Congratulations to State Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) and Jeff Arnold (D-New Orleans) for sponsoring House Bill 480, which, if enacted, will prevent cities and parishes from using cameras to issue tickets for red light and speeding violations. Over the last year, Jefferson Parish has issued 144,000 tickets, while in Orleans Parish, 61,000 tickets have been sent to motorists.
In Jefferson Parish, $11 million in fines are in escrow awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit on the constitutionality of the program. In New Orleans, millions have been raised from the program and the main vendor, American Traffic Solutions, is receiving up to $29 per ticket. The company's minority partner is ETI, operated by convicted felon Randall Moore, who served three years of probation and paid a fine for his involvement in a scheme to skim more than $1 million from a city energy contract with Johnson Controls. This fraudulent Morial era contract was rife with corruption and resulted in several federal convictions. At a minimum, it is unwise for New Orleans to have any contractual dealings with a firm that is subcontracting with Mr. Moore and it raises real questions about how the fines are being allocated and how the program is being administered.
New Orleans City Council, the Jefferson Parish Council and the courts have not intervened to stop these cameras, it is imperative that the Louisiana Legislature take action. Not only does this camera program infringe on our civil liberties, but it is also expanding without the approval of the citizens of Louisiana.
When given a chance, voters have eliminated these cameras from their communities. In Sulphur, Louisiana an astounding 85% of the people voted to remove the red light cameras from their city. In Cincinnati, voters rejected red light cameras back in November of 2008. Photo radar and speeding cameras have also been rejected in states such as Mississippi, Alaska, Illinois and Arizona. Referendums will be on the ballots in several other cites over the next few months.
Unfortunately, in Louisiana too many politicians want to move in the opposite direction. Instead of allowing the people to vote on these controversial cameras, more and more of them are being illegally installed in a blatant bid to bring in revenue for politicians to spend. For example, State Representative Eddie Lambert (R-Prairieville) is proposing a bill that will allow local governments throughout Louisiana the right to install red light cameras. Lambert wants half of the fines collected, which start at $150.00 for the first violation, dedicated to state government for "highway safety enhancement projects." Citizens need to remind Mr. Lambert that our state government has enough revenue and the people are already fined and taxed too much. This fine is obnoxious and needs to be vetoed by Governor Jindal if it is passed.
Across the nation, on Wednesday, more than 1 million people participated in tea parties and sent a clear message to politicians at all levels that government is too big and that taxes are too high. Sadly, Representative Lambert did not get the message, but it seems that Representatives Richmond and Arnold realize that it is time to stop infringing on the rights of our people and that it is also time to tell government "No."
Every Louisiana citizen concerned about civil liberties and due process should call their legislators and demand that they support House Bill 480. If passed, Louisiana will join with other states which have voted to end this obnoxious program. If passed, it will send a strong signal to the rest of the nation that Louisiana is concerned about preserving the rights of its citizens, no matter what the cost to government.
Jeff Crouere is the Host of "Ringside Politics," which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the Political Analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and a Columnist for selected publications. For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.