops on every corner. We could reduce accidents by having the speed limit 15 mph everywhere.
    If you were truly interested in cameras to stop crime, you would put them in high crime areas like shopping center parking lots. Not in the middle of an intersection.
    Years ago when you drove to Florida you would drive through tiny towns where the cops hid behind a bush to catch “Yankees” and suppport their town with traffic ticket money. This is the same type of thievery with a modern twist.
    I hope the Legislature and the courts thrown this out.

  5. Pit Bull Victim says:

    The Pembroke Pines Vice Mayor is right about dangerous dogs, such as pit bulls. I was bitten while just walking through my neighborhood in Sunrise. The Legislature has blocked laws curbing these dangerous dogs and I am glad to see city officials like Vice Mayor Castillo tackling this necessary issue head on. Tens of thousands of people are bitten by dogs every year. Something needs to be done.

  6. To Willy says:


    Not sure if you’re playing devil’s advocate here, but I will answer your questions.

    If you go look at the experience of the many US cities that have implemented red light programs, in some cases over a decade ago, the number of intersection accidents in each city has significantly dropped. The argument is then available to cut auto rates, besides all the lives you save and injuries you avoid.

    If you put a cop on every corner, it costs you millions. This costs you nothing. We should not have to lower speed limits in order to get people to follow the law. The problem is not the speed limits. The problem is that too many drivers don’t stop for red lights. The camera program focuses on the problem without creating a worse problem.

    Shopping centers are private property and government can’t put cameras there, and yet many private companies monitor their parking lots using camera technology and I support that. Most people do. Too many stolen cars in our community and camera technology definitely curbs that.

    The only people I want to see stick it to the Yankees is the Marlins. This is not about sticking it to anyone. This is about them not sticking it to us. This is about getting bad motorists to follow the law and stop driving recklessly. That is exactly what government is supposed to be doing.

    Why would you defend anyone that intentionally goes through a red light? What merit could there possibly be for that?



  7. To Pit Bull Victim says:

    Pit Bull Victim:

    The US Centers for Disease Control has declared vicious dog bite a significant US public safety threat. Their guidance to every state is that they create a comprehensive dog bite prevention effort, parts of which would be educational and legislative. They recommend that every state convene a panel of multi-disciplinary experts — veterinarians, physicians, law enforcement, dog advocates, victims — all kinds of points of view to examine the problem and figure out how to best handle it.

    I personally wrote to Charlie Crist two times on this subject urging him to follow the CDC guidance. He responded twice with a blow off letter. He could care less.

    Florida remains one of the few US states that does not follow the CDC’s guidance. And that’s why our dog bite problem will continue because nobody cares enough to do something about it. Imagine. We have a declared public health threat, but the Legislature refuses to act. This is the height of irresponsibility in my view and it is why this leadership needs to go. They are focused on the wrong things.

    I am a dog lover and always have been. But we definitely do have a problem in Florida with how dogs are bred, who breeds them and for what purpose, how they are trained, how they are kept and managed, how best to protect residents against harm. All of these areas are ripe for State legislative action given the thousands of documented cases that continue to go on in our State. Yet they do nothing. They just don’t care, and if they do, they show no interest in taking any action about it.

    This is wrong. Public health matters are serious matters and cannot be ignored by those we elect to protect us from harm.

    We must find ways to make dog owners more responsible for their pets so that man’s best friend can never become any community’s worst nightmare. Sadly, we have the latter too often in our State, the problem is actually getting worse, and it’s just plain wrong.

    I am very sad to hear that you are a dog bite victim. That had to be a simply horrible experience.

    Thank you for your comment.


  8. TheBrowardRepublican says:


    Willy asked for specifics, and yet you gave him unsubstantiated responses once again. Do you have a link to a specific report that shows red light cameras decrease traffic accidents that is put out by someone other than the people who sell the red light cameras?

    From my own research, I would have to disagree with you. A 2008 report published by the University of South Florida concluded that red light cameras ultimately increase the number of crashes and injuries as drivers slam on their breaks to avoid running red lights resulting in more rear-end collisions (there are also incidents of cities deliberately “shortening” the yellow times on traffic lights in order to produce even more tickets).

    You also have a growing number of lawsuits against cities installing red light cameras (read this article: light-camera-082009,0,1415524.story) which have caused cities like Margate to cancel their plans for installing red light cameras.

    The cameras are also prone to unreliability. In Denver, for example, more than half of the violations were thrown out in the first month of operation because a device that prompts the cameras to photograph red light runners was set to go off too quickly, creating hundreds of false readings (

    I also think your claim “If you are a safe driver you have nothing to worry about with red light cameras” is akin to saying “If you aren’t doing anything illegal in your home then you should have no problem with the government putting cameras in your house.”

    Sorry, but I already think there are enough government intrusions into my life without adding yet another one.

    And if you think insurance premiums will drop, I would suggest you speak with some of the insurance agents in the area and ask them why they believe the overall rates are so high. Hurricanes, cars dumped in canals, and even a higher influx of immigrants who never grew up around cars adds to the overall higher prices. To say red light cameras would lower my insurance rates is a bit of a stretch since it is only a small part of the overall calculations (and how many people actually think that the insurance companies won’t just pocket the difference?).

