Sunday, November 19, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg will grant some red light runners a free pass

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG — Citing flaws in state law, Mayor Bill Foster said Thursday that the city will give some red-light runners a free pass until problems are fixed.

Rental car drivers and people who are using someone else's car will be able to get out of violations because of a problem with the law that doesn't give them a chance to pay the $158 fine before it jumps to $264.

The moratorium could start as soon as today.

The change, announced during a Thursday council workshop, comes at Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court Ken Burke's urging. He asked cities to stop issuing red-light camera violations until flaws with the camera program are fixed because the state law didn't treat violators equally.

Foster said he wants drivers to be treated fairly and is open to more changes.

"That's the only thing I can change today with an administrative order," Foster said. "The fixes have to come from Tallahassee."

Burke agreed, calling the city's action "a step in the right direction."

Foster said he and staffers dissected the 2010 law but determined that exempting those two classes of drivers was the only change the city could make.

Burke disagreed with that assertion: "There's not a law that says cities have to install red-light cameras."

Burke recently sent letters to mayors and city council or commission members in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Gulfport, Kenneth City, Oldsmar and South Pasadena detailing the law's problems.

One of his biggest complaints dealt with drivers of rental cars.

After cities send the $158 violations to rental agencies, the companies sign affidavits naming the driver. Cities then send the drivers violations. By then, the fine has risen to $264 because the violation wasn't paid within 30 days.

Those motorists never get a chance to pay the lower fine of $158. Same goes for people who drive other people's cars. Vehicle owners get the violations, return affidavits saying they weren't at the wheel and naming the drivers, who then receive violations where fines have risen to $264.

With the moratorium, those violations will be dismissed after rental companies and vehicle owners return affidavits.

Under the moratorium, when the city receives affidavits from rental companies and vehicle owners, the violations will be dismissed, Foster said.

Council members wondered how many drivers will cheat the system because of the moratorium.

About 1,200 violations have been sent to rental companies since the red-light program began in November 2011. Another 305 vehicle owners signed affidavits naming other drivers. Combined, those 1,500 tickets cost drivers about $396,000.

Foster pointed out that perjury laws apply to the affidavits. Still, he expects cheaters.

'They're going to get a pass until the Legislature fixes it," he said. "The jails are full of people who say they didn't do it."

Council member Charlie Gerdes replied: "I don't want to see out-of-town drivers get off the hook and local drivers get stuck paying."

Foster believes legislators will fix the law so cities can allow both categories of drivers to pay the lower fine.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, chairman of the Committee on Transportation, said he expects several senators to file bills by today to fix flaws in the 2010 law that authorized red-light cameras.

Other issues cited by Burke include the way drivers receive citations, the way fines increase and how tickets are issued to vehicle owners instead of motorists.

Burke said his staffers must deal with the outraged drivers, taking costly time. Hillsborough, Sarasota and Pasco counties report similar problems.

Burke also doesn't like how the violation notices say that clerks will tell drivers how to challenge the ticket. He compared that to clerks giving legal advice.

Joe Kubicki, director of St. Petersburg's transportation and parking management, plans to ask the Arizona vendor who provides the city's cameras to change language on the violations.

Burke suggested another fix Thursday.

Drivers who don't contest the violations must pay the fine within 30 days. The violations urge drivers to send payments at least eight days before the due date.

His staffers have received complaints about payments being rejected because they arrived after 30 days.

"They should extend the days to 45," he said. "There are delays in mail. People live week to week."

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Comments
USF, UCF contribute to a first in football poll

USF, UCF contribute to a first in football poll

The new Associated Press football poll produced some Florida history Sunday.For the first time, UCF and USF are both ranked — and Florida State and Florida are both unranked — entering their respective season-ending grudge matches this weekend.The No...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Youth choir trains voices of confidence

Youth choir trains voices of confidence

 
Updated: 1 hour ago

Stolen car crashes in St. Pete, leaving passenger, 15, with life threatening injuries

Two boys in a stolen car struck a dip in the roadway and crashed into a tree, leaving the 15-year-old passenger with life-threatening injuries, St. Petersburg police said.The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m. Sunday as the car sped west on 11th Avenue ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Figures from FSU case enter latest allegation against Jameis Winston

Figures from FSU case enter latest allegation against Jameis Winston

MIAMI GARDENS — The case of Jameis Winston and a female Uber driver in Arizona took more twists Sunday, with Winston getting some level of corroboration, and his unnamed accuser retaining a familiar, high-profile attorney.Eagles cornerback Ronald Dar...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Country artist Mel Tillis, who traced success to Plant City youth, dead at 85

Country artist Mel Tillis, who traced success to Plant City youth, dead at 85

Before Mel Tillis achieved stardom, writing songs recorded by hundreds of Nashville artists and embracing the stutter that became his trademark, he was a young man fresh out of the Air Force struggling to land a spot in a Plant City talent show.Eyes ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Report: Florida rarely punishes doctors sued for malpractice

FORT LAUDERDALE — Florida doctors are rarely punished by state regulators even after they are sued for malpractice, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Sunday. The Florida Department of Health reviewed nearly 24,000 resolved state and federal law...
Updated: 2 hours ago
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Updated: 3 hours ago
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Updated: 3 hours ago