Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

Kriseman: St. Pete red light cameras likely will be removed in September

ST. PETERSBURG — A day before a scheduled council vote on whether to end the city's controversial red light camera program, Mayor Rick Kriseman said he is likely to remove the cameras in September if they are no longer profitable.

Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, communications director Ben Kirby released a memo the mayor wrote to the City Council.

"At the current pace, the revenues are expected to fall below the costs of the program in September of this year," Kriseman wrote. "Should the program continue beyond tomorrow's City Council meeting, and should red light running behavior continue to improve resulting in revenues which fall below the costs of the program, we will remove cameras at that time."

The timing of Kriseman's announcement seemed deliberate.

Council member Wengay Newton plans to ask his colleagues today to immediately end the contract with the Arizona-based vendor American Traffic Solutions. Newton also wants the city to refund money to about 2,500 drivers who got tickets at intersections with incorrect yellow light timing.

Newton has tried many times to get rid of the cameras, which the city installed in the latter half of 2011. But unlike previous instances, he appears to have more council support on his side.

Newton said it is obvious Kriseman was trying to "save face," but applauded the mayor for "doing the right thing."

"It was definitely headed down," Newton said Wednesday evening.

Kriseman supports the cameras and has rejected earlier calls for refunds. He and city staff said the cameras are working, changing behaviors and making streets safer.

They have also said the problems with yellow light timing, exposed by local camera critic Matt Florell, are fixed and don't amount to fatal flaws with the overall program.

"These cameras have changed the culture on our roads," Kriseman wrote.

Officials previously said they would evaluate the program after three years, but Florell has been poking holes in city reports about the cameras almost from the beginning.

He told city staff a few months ago he discovered the yellow light timing at First Avenue S and 34th Street was too short. Officials had not factored in the slope of the road in their formulas for setting the time. After some disagreement, the city ultimately fixed the timing there and at two other intersections.

Newton already has three other council members on his side. In the last week, council member Karl Nurse, who has supported the cameras in the past, expressed doubts they would exist past September.

His vote today could give Newton a majority.

Nurse said he's willing to let the program die whenever it stops paying for itself, which he suspects will be sooner rather than later.

"This is the right path," he said. "Sometimes you declare victory and wind down the program."

Newton said there is no need to wait until September.

"I'm not pulling my items" from the council agenda, he said. "I'm not going six more months. I said all the time — this was about money."

Kriseman, in his memo, said after the program's conclusion, staff will continue to monitor crash data. He also left open the possibility that cameras could come back.

"I have also asked staff to monitor new, innovative technologies which could make our city streets safer," Kriseman wrote. "Should we see a need to reinstitute the cameras in the future, we will do so."

Council Chairman Bill Dudley, a camera supporter, said he thinks the city should continue the program for three years, as planned.

A lot of time and resources have been spent on the issue, Dudley said. He pointed to other cities, including Tampa, which recently expanded their camera programs and didn't face as much scrutiny.

"Everybody knows it is illegal to run a red light," he said. "We're spending a lot of staff time on this. It gets old after a while. . . . We have a lot of other issues."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow her on Twitter @cornandpotatoes.

 
Comments
Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to  testify at Kavanaugh hearing

Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to testify at Kavanaugh hearing

The woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, her lawyers said Sunday. The lawyers said some details — including whe...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison.A jury in Pensacola convicted 48-year-old Robert Spellman of burglary and grand theft in August. Authori...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

One of the dominant storylines heading into Monday Night Football between the first-place Buccaneers and the last-place Steelers will be the things we didn’t expect to see. It’s the team that usually melts down against the team that actua...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Jays, with Snell seeking No. 21

For starters: Rays at Jays, with Snell seeking No. 21

UPDATE, 12:14: Snell takes the mound today leading the AL in wins, ERA (1.97) and opponents average (.179). … Cash noted that Snell "is in elite company now with the Rays, and he has the chance to stand alone." …  The Rays note that ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Matt Baker’s AP Top 25 ballot: Florida’s new top team

Matt Baker’s AP Top 25 ballot: Florida’s new top team

After four full weekends of college football, here's what I know:There is one great team (Alabama). There are three very good teams (Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson).After that? There are a lot of flawed teams with messy results that seem bunched tog...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

BRANDON — A cyclist died in what authorities said is a hit-and-run crash, according to the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office.John Dilgard, 73, was riding a mountain bike southbound on Kings Avenue S about 12:42 a.m., the agency reported.A vehicle ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman died after a driver ran a red light on 5th Avenue N and hit her motor scooter early Sunday morning, police reported.Vallis Ann Oswain, 58, was driving the scooter northbound on 8th Street N about 2:22 a.m. She also carried a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Weather: Expect a sunny Sunday, with clear evening ahead

Weather: Expect a sunny Sunday, with clear evening ahead

It may be the first weekend of fall, but it’ll still feel like the dog days of summer in Tampa Bay. The forecast predicts a sunny Sunday, with a high near 95 degrees and a low of 74. There is a 60 percent chance of rain.Tonight, expect a mostly clear...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

TAMPA — A vehicle crashed into a Havoline Xpress Lube early Saturday morning, sparking flames that engulfed the structure, fire officials reported.According to Tampa Fire Rescue, multiple people called 911 about 2:40 a.m, reporting the fire on the 50...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sunday Morning QB: Midseason point approaches

Sunday Morning QB: Midseason point approaches

Highlights from Week 5:Player of the WeekKhaishef Edwards, Largo: Since coming over from Northeast, Edwards has showed off his big-play potential with touchdown catches in three of the first four games, including three in a win over Palm Harbor Unive...
Updated: 5 hours ago