Common Sense For Belmar Liberty Begins At Home

February 28, 2012

These Guys Play Hardball!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:31 am

From knoxnews.com, Knoxville Tennessee:

 For the second time in a week a traffic camera vendor is suing local government because citations for improper right turns on red have been halted based on a new state law.

Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. on Monday filed suit against the town of Farragut and claims that without court intervention, hundreds of traffic violations will continue to go unprosecuted, which will affect traffic safety and deprive Farragut and the company of revenue that was agreed on in a contract between the two.

“As a result, Redflex and Farragut have lost thousands of dollars in revenue, and hundreds of traffic violations have gone unpunished,” the Redflex lawsuit states.

On Nov. 8, American Traffic Solutions Inc. sued the city of Knoxville on similar grounds.

From azfamily.com, Phoenix, Arizona:

TEMPE, Ariz. – A photo radar company is suing the City of Tempe for a bigger cut of its profits.

The city is being sued by Redflex, the company that builds and operates cameras. Executives at the company want a bigger cut of the profits from traffic tickets.

Photo radar cameras have been flashing in Tempe for three years. They’ve been targeted by protesters from Santa’s covering the cameras with sacks to the Easter Bunny covering them with eggs.

Through it all Redflex executives insisted the cameras were there for safety and not profit. Jay Heiler, with Redflex, says, “The technology does a wonderful job making us more attentive as we drive.”

Court documents now reveal Redflex and Tempe have been fighting over photo radar profits for months and now Redflex filed a breach of contract suit against the city over payments.

Speeders caught on camera are told they have two options: They can pay a $200 fine and receive points on their license or they can take a drivers safety course and avoid the fine and points on their license.

Redflex has a problem with option two because when people choose the driving class, Redflex does not receive money from that class fee.

From thenewspaper.com:

California: Traffic Camera Firm Shakes Down City
San Bernardino, California officials point fingers at one another as traffic camera firm demands $1.8 million.

As municipalities around the country increasingly have second thoughts about continuing red light camera programs, the private companies in charge of the photo ticketing are turning up the heat. Redflex Traffic Systems announced to its Australian shareholders last week that it continues to adjust contract language, boosting the penalties for cities that turn their back on photo ticketing. Just such language has hit in San Bernardino, California where rival photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is threatening to impose an extra $1,896,202 fee to punish the city council for attempting to get out of the contract in March. Officials had already approved cutting a check for $175,000 to the company as compensation.

City leaders were shocked to find the penalty for early withdrawal from the contract may have been underestimated by a factor of ten. Police Chief Keith L. Kilmer blamed the mistake on the sloppy work of the city attorney’s office. The city’s legal team blamed Kilmer for providing bad information. In a February 1 memo, Assistant City Attorney Jolena E. Grider calculated the cancellation price as $975 per intersection multiplied by the number of months remaining from the original five-year contract. Grider’s memo, however, confused the term “approach” and “intersection.” Each intersection has four approaches or directions of travel. That means up to four individual cameras can be installed for each intersection.

“I asked police employees several times if installed approach was the same as intersection and was told numerous times that it was,” Grider wrote. “It was not until I received information from ATS a few weeks ago that I learned differently. All the information I received at the time I wrote and based the February memorandum on was from the police department and from no other source.”

Chief Kilmer blasted the city attorney for going to the press and trying to pass the blame for a legal mistake to his department.

“This information about contract terminology was not provided by the police department,” Kilmer wrote in an August 16 memo. “It was within the contract document itself, which I would assume that the city attorney’s office had some hand in preparing and reviewing on multiple occasions.”

The city attorney’s office fired back at Kilmer, insisting negotiations were under way with ATS to arrive at a “mutually beneficial resolution” and that the incorrect information in the February memo could not be used in a court of law.

“There is nothing to be gained by the city of San Bernardino by this type of finger pointing in his memorandum and the inaccuracies cannot be left uncorrected,” Jolena E. Grider wrote on August 17.

From chron.com (The Houston Chronicle) :

City Council approved a payout of at least $4.8 million Wednesday to settle a lawsuit and take down Houston’s controversial red-light cameras, finally ending a legal battle that began after voters banned the devices in a referendum 15 months ago.

