Critics of Tucson's traffic-enforcement cameras, for both red lights and speed, might get a chance to shut them down this fall.
Former state lawmaker John Kromko dropped off nearly 23,000 petition signatures Friday afternoon at the City Clerk's Office to place a measure banning traffic cameras on the November ballot.
The initiative would prohibit all traffic-enforcement cameras in Tucson and would amend the city code to require that every ticket issued by the Tucson Police Department have an actual officer witness the infraction.
Kromko's group, Tucson Traffic Justice, needs 12,730 valid signatures from registered voters living within city limits to make the ballot.
The petition handoff got tense at times between Kromko and City Clerk Roger Randolph.
Randolph had informed Kromko earlier in the week his office wouldn't have adequate staffing the day after a holiday to process the signatures to the extent it typically does when petitions are first submitted. Instead, the City Clerk's Office would count the number of pages and provide Kromko with a receipt. The boxes would then be sealed and signed by both parties and stored in a city vault until Monday morning when they can be processed more thoroughly.
That rankled Kromko, who suggested the clerk was attempting to subvert the legal process and implied the city couldn't be trusted with the signatures over the weekend.
Randolph took exception and said his office was handling the petitions like every other petition or ballot his office receives, professionally and as law mandates.
After the acrimonious exchange, Kromko relented and signed off on the sealed boxes and accepted his receipt. He will return Monday morning to oversee the processing.
Kromko is confident his measure will succeed among voters who are fed up with what he says are inconsistent curb lines and short-timed yellow lights, all designed to maximize profits.
"The people are really mad about this," Kromko said. "We all know the cameras are a scam. ... This city has turned over enforcement to a private, for-profit-making company who lobbied the Legislature to set traps for citizens. To make a no man's land in each intersection where you have no idea if you're breaking the law or not, ... that needs to end, and that's what we're calling for."
The city asserts the cameras reduce accidents and make Tucsonans safer drivers.
Since the first camera was installed in January 2007, crashes at the eight intersections with the cameras have decreased from 200 a year to 74 in 2012.
The cameras add about $680,000 a year to the city's coffers.
The clerk has 20 days to process the petitions and turn them over to the Pima County recorder for verification.
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org