Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Krise-O-Meter

Utilize red-light cameras at most dangerous intersections for safety, not revenue

Q: Name three policies pushed by Mayor Bill Foster during his administration that you support and would advocate continuing. Name three others that you would want to change. A: "I will utilize red light cameras at the most dangerous intersections for the purposes of public safety, not revenue."


Updates

Kriseman cites budgetary concerns as a reason to end the program

During the election, mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman never wavered in his support of red light cameras.

"I will utilize red light cameras at the most dangerous intersections for the purposes of public safety, not revenue," Kriseman wrote last summer in a questionnaire about his platform.

He repeated that line often in the months that followed, and when asked, said his focus was not, and never has been, on the money the tickets bring in.

Yet earlier this month, in the face of mounting controversy surrounding the cameras, Kriseman sent a memo to City Council members, saying St. Petersburg would end its camera program by September, when the projected revenues from red light violations will no longer cover program costs.

"After two years of the implementation of this program, it is clear that red light cameras have done their jobs, that driver behavior is changing, and that St. Petersburg is now safer," Kriseman wrote in his March 5 memo.

He went on to say that because driver behavior changed, " we have seen a decrease in the revenue generated by these cameras."

The next day, the council embraced the mayor's proposal and voted 6-2 to get rid of the cameras by September.

Council member Jim Kennedy, who was on the losing side of the vote, said he was surprised by the mayor's new position and thought it was strange to shutter the program in the name of revenue when officials have said the concern is public safety.

"To me, even if there's a small cost to them, it's all about safety," Kennedy said.

In the first two years of the program, the cameras generated $841,862 for the city's general fund, according to a report released in January.

But city officials projected that figure will get smaller as fewer people get tickets.

Right now, the city sends $83 of each ticket to the state. It splits the rest with the camera vendor. It also must pay former police officers to review the footage of the cameras.

Kriseman has defended his proposal to wind-down the program and doesn't believe it represents an about-face on his part.

"I think there is an assumption inherent in the campaign promise: that if the cameras do their jobs, they change behavior, and as behaviors change, crashes are reduced," spokesman Ben Kirby said via email this week. "Had driver behavior not changed — had safety not improved — Mayor Kriseman would still be utilizing the cameras."

However, there will no doubt continue to be red light runners beyond September — just not enough to generate the cash the city would need to administer the program.

Kriseman promised to use red light cameras for public safety and not revenue. However, he cited budgetary concerns as a reason to end the program in his memo.

We rate his campaign pledge as a Promise Broken.

Sources:

City of St. Petersburg, memo from Mayor Rick Kriseman, March 5, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "St. Petersburg to cut red-light cameras by Sept. 30 — at the latest", March 6, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Kriseman: St. Pete red light cameras likely will be removed in September," March 5, 2014