The cameras were turned off and outlawed by council in August but have remained mounted at 50 intersections while the city’s camera vendor pursued breach of contract claims in federal court.

The settlement calls for the cameras to be taken down within 60 days.

To the end, the cameras continued to divide council members as they grappled with how to honor both a camera contract that runs through May 2014 and the voters’ mandate to rip up that contract immediately.

The settlement gives Scottsdale, Ariz.-based American Traffic Solutions a cut of the city’s collections on $25 million in outstanding violations.

The 13-4 vote in favor of the settlement means the city could pay ATS more than $12 million in the unlikely event that the city gets all 240,000 delinquent red-light runners to pay up.

*

Space and time don’t permit me to spotlight all of them, but believe me there are more.  And apparently Redflex doesn’t think it’s being tough enough!

Again, from thenewspaper.com:

The company explained its hardball tactics in a February 25 report to shareholders on the Australian Securities Exchange.

“As a result of the macro economic challenges facing the US market throughout 2010, and the current politically challenging times, new contract executions have declined,” the Redflex report stated. “This financial year, Redflex has focused its efforts on strengthening its business model through tighter contract language, (and) more aggressive collection efforts in key markets.”

 Nice. 

Why would little old Belmar think it can outsmart these guys when cities like Houston, Knoxville, Tempe, and San Bernardino all found themselves trapped?  Even with the most air-tight contract in the world, these guys could bankrupt us by dragging us through the courts.

Belmar’s entire municipal budget is around $13 million.  Goldman Sachs, ATS’s principle owner, probably spends more than that on their Christmas parties.  Do Belmar’s public officials really think we would have any chance of beating these guys?

And by the way, I haven’t even gotten to all the class-action lawsuits brought against municipalities by their own citizens.  Maybe I’ll write about that in a few days.

 

 

February 24, 2012

Coast Star Stories About The Cameras

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:18 am

This is such a big story that Molly had to write two articles about it.  The first one is mostly about Mr. Callari’s presentation and the nuts and bolts of how it works and all the governmental BS.  Coast Star subscribers can read it here.

The second story is about the community’s (Connie, Tom, and myself)  opposition to it.  It is reprinted below with the permission of The Coast Star Newspapers.

 

Residents ask council not to install red-light cameras

“Why do we need these cameras to scare people away? Let people be free.” CONNIE DALLAPORTAS, Resident

 By Molly Mulshine

BELMAR — Residents spoke out against the possibility of bringing red-light cameras to town after a representative from American Traffic Solutions [ATS] gave a presentation to the council [see related story, page 1].

Resident David Schneck spoke first, asking ATS representative Charles Callari several questions about the technology.

Mr. Schneck first asked if there was a statute of limitations between when the alleged infraction occurs and when the person gets notice of it.

“There is a 90-day statute, so from the point of capture, the municipality must serve the defendant within 90 days,” Mr. Callari said. “It can be up to 90 days but practically speaking, we don’t” wait that long.

“When you get pulled over by a police officer, you know what just happened,” Mr. Schneck said. “If you get a notice weeks or even months later, especially if it’s an intersection you drive through all the time, you can’t really defend yourself because you don’t really know what the particular circumstances were that day at that point in time.”

There have been cases of people placing false representations of license plates on their cars and intentionally running red lights to get other people in trouble, Mr. Schneck said.

“Let’s say it’s a late-model Civic or Ford Focus or something and they make a fake license with Photoshop and the camera can’t tell it’s a fake license plate,” he said. “How do you tell?”

ATS has not come across any instances like this, Mr. Callari said, although Mr. Schneck insisted he had heard of such incidents.

Mr. Schneck also asked if the cameras could dissuade people from coming to Belmar, but Mr. Callari said the traffic counts have not gone down in towns where cameras were installed.

Mr. Schneck also asked why Mr. Callari had included in his presentation that usually, 70 to 80 percent of infractions are from transients and only 20 to 30 percent are from locals.

“Why is that a relevant thing to discuss?” he asked. “They’re not voters so they’re not going to be mad at the mayor?”

“I wanted to give residents some indication that there are people who are complying with the law,” Mr. Callari said. “I’m just giving you an indication of who’s violating.”

