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Candidate decries use of cameras



Published: Fri, August 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The council hopeful chose a hot topic to fire the first volley in the fall campaign.

WARREN -- An at-large council candidate says Warren's earning a reputation as a "traffic ticket trap" by using traffic cameras would hurt efforts to bring people and prosperity back to the central business district.

Helen Rucker, who had been a 6th Ward councilwoman until her defeat in 2001, scored one of the three at-large positions in the May Democratic primary. In that contest, the other two winners, out of a field of six candidates, are incumbent Councilmen Bob Dean and Gary Fonce, both backing the camera legislation.

Republican Niki Frenchko will be vying for an at-large seat this fall. Paul Martof also filed as an independent at-large candidate. There are three at-large council members to elect.

"Busting people for profit just seems wrong no matter how much financial trouble we have with the city budget," Rucker said. "Bringing an out-of-town company here to take money from our citizens is only going to drive more customers away from our merchants, and drain more dollars from our local economy."

Rucker has chosen the hot topic to fire the first volley in the fall campaign.

Eye on traffic

The proposed cameras would record the violator's rear license plate. All citations would be issued by a company to be contracted by city council, but an officer would be appointed to review and approve citations before they are issued.

City council has tabled legislation on automated red light cameras, perhaps until summer's end. A separate ordinance authorizing the city to use automated speed enforcement cameras has received its first reading. Council is now in recess for August.

"Forget this Big Brother/RoboCop nonsense," Rucker said, suggesting increasing the red cycle on the intersecting street traffic lights by a few more seconds to allow any vehicles in the intersection to get through, before letting the intersecting street traffic light turn green.

"That would be much less dangerous than having people slamming on their brakes as soon as the light turns yellow, and causing rear-end collisions," she said. "Plus, assign a cruiser to the business district to deter traffic offenders and show people that Warren is the safest place to conduct business."

Tickets for profits

Rucker expressed concerns about the legality of the plan to allow a private company to issue traffic tickets to an owner of a vehicle, who may not be the actual driver of the vehicle at the time of an alleged violation.

"If we allow a private, profit-driven corporation to make these decisions on behalf of the city of Warren, resulting in a citizen's credit report being adversely affected by collection action on invalid or unjustified citations, the taxpayers may get stuck paying for libel/slander lawsuits," she said.

The tabled legislation would allow the red light cameras' use in Warren, moving the city to the next stage of the process: choosing a vendor. Issues of how the vendor and city would divide the revenue, and what the money would be used for, would be worked out once a vendor is selected.

Each offense will be $85, payable within 30 days; council has decided against a step system that would increase the fine for multiple offenses. After 30 days, a $50 penalty is added to the $85 fine. After 60 days, an additional $100 is added, bringing the total to $235. After 90 days, the unpaid citation is referred to a collection agency.




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