1. Opinion

Editorial: City's red-light ballot tops county interference

Published Oct. 31, 2013

The people opposed to the red-light cameras in downtown Brooksville are trying a new and wiser path to invalidate digital traffic enforcement — direct democracy. Opponents are gathering petition signatures from registered voters to put the camera question to the public in a November 2014 referendum.

Robert A. Osmond, 43, owner of Osmond Printing on Main Street, is heading up the effort to remove the cameras he characterizes as bad for business and as a Council money grab that was portrayed as a public safety enhancement. It's hard to argue with his sentiment. The City Council has been unable to offer a persuasive argument that red-light cameras are an imperative public safety tool rather than an easy way to supplement its capital works budget. In Pasco County, meanwhile, a recent study revealed a significant drop in accidents at only one of nine U.S. 19 intersections equipped with red-light cameras in the cities of Port Richey and New Port Richey.

The Brooksville referendum push comes after repeated bullying attempts from county commissioners and a state legislator to usurp the city's home-rule authority. Last month, state Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, told a City Council member not to look for help from him in Tallahassee on the city's legislative agenda for 2014 because "I am apt to not help the city of Brooksville at all until these red-light cameras come down.'' Schenck's opposition to the cameras is well known and understandable, but he is off base to deny his constituents representation on economic and transportation issues because of his own inability to outlaw cameras statewide.

Likewise, the County Commission tried to evict a pair of Brooksville cameras from county rights of way and now is planning its own 2014 voter referendum to prohibit red-light cameras. It's little more than a transparent public relations ploy. The only cameras in Hernando are the 16 in the city of Brooksville which won't be affected by the county referendum.

The only relevant red-light ballot question will be the one asked of Brooksville voters if referendum proponents can obtain the 478 required signatures. Osmond figures they are more than halfway there after beginning in September. The deadline for completion is May 2014.

"I have a business in town; I live in town. It's my civic obligation,'' said Osmond. "When something is not right, you try to improve it for your community.''

Indeed. Making use of the city charter for a citizen-initiated voter referendum is a logical way to see if the community agrees with him.


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