Sunday, June 17, 2018
News Roundup

Red light cameras headed to another vote Thursday in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — City Council member Wengay Newton will once again try to persuade his colleagues Thursday to kill the city's red light camera program.

This time he might have a chance.

Newton plans to ask the council to cancel the city's contract with the Arizona-based camera vendor American Traffic Solutions. He also wants the city to refund money to nearly 2,500 drivers who were ticketed at intersections where it was determined the yellow light signal time was calculated incorrectly.

"We know there's something wrong with the program," Newton said. "We have a moral obligation to act."

On the heels of an hourslong workshop last week at which the mayor and police chief defended the program and frequent camera critic Matt Florell raised new issues, Newton said he feels there's been a shift in attitudes.

"I think council should execute the only power we have in this and just kill it," he said.

As of Monday, Newton had three other members on his side: Steve Kornell, Amy Foster and Darden Rice.

A fifth vote would still be needed for any action to happen.

Council members Jim Kennedy, Bill Dudley and Charlie Gerdes have said they want to keep the cameras.

Council member Karl Nurse has supported the program in the past, but recently expressed doubts about its sustainability.

"I would be open to ending the contract no later than the end of September, perhaps earlier than that," Nurse said Monday. "I'll listen to the arguments before I commit to ending it right this moment."

But it's possible Nurse wouldn't have to go that far for the program to die.

Gerdes, a lawyer, said he has a court hearing Thursday and, depending on how long it lasts, may not make it to the council meeting. If a vote is held in his absence, there would be a majority to kill the contract.

At last week's meeting, Nurse pressed for answers about when the city might reach a tipping point when revenue from the cameras is less than their cost.

In touting the success of the two-year program, city officials have said the number of crashes and violations have dropped considerably. Fewer tickets mean less revenue, the majority of which goes to the state and camera vendor anyway.

Of the $158 drivers pay, $83 is sent to the state, and the rest goes to the city, which then gives most of it to the camera vendor. What's left, which officials last week said was about $21, goes into the city's general fund.

Nurse said he fears the city is soon approaching the point where it will no longer break even. He calculated the city netted about $11,000 from 1,043 tickets in January.

Outside the city, there's already debate at the state level about red light cameras. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill to repeal the state's law allowing the cameras, citing a study that showed no need for them.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, however, has not wavered in his support of the cameras. He has said the city always planned to re-evaluate the program after its third year anyway, but for now the program is working — despite continued questions by local camera critic Matt Florell.

Florell went to city staffers several weeks ago and told them the yellow light timing at a particular intersection — First Avenue S and 34th Street — was calculated incorrectly. The mistake, he said, means several thousand drivers were cited unfairly.

Last week, city officials acknowledged they changed the timing at that intersection, and two others in February, after studying the issue themselves. Florell said the total number of drivers who were unfairly ticketed was close to 2,500.

Kriseman has rejected the idea of refunding drivers, saying the state ultimately approved the timing of the lights.

Gerdes said he's not sure the city would be able to give drivers back the full $158, but said the city should hand over its part.

"If we made a mistake and the state approved our mistake … that doesn't change the fact it was a mistake," Gerdes said. "It's important for us to administer the program as correctly and accurately as we can."

Comments
Fatherís Day on the water

Fatherís Day on the water

Luis Santana | TimesBoaters take advantage of the calm seas and warm weather to enjoy the waters near the Dunedin Causeway on Fatherís Day. Dozens of boats were beached along the shores of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island State Park.
Updated: 3 hours ago
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says heís willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A motorcyclist and pedestrian both died in a crash Saturday night near Palmetto Road and U.S. 19, police reported.About 10:30 p.m., a St. Petersburg man, 41, was riding a 2012 Honda motorcycle north on the highway, according to the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

UPDATE, 11:37: Interesting decision by the Rays to move Adames to 2B today and reinstall Hechavarria at SS as he came off DL following Arroyo injury.Here is the Rays lineup:Duffy 3bBauers 1bRamos cCron dhAdames 2bHechavarria ssGomez rfRefsnyder lfFie...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Chicago soldier killed in Korea finally being laid to rest

Chicago soldier killed in Korea finally being laid to rest

CHICAGO — Not long after her father went missing during the Korean War, Carol Elkin spotted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in downtown Chicago and did what any kid might do when coming face to face with the nation’s most famous soldier: She ...
Published: 06/17/18
1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

TRENTON, N.J ó Shooting broke out at an all-night art festival in Trenton, New Jersey, early Sunday, sending people stampeding from the scene and leaving one suspect dead and 20 people injured, a local prosecutor said. Many of the 20 injured were tre...
Published: 06/17/18

spain600 migrants allowed off ships after rescueAbout 600 migrants disembarked from three ships Sunday in the port of Valencia, more than a week after they had been rescued at sea only to be turned away by Italy and Malta. Arriving separately, the Aq...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Sun., June 17, midday:87 662 6806e_SRit48442Sun., June 17, evening:66 701 0866e_SRit27697Fantasy 5Sunday...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Gunfire erupts at festival; 22 hurt

Gunfire erupts at festival; 22 hurt

TRENTON, N.J. ó Gunmen opened fire at an all-night arts and music festival early Sunday morning, sending people running over each other in the scramble to safety, authorities said. One suspect was killed and 22 people, including two suspects, were in...
Updated: 3 hours ago