    You have good intentions, and I like that, but I think you are reaching toward wrong conclusions and definitely the wrong solutions (I am only taking the time out to respond to the red light camera issue since that seems to be the biggest issue here).

    For alternatives, consider these two options:
    1. Extend the length of yellow lights – A study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that an increase in yellow light duration of 1 second corresponds to a 40 percent reduction in crashes.
    2. Roundabouts (,9171,1838753,00.html).
    a. Studies have shown a 78% drop in accidents involving injuries
    b. Roundabouts provide a major savings on gas for residents (less car idling)
    c. Less pollution (see above)
    d. Studies have shown an average of 65% drop in vehicular delays
    e. Roundabouts cost a lot less to construct than stoplight intersections (and look better)

  9. To TheBrowardRepublican says:


    Personally, I found the following link helpful because it’s a balanced report, that doesn’t read like the typical tainted reports we sometimes get from private interest groups promoting on one side or another of an issue

    The fact is that the effectiveness of red light programs to improve traffic safety absolutely depends on how well the cameras are set up in the first place at the intersections. Some installations are better than others. We spent a lot of time studying how to get this right in Pembroke Pines, my staff say we got it right. If not, we’ll get it right the second time. The point is that the system does work when it is installed properly and we thing we nailed it the first time.

    Perhaps they didn’t get it right in Denver, I don’t know. We don’t have that worry in Pembroke Pines.

    Extending yellow lights will hold up traffic in a community with virtually no mass transit. You will get no support for this at all from FDOT, I asked. We live in a community where you are basically forced to rely on your car to get there. Maintaining our road speed is essential for all motorists. The problem here is not the legal road speed, the problem is too many people don’t respect traffic signals.

    FDOT’s standard for a yellow light is three seconds before the light turns red. That’s ample to come to a stop unless you are exceeding the speed limit. Many of our signals offer more than than three seconds, those that don’t require re-signalization. We in Pines will not put a camera on any intersection with less than 3 second yellow signal. The signal must meet or exceed FDOT standards before we would even consider putting a camera there. And we also put warning signs on all intersections with cameras so that residents know they could be filmed. This is never one of those “gotcha” type operations. We want them to know because that’s the deterrent goal.

    For the cities that took the time to install their cameras properly and ensure that the signals run properly, there’s no question that they have seen safety gains. That is what the literature and contacts with other jurisdictions have told us.

    Just into this program a few months, we’ve already seen improvement on Pines and 129th. Fewer cars are taking the red light as was the case before the cameras. I know you don’t like the idea and you are entitled to that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but nobody is entitled to their own set of facts.

    You bring up lawsuits. Honestly, given the alternative, which was doing nothing, like our State Legislature, we chose to protect lives. We did our legal homework very carefully and feel confident that we’re OK. If somebody wants to sue our city for protecting the public health, safety and welfare, of their residents, let them. I have no fear of that. Our motivation was to save lives. That motivation remains strong and we don’t scare easily.

    Intersection accidents are a major factor in auto insurance rates. In my city, we took what Statefarm said was the worst intersection in America and fixed it so that it is today much, much safer. Insurance companies said that was good, but not enough to lower our auto rates. I asked them what else they needed. They talked about intersection accidents as being the major cause of their claims. OK. We’re addressing the intersections.

    So one could say that, in part, the red light camera program is being implemented at the suggestion of the insurance companies about how to lower our rates. Let’s see what their next excuse is to gauging us further.

    You bring up government intrusions into the lives of people? What intrusion? It is no intrusion for government to use technology to keep people from going through red light cameras or breaking any laws. Cameras have been used in government law enforcement for decades, not just in criminal matters but civil ones as well. Sorry, but what intrusion could you possibly be talking about?

    Do you consider the State’s use of cameras to enforce Turnpike tolls an intrusion? C’mon, you know nobody has a right to privacy as they violate the law. There is no intrusion of privacy here. That’s just silly.

    As to roundabouts and your other suggestions, while interesting, it’s simply too late for all that. That’s something you consider when you’re first building a road. We’re long past that now and the land needed for roundabouts is where people’s houses and businesses are now located. Those are just not viable considerations.

    Thanks for your comments,


  10. Blue Man Scoop says:


    1: Blowing through traffic tolls is stealing.


  11. To Blue Man Scoop says:

    Blue Man,

    1. Blowing through a red light is about 100 times more reckless than going through an EZ Pass lane without paying. I could forget my EZ pass in another car and pay them later with no injury to anybody. If I forget to stop for a red light, people could die.

    So if the State can use cameras to enforce their tolls, then they should be eager to allow cities to use the same technology to save lives. Don’t you think?

    I mean, getting around that logic is a heavy lift — don’t you agree?

    2. Contrary to what you may think, cities “have no power to extend yellow lights.” That is not within our jurisdiction, cities don’t even operate the traffic signals.

