Red-light cameras won't be put to vote

Too many invalid signatures doom effort to ban devices
2013-07-23T00:00:00Z 2013-07-23T16:05:06Z Red-light cameras won't be put to voteDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It looks like Tucson's red-light cameras are here to stay - at least for now.

Petitions seeking to ban traffic cameras within city limits did not have enough valid signatures to justify placing a measure on the ballot this November, the Pima County Recorder's Office found Monday.

The initiative would have prohibited all traffic-enforcement cameras in Tucson and amended the city code to require that every ticket issued by the Tucson Police Department have an actual officer witness the infraction.

Former state lawmaker John Kromko and his group, Traffic Justice, collected signatures for months outside the city and county courthouses and at various events around town.

Despite having 20,636 signatures, the Pima County Recorder's Office could only verify that 55 percent of the 1,032 signatures selected for the random sample were valid.

The law requires a random sample of signatures to be checked to identify a presumed validity rate, which is then applied to all the petitions.

The 55 percent validity rate would leave Kromko and his group 1,606 signatures short of the 12,730 valid signatures required to make the ballot.

The City Clerk's Office listed a projected number of valid signatures at 11,124.

Kromko said he was surprised the numbers were so low since his group of volunteer signature collectors explained to every person the requirements to sign the petition.

"We tried to be careful," Kromko said. "I guess they wanted to sign so bad they didn't hear the rules when we told them."

Two of the biggest reasons for the 569 disqualified signatures in the random sample were that many signers were either not registered voters at the time of signing (222) or did not reside within city limits (181).

Even though Kromko has alleged misdeeds by city and county election officials in the past, he said everything appeared above board on this random sample.

"When it's done correctly, as it appears it is the case here, it's very accurate," Kromko said. "I don't see any way we can challenge this."

Kromko pushed for the measure because he said traffic cameras are a thinly disguised "scam" designed to fill the city's and a private contractor's coffers, and need to be removed.

While the petition drive came up short, Kromko said the group did manage to educate the public about traffic cameras.

"It did help since a lot of people didn't realize how big the fines were or it was operated by a private company," he said.

But all is not lost, Kromko said.

The City Council reviews the contract for the traffic lights every year.

This year's renewal has already been finalized, meaning the next opportunity for a review is during next year's budget deliberations.

"I am encouraging folks to call the City Council and tell them to not renew the contract," Kromko said. "Maybe (they) can be talked into taking them down."

City officials assert that 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 provide about $680,000 a year in revenue to the city.

With the camera ban off the ballot, voters will have three measures to consider this year: an initiative to change the city's pension system, a request from the city to raise its spending limit by $50 million and an adoption of the city's new 10-year mission statement.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @DarrenDaRonco.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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