Speed limits are the sort of law we only tolerate due to discretionary enforcement. Without enough police to catch every violator, the police--unless it's time to fill quotas--tend to go after more dangerous--and more profitable--offenders and let those of us going eight over on Speedway at eleven at night slide.
Tucson's City Council voted 7-0 tonight to undermine our grudging respect of traffic laws by installing red-light cameras and photo radar systems at intersections and purchase and staff a roving photo radar van at a cost of roughly $100,000/year. Although the threshhold speeds will be set--initially--to a tolerable eleven over, mechanistic enforcement does away with the illusion that speed and red-light enforcement are done primarily to protect the public safety.
Photo radar and red-light cameras are intended to be revenue generators, a way for the city to better fund its bloated budget without raising taxes. As such, as was noted by (outgoing Pima County LP vice-chairman) Rich McKnight, the only credible person who bothered to show up to tonight's meeting to speak against the program, they're a waste of the taxpayers' money.
It doesn't take much to monkeywrench a photo-radar system. Mail isn't proper service for a citation; ignoring a mailed ticket is probably the best response, as the city has 180 days after the supposed infraction to properly serve the ticket, which may be more expensive than it's worth. Distorting or reflective plate covers or highly reflective license plate spray may thwart the photo system.
And, of course, it's not unlikely that some local character will have one beer too many and use the cameras for pellet-gun practice. Moreover, a photo-radar van sounds like a blank canvas for a street art project, allowing the speedily creative to put three-foot, chartreuse smiley-face stickers or Mystery Machine style decorations all over it while its crew waits for Sanjay to stick the dozenth doughnut in the box. Not that I'd advocate anything illegal on this blog, of course. Hyperactive imaginations aren't banned, yet.
The best case for us is a victory for David Cain and removal of Tucson's system before it's even fully implemented. Otherwise a long fight to make this as fiscally and politically unprofitable as possible is ahead. Until then, if Maricopa County's experiences are representative, expect tens of hours--and thousands of dollars--of hassles.
The Pima County Libertarian Party hasn't found anyone to challenge City Council incumbents this year. Takers?
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