1. Florida Politics

Self-inflicted wounds slay red-light cameras in St. Petersburg

A red-light camera faces north toward the intersection of 22nd Avenue N and Fourth Street on Thursday in St. Petersburg.
Published Mar. 9, 2014

NAME: Cameras, Red-Light

DATE OF BIRTH: Sept. 15, 2011

PLACE OF BIRTH: St. Petersburg

DATE OF DEATH: March 6, 2014

External examination: This autopsy begins at 9:30 a.m., March 7, 2014. Based on evidence originally presented, red-light cameras were killed by a simple majority vote of St. Petersburg City Council members the previous morning.

While this conclusion is factually correct, further examination indicates death did not come naturally to red-light cameras in St. Petersburg.

It was not simply a change in the composition of the City Council, although that was a contributing factor. And it was not due solely to the dwindling revenues produced by these cameras, although that certainly played a part in the result.

Rather, while viewing through the lens of time, it's clear the demise of red-light cameras can also be attributed to deceptive, neglectful and, regrettably, avoidable circumstances.

Evidence is plentiful, beginning with the program's conception.

On April 1, 2010, the day City Council voted to install cameras, one resident spoke in favor of the program. He told a heart-wrenching story of his brother being killed by a red-light runner. What he did not mention was he was in the business of selling red-light cameras. Further investigation cast serious doubt on the existence of any brother.

A cycle of self-serving, debatable and sometimes misleading information had begun, which continued through decedent's formative years.

Local resident Matt Florell pointed out numerous flaws in yellow-light times, data interpretation and, most recently, faulty info on the slope of roads.

As a practical matter, this led to two questions:

1. Why wasn't the city on top of this information?

2. Why did some city officials seem dismissive of this information?

Time and again, council members were given information by city staff that made it appear as if there were no issues with the program and that red-light cameras were solely responsible for a reduction in traffic accidents.

This information seemed diametrically opposed to studies done by University of South Florida researchers and a state government accountability report.

Council members were told no other Florida city was undergoing the type of scrutiny Florell was demanding, and yet Clermont, Cocoa Beach, Hallandale Beach, Hialeah, Margate, Pembroke Pines and Winter Park either abandoned cameras or were forced to issue refunds or cancel tickets in recent months.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported recently that the number of cities using red-light cameras has declined since 2012.

It seems fair to say red-light camera data is, at best, inconclusive. Yet the council never heard anything along those lines from city staff.

Rather than be embarrassed that a resident in his spare time was providing more comprehensive data than the city's staff, transportation director Joe Kubicki recently characterized Florell as a lone complaining voice.

Council member Jim Kennedy, who accepted $1,000 in campaign donations from companies affiliated with the city's red-light vendor, was equally dismissive.

In the end, the city staff was never proactive in examining red-light issues. It was never apologetic for its mistakes. It was never accountable or attentive.

The result of this willful ignorance was a growing mistrust.

In December 2011, a poll of Pinellas County residents indicated 57 percent were in favor of red-light cameras. Less than two years later, support in St. Petersburg was down to 42 percent.

Based on available evidence, it would be incorrect to assume safety or economic issues alone resulted in the termination of red-light cameras.

IMMEDIATE CAUSE OF DEATH: Serious lack of trust.

MANNER OF DEATH: Self-inflicted.


  1. From left, Democratic presidential candidates, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, businessman Tom Steyer, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro stand on stage for a photo before a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) TONY DEJAK  |  AP
    A frenzied news cycle leads up to the most crowded Democratic presidential debate stage yet.
  2. This combination of Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, photos provided by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office shows booking photos of Lev Parnas, left, and Igor Fruman. The associates of Rudy Giuliani, were arrested on a four-count indictment that includes charges of conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records. The men had key roles in Giuliani's efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation against Biden and his son, Hunter. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP) AP
    One takeaway: there are still unanswered questions.
  3. Debris from homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael litters the ground in Mexico Beach. A year after Hurricane Michael, Bay County, Florida, is still in crisis. Thousands are homeless, medical care and housing are at a premium, and domestic violence is increasing. Michael was among the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Senators for the first time seriously addressed the complaints of people in the Panhandle on Tuesday.
  4. Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse environment in this room at the Curaleaf Homestead Cultivation Facility. This environment controls the amount of natural sunlight and artificial light the plants are exposed to, as well as the temperature. EMILY MICHOT  |  Miami Herald
    An Atlanta broker is listing one license for $40 million and the other for $55 million.
  5. Screenshot from Facebook. Facebook
    The claim comes from a widely shared Facebook post.
  6. The 12 Democratic presidential candidates in the next debate are, from top left, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, and, from lower left, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Los Angeles Times
    The field is still thick with 12 candidates set to debate Tuesday night. Here’s what to watch for.
  7. FILE- In this Oct. 11, 2018 file photo, rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla. A year after Hurricane Michael, Bay County, Florida, is still in crisis. Thousands are homeless, medical care and housing are at a premium, and domestic violence is increasing. Michael was among the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States. This summer, county officials unveiled a blueprint to rebuild. Among their ideas: Use shipping containers and 3-D technology to build new houses and offer signing bonuses to lure new doctors.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Lawmakers today are discussing why nearly 12 percent of claims are still open.
  8. Rain from Tropical Storm Hermine and high tides flooded streets around Tampa last September. A new analysis projects that sea level in Tampa Bay could rise 5 to 19 inches by 2040. That is prompting local officials to look at plans to anticipate and cope with the changes. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times (2016)
    “We lost a decade,’’ said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa.
  9. Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks Lev Parnas on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando at the watch party for DeSantis. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    A Tampa Bay Times photograph and a video posted by a Reuters reporter shows Parnas smiling with DeSantis amid the chaos of the watch party.
  10. Andrew Gillum.
    Sharon Lettman-Hicks, one of Andrew Gillum’s closest advisers, helped the Florida Democratic Party register new voters.