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Brooksville's talk of red-light cameras about cash, not safety

The city of Brooksville can't say definitively if its abandoned red-light cameras promoted driver safety. But the City Council can say with certainty that the cameras promoted income for a revenue-challenged government.

And that is the sole reason, yet again, that the council is considering reinstalling the cameras. It is a misguided notion of a public surcharge being disguised as public safety.

It also is poorly timed. Next week, Hernando County commissioners are expected to discuss future space needs for both county government and the judiciary with the long-term economic health of the county seat's downtown looming in the background of that debate. But exactly why should that be a serious consideration of county commissioners if City Council members pay it so little heed?

Think back to debate in August 2010 when the council voted 3-2 to take down the red-light cameras after two years of collecting fines. Local merchants and out-of-city residents alike pointed to the cameras as a detriment to commerce by discouraging visitors to Brooksville.

It even brought comparisons to Waldo, the tiny city along U.S. 301 in Alachua County, which gained such notoriety as a ticket-writing speed trap that the American Automobile Association refuses to route motorists through the area. City statistics showed 97 percent of the Brooksville tickets went to non-city residents.

Now, a council majority searching for ways to make ends meet amid declining property values is poised to make the city's image a secondary consideration. Council members Lara Bradburn and Joe Johnston supported the cameras, as they did last summer. They were joined by Emory Pierce, who won an uncontested election for a council seat in November.

They should be sure of their math. The tickets won't be the same cash cow as in past years. A 2010 state law eliminates the right-on-red violation which accounted for more than 60 percent of the previous city tickets. The city also must send $83 of each $158 fine to Tallahassee.

Traffic cameras should be about safety foremost, but last week's council discussion emerged during a late-night budget workshop, a clear indication this issue is about dollars and cents above all else.

The council majority set aside its subterfuge. This is simply a cash grab that will help reduce red ink in the budget at the risk of a black eye for downtown.

Brooksville's talk of red-light cameras about cash, not safety 03/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 5:14pm]
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