    FDOT sets the standards for yellow lights and the county follows those standards because they must. When I asked FDOT if they could make longer yellow lights (this has been suggested many times before) they said NO — as in no way ever.

    FDOT says yellow light timing is a critical factor that goes into their overall calculation for keeping cars moving steady through traffic. In high traffic, it would delay the movement of all cars including emergency vehicles. More people would speed through intersections because there’s less need to come to periodic stops. Traffic engineers seem pretty satisfied that these are sound reasons. Ask them.

    The problem is not the yellow lights or how long lights are yellow. The problem is people disregarding RED lights. It’s not so simple as you suggest.

    3. We keep getting away from the point of the article. Which is:

    Our State Legislature increasingly seems to lack the backbone to address the truly important things to city residents. And that’s unacceptable because it is their job to do so. As a result, we in cities have to solve problems best resolved statewide. And that’s just not right. In a nutshell, this was the point of my article.



  12. Angelo on NPR says:

    I caught Angelo’s comments on NPR’s Morning Edition Show this morning on my way into work. He was talking about the red light program in Pembroke Pines. My hometown’s red light camera program has made news on national radio. Not bad.

    You can listen to it at

    Give ’em hell Angelo!! We’re with you.

  13. TheBrowardRepublican says:


    I am heading off to MN on Thursday (new job), so I will have to respond quickly. Your link appears to substantiate that there will not be any fewer accidents, overall, with the red light cameras. However, you seem to have looked into this more than some of the other politicians I have spoken with, so I will throw one your way . . . The reports are short lived. What they do not account for is that the rear end accidents will actually decrease over time as people become more familiar with the existence of the red light cameras and stop slamming on their brakes.

    However, I still hold to the point that the cameras actually are an intrusion into our lives.

    I tend to use 1984 as an example of the extreme, and point out where we use to be (no cameras) as the other end of the spectrum. I assume that we both agree that 1984 is too much government intrusion, so the question arises as to where on that spectrum you feel government intrusion is “too” much.

    Perhaps red light cameras, with the hopes of detering crime, is acceptable, but where is the line that you are willing to draw in the sand? At what point do we say, the government has reached the extent of intrusion that we will allow and we will not allow any more? Do you think the government will actually stop there once it reaches that point?

    For myself, I think the cameras are too much, but that is simply my personal opinion. I realize that the government will march on despite what I think or feel.

    Good luck with everything.

  14. To TheBrowardRepublican says:


    Have a good trip to MN and thank you for your comments. I’m glad to see that you are coming around somewhat to the idea of red light cameras even if cautiously.

    I won’t contest your reading of the report you asked me to share with you because that would be improper. People are entitled to draw out of reports, especially this one, which is written in a very balanced way, with different impressions.

    I personally did not get that same impression from the report. My impression was that it supports the viewpoints I got from numerous jurisdictions nationwide that I called to ask about their experience with red light cameras. Their reaction was that the cameras absolutely reduced their intersection collisions, which is what the report suggests happens WHEN camera programs are implemented correctly.

    I also can respect your opinion that this should not be the means to the end desired — safer roads. But only if you offer a viable, better alternative. Now forgive this suggestion because it is not meant as an attack — but this is a central frustration that I have of late with leaders of your party. Very often lately they take issue with viable solutions put forth by others to solve important problems, but they don’t offer viable, better alternatives to solving those problems. What’s that all about and how is that good government?

    What solution, if not red light cameras, would you propose we implement to solve this problem? The Legislature’s approach has been to do nothing. That’s not a solution, that encourages growth of the problem. We at least have a solution. Is there a better one? I have not heard it.

    As to rear end collisions, whoever hits someone in the rear is automatically at fault. By definition, they are driving too close to the car in front of them.

    Part of safe driving is keeping a reasonable distance. Red light cameras and good driving practices encourage that. Imagine the impact as a car hits a bicycle going through a red light, even as the car behind them speeds into their rear! You think that’s far fetched? It happens very frequently in our county.

    Too many of our drivers are out of control and red light cameras will help bring them back into line. People need to learn how to drive safely again.

    I find it very curious that anyone going by your tagline would make as clear a civil libertarian argument as you do with regard to camera technology. In essence, you have eloquently restated the ACLU’s objection to red light technology.

    Now, THAT I find it refreshing but I will fall short of calling that progress. And yes, I do think there are limits to where government can go when it comes to privacy. And I also think that the privacy argument is being used interestingly in this context, when the majority of your party chooses not to embrace it in other contexts. This too I find curious.

    There are limits defined by the Constitution on intrusions into privacy. Red light cameras come nowhere near those limits. America is not in jeopardy of becoming an Orwellian nightmare because of red light cameras to make our roads safer.

    Also, if you refamiliarize yourself with Orwell’s 1984, as I have recently done, since my high school daughter is reading that book now in school, you will see that the way Big Brother occurs in that book and the way red light camera’s are being used in society today are light years apart. There really isn’t a comparison to make there. Attempting that is like suggesting that because lions can’t be domesticated, nobody should own cats.

    Thanks for your comments!!