ST. PETERSBURG — While discussing possible changes to the red-light camera program, the City Council again debated whether to ax the controversial cameras.
Camera supporters won — again.
Wengay Newton, the council's biggest camera critic, asked his colleagues to end the contract with the private vendor who snaps pictures of cars running red lights.
Newton said there have been too many problems with the cameras, adding, "Where there's smoke, there's fire."
Only council members Steve Kornell and Leslie Curran voted with him to stop the program.
The council then moved on to a lengthy debate over how to comply with changes in the state law governing the program.
The law requires cities to create a process for motorists to appeal the $158 citations. Currently, people appeal by going to county court.
The law now requires cities to offer another option. Cities must designate hearing officers, pay a private vendor to provide the service or add the duties to an existing board, such as code enforcement.
Council member Charlie Gerdes said he doesn't want Mayor Bill Foster to appoint special magistrates since Foster oversees the program.
To avoid conflicts, city lawyers said they would accept applications from attorneys and then make recommendations so the council could approve the hearing officers.
Kornell, Newton and Curran also voted no on the proposed ordinance.
A public hearing and final vote will come later this month.
During the debate, council members also asked about a recent state mandate to increase yellow-light times at intersections with cameras.
Joe Kubicki, the city's transportation manger, pledged to brief the council on the changes next month during a workshop.