Tonight the St. Petersburg City Council refused to stop the Red Light Camera (RLC) program that has been proven to increase the number of car crashes at monitored intersections (see 6 month data at left). All the politicians, except one, refused to vote to end the program despite evidence that rear end crashes have increased by 44% and overall crashes have increased by 10% at these intersections. Instead of looking at the fact that some 35 total new accidents happened at these intersections compared to the prior year, those officials in support pointed to drops in so called “red light related” crashes and other statistics that showed number of violations decreasing. A motion by Council Vice-Chair Wengay Newton to end the program altogether did not even receive a second from any other council members.
The behavior of the politicians demonstrated true contempt for the citizens of St. Petersburg. Those in support have always insisted that the goal was to promote safety. Yet even with data showing that safety has gotten worse, the politicians grasped at meaningless numbers such as “red-light related” crashes. The city pointed out that these crashes, a subset of all crashes at these intersections went down. They also pointed out that the number of violations has gone down and that 92% of tickets are issued to only one time offenders indicating a low repeat violation rate. The politicians immediately jumped on these numbers as justification that safety had improved. Council Member Bill Dudley was especially supportive while citing these statistics, he completely ignored the total increase in overall crashes. He also seemed to equate the RLC program to seat belt laws, speeding laws and school zone laws without acknowledging that those laws had proven data of substantial decreases in injuries and crashes while the RLC program now has proven to increase crashes. Council Member Kennedy attacked citizen opponents as being driven by “emotion” and a pre-determined opinion against red light cameras. Yet he refused to acknowledge his own hard-line and emotional support of the program that has data proving it as failure. Mayor Bill Foster, in typical style, displayed contempt for the intelligence of St. Petersburg residents by stating that the increased crashes could just have easily been caused by people stopping for “kittens” in the street. Yet he didn’t explain how the rear end crashes at RLC intersections went up by 28 (44%) compared to rear end crashes going up only 10 (19%) at other “high crash” intersections without cameras. This is a classic way that politicians support their political but nonsensical decisions: grasp at faulty irrelevant data to justify their vote while demonizing opponents and ignoring the most glaring and relevant facts. The fact that the Mayor and City council members (except Newton) KNOW that the program they started is causing an increase in crashes and still proudly supporting its continuation indicates they have nothing but utter contempt for those they were elected to serve: the citizens and taxpayers of St. Petersburg.
The city is most interested in raising money for itself so it can continue it’s out of control spending. The city continues to provide bloated and unsustainable pension and health benefits to government workers, wastes money on the Lens and plans for a light rail project and is looking for every penny it can squeeze from the private sector to do it. St. Petersburg Resident Ray Tampa (former NAACP President) observed that the program was either about safety or revenue but not both. He concluded that it was about revenue at the expense of safety stating “if it walked like a duck and sounded like a duck it was a duck”. He went on to say that the fact that the city left out the fact that crashes were up in the first year was like a page missing “with duck feathers all over it”.
This author offered that the city had already made guinea pigs out of the citizens and proven that they were hurting people with more crashes and were now treating them like sheep to the slaughter by forcing them to suffer from more accidents to raise money. The real goal of the politicians was pointed out numerous times: “Change behavior”. They revealed that they cared not if their big government revenue raising program hurt citizens as long as they could influence their behavior along the way. Multiple comments were made by the politicians and the staffers that they sought to change the way people behave and act by ensuring, as Bill Dudley put it, people would be “slammed” by tickets with the program. He failed to recognize the irony that they are also being slammed by accidents. The city also seemed more worried about protecting the “honor” of their “decorated” Traffic Director Joe Kubicki and his department than doing the right thing for the citizens. Mr. Kubicki indicated he was “offended” that the press or anyone would question his approach to the data or the fact he left information out. Council member Kennedy went out of his way to ensure that the press heard about the awards Kubicki’s team received the prior week – from other government supportive organizations. Council Member Gerdes bent over backward to clarify that he did not want to offend in any way Mr. Kubicki by asking him any mildly difficult questions. Ask he did with such an apologetic tone that it was obvious that he and the other politicians forget they are working for St. Petersburg Residents and should not be led around by the nose by long time city staffers. Joe Kubicki also revealed that the police are using the camera data for 200 non-traffic “events” in their investigative and other work. Welcome to the surveillance society and big brother.
Nearly every City Council member and the Mayor (save Newton), demonstrated their utter contempt for the citizens of St. Petersburg they are elected to serve. They feel it is their job to control us. They feel it is their job to collect money from the citizens at any cost – even the costs of their lives from increased accidents the government is directly causing. It is time to replace these City Council members with people that serve the people first and tell staffers that deceive them to shape up or ship out.