published Friday, February 21st, 2014

A rush to judgment on county speed cameras?

Pardon the pun, but what was the rush for speed cameras in Hamilton County?

A resolution Wednesday by the Hamilton County Commission approving a contract for two camera-equipped speed detection lasers seems likely to be short-lived.

The contract was approved in a 5-4 vote, but three commissioners who voted for the resolution, having heard plenty from their constituents in the interim, said Thursday the issue will be revisited next week with a different outcome likely.

"I've told [Commission Chairman Fred Skillern] to put it back on the agenda," Commissioner Chester Bankston told Times Free Press reporter Louie Brogdon. "I'll make the motion, or second it or whatever next week."

The matter came before commissioners, and without public notice, in a combined agenda and voting session Wednesday, which was necessitated by last week's snow. Normally, issues are discussed in an agenda session one week and voted on the next week.

Instead of putting off what should have been expected to be a contentious issue -- another resolution was put off -- they moved forward, discussed the matter and voted.

And perhaps now wished they hadn't.

Sheriff Jim Hammond said Thursday the county has been studying the project for almost three years. It has been before the commission study committee and has been on the agenda of the commission before, he said.

So who didn't see this coming?

The upside of the idea, if there is one, is that $12.50 of the $50 civil ticket would go to a driver education fund similar to one used by the city of Chattanooga. Indeed, Hammond said the county would partner with the city if the resolution is approved and signed.

However, $25 would go to Brentwood, Tenn.-based Applied Technology Partners, which would supply the speed-detection LIDAR (Light Imaging Detection and Ranging Unit) devices, and $12.50 would go to the county general fund.

In the city program, traffic camera citation revenue from five Chattanooga Police Department "speed vans" funds a five-week, new-driver training course in which residents pay $50 and the remaining $300 is covered by the city if the resident passes the course. If not, the resident forks over the other $300.

The sheriff's idea to offer the course is a good one -- the more, better-trained drivers, the better, right? -- but the potential number of tickets that need to be issued to put the program in line with the city boggles the mind.

With 23,195 licensed drivers between the ages of 15 and 22 in Hamilton County, according to Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security records, it would take 24 tickets -- at $300 per course -- to pay for each driver.

Commissioner Larry Henry said the funding mechanism isn't workable.

"I've been here for a long time," he told Brogdon, "and I'm man enough to admit a mistake. And yesterday was a mistake."

Speeding drivers, if the resolution is not revoted and is signed, can be ticketed without ever being pulled over, getting a ticket through the mail within a week. The LIDAR devices allow officers to take videos of the drivers and their license plates.

What was not clear is how much other malfeasance -- driving under the influence, just to name one thing -- would be missed by officers simply mailing the tickets and not making the actual traffic stop. And how much pressure would be brought to bear on collecting from speeders when the tickets don't put points on one's driver's license and debt for unpaid tickets can't be put on a person's credit history.

If a ticketed driver doesn't pay, Hammond said in an email Thursday, Applied Technology Partners wouldn't get its cut, either.

He also said Hamilton County would pay nothing up front for the devices and that the contract has no specific length and may be severed with a 30-day notice.

It appears, though, this idea is about as popular as Red Bank's traffic cameras, on which the plugs were finally pulled in 2013. But it wouldn't hurt the county to seek another funding mechanism for the driver education course, which, in the city, has graduated some 1,800 drivers in four years.

Clarification

A brief editorial in this space Tuesday urged members of the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency to end the effort to recall city Councilman Chris Anderson. Though the organization once was erroneously named as part of the recall effort, it was not and is not a part of it. Nevertheless, we believe the recall should be stopped by all those who associate themselves with it.)

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librul said...

We've got a major corporation in favor of a union that bellicose, interfering pols and meddling minions of Grover Norquist's brownshirts made impossible through their disinformation campaign. And we've got a Sheriff that wants to provide a tool to allow his officers to more safely and accurately enforce speed laws on our streets, where vehicular anarchy currently reigns supreme, but a phalanx of scofflaws raise a ruckus and the chicken-shyte commissioners go whimpering for shelter and vow to change their votes.

I hope Volkswagen cancels any plans for expansion here and makes it clear to all that the meddling of local politicians and extremist outside agitators is directly to blame for their decision - and I hope any family in Chattanooga that loses a loved one in a wreck where speed is a factor takes their sorrow and frustration to the doorstep of all the brainless members of our Commission who vote to let scofflaws make our speed enforcement policy.

February 21, 2014 at 1:51 a.m.
Tcast said...

Your Avatar says it all. I say one word DETROIT. Those cameras are a bad idea look what they did for Red Bank. Red Bank looks like a ghost town kind of like Detroit. You talk about loss of life because of speed what about the drunk driver that is missed because the police dont have to do what we pay them to do. What are we going see the people sitting out in front of VW now with a goofey looking sign saying shame on VW like they do in front of lowes. By the way i would like to thank them for advertising the product i buy and support. I need a new car I think a VW sounds good. Since you want to ruin the economy just because the baby unions didnt get their way.

February 21, 2014 at 6:46 a.m.
librul said...

Meh. Apparently you aren't intelligent enough to create an avatar - suspicions of which are brought on by the "logic" you put forth. Speed cameras had NOTHING to do with the rotten economy in Red Bank and issuing well-deserved tickets to law-breakers would have NO effect on the economy of Chattanooga. That equation falls flat on its face. Any community government which abandons the defense of public safety to the likes of such hollow arguments has abandoned its citizens and undermined the rule of law which justifies its existence in the first place.

February 21, 2014 at 8:29 a.m.
jesse said...

Librul needs to get back on his meds!!

Loony tunes ain't gonna gitter done!!

February 21, 2014 at 12:20 p.m.
conservative said...

The matter of receiving a ticket for speeding in the mail without being pulled over is just mind boggling.

I drive as about as slow as they come seldom passing anyone with scores of cars whizzing by me. However, I have caught myself over the speed limit many times and had to back off.

One mph over is speeding. What would be the allowance to be over the limit? Virtually no one would be immune to being cited.

The revenue to be generated has the potential to be in the tens of millions in Chattanooga alone. Since the technology is out now how long will it be before all the small towns needing revenue in Tennessee and Georgia employ the system?

Mind boggling just mind boggling.

February 21, 2014 at 12:31 p.m.
LibDem said...

Conservative is right. Getting caught cheating is just mind boggling. Dog should be protecting decent cheaters.

February 21, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.
Ki said...

If it will result in the need for fewer traffic cops on the road, where citizen to cop encounters have turned volatile and even deadly, most often for the citizen, I might just come to appreciate the idea of traffic cameras. Plus, cute little suzy won't be able to flutter her eyelashes and offer her phone number and drunken or stoned cop kids and spouses speeding down the road won't be able to get out of their traffic fines. They'll have t pony up and pay their fines just like the rest of measely citizens.

February 21, 2014 at 5:40 p.m.
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