Also, T-bone accidents are “not happening where people miss the red light at the intersection,” Mr. Schneck said. He referenced a study which showed most T-bone accidents happening between five and 16 seconds after the light turned red.

Broadside collisions, known as T-bone collisions, are where the side of one vehicle is impacted by the front or rear of another vehicle or a fixed object, forming the “T.”

Running red lights to the point of causing accidents is “not that common,” he added.

He also mentioned several lawsuits in which ATS and its main competitor, RedFlex, have been involved.

In one instance, Hertz automobile renting company was “turning over the credit card numbers of people renting cars to ATS” and the first indication drivers got of a violation was on their credit card bill, Mr. Schneck said.

“There was a class action lawsuit because Hertz was charging people’s credit cards,” he said.

Also, ATS has been involved with lawsuits with municipalities, where the company sued several towns for backing out of the program, even when a referendum showed the majority of voters did not agree with having the red-light cameras in town, Mr. Schneck said.

ATS has sued Houston and Baytown, Texas, Mr. Schneck said.

“In Baytown, Texas, the citizens got so mad about red-light cameras they passed a law saying a uniformed officer had to be present at the intersection for a ticket to issued,” Mr. Schneck said. “Tickets went way down and what happened? ATS sued Baytown.”

Baytown settled with the company for $1 million, and Houston for $5 million.

Mr. Callari said he was unaware of these lawsuits.

“If Belmar passed a referendum saying we don’t want these cameras in town, will we get sued?” Mr. Schneck asked.

“No,” Mr. Callari said.

“Each and every contract in New Jersey has a clause that allows the municipality to opt out of the program for any reason,” Mr. Callari said.

Connie Dallaportas then spoke out about the cameras.

“We try to bring people to the town,” she said. “We try to make business booming. Why do we need these cameras to scare people away? Let people be free. Let people walk into Belmar … and feel like they’re not prisoners to the cameras.

“We all make mistakes,” she added.

Mr. Schneck spoke again later in the meeting.

“There have been dozens of towns where people have risen up and demanded that the cameras come down or not go up at all,” Mr. Schneck said. “If towns had already signed contracts, they got sued.”

A councilman in a Texas Gulf Coast town where red light cameras are an important issue won his seat by running on an anti-red-light-camera platform, Mr. Schneck claimed.

“Politically, this is a dog,” he said. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

Thomas Dilberger also spoke out against the cameras.

“He [Mr. Callari] kept talking about money, of course, but also about changing behavior,” Mr. Dilberger said. “Have we ever learned by now we never change behavior? Never ever. You can make laws up, down, sideways and everything else, you’re not going to change people’s behavior.”

He called the idea “a ridiculous thing.”

“Please don’t approve this,” he said. “This is really bad stuff because it will get legs. It will multiply itself … There’ll be cameras everywhere. You won’t be able to move. It’s an invasion of privacy … Please, when this comes in front of you, turn it down.”

*

Just a couple of comments I’d like to make:

If Mr. Callari hasn’t heard of red light camera “pimping” maybe he should watch the Fox News report about it embedded a few posts down.  I would think that someone in the red light camera business would know about this, but then again he also didn’t know about ATS’ $25 million lawsuit against the city of Houston either.

I didn’t say that the cameras would dissuade people from coming here, although Connie did say that.  I actually said that red light violations at those intersections might drop, but not because people drove more safely but that people might start using Rt 71 instead of Rt 35 in order to avoid the cameras.

About the 70:30 ratio of transients to residents who would be getting the tickets, It was obvious to everybody that he was talking about the politics of it.  When I pressed Mr. Callari on why that information is at all relevant, he made the absurd claim that people drive safely in their own towns but recklessly when in other people’s towns.

Later I pointed out that the great majority of violations (I’ve since learned it’s about 80%) are for missing the light by 1 second or less.  But according to the Texas Transportation Institute, the overwhelming majority of “T-bone” accidents happen 5 to 16 seconds after the red. Callari knew nothing about this.

All in all, pretty good story though.

 

February 23, 2012

Red Light Poll In The Patch!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:33 pm

http://manasquan.patch.com/articles/red-light-cameras-in-belmar

You know what I need you to do.

Sweeney: Highest State Taxes In The Country Is Great!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:19 am

It’s only the local taxes that are a problem.

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Speaking in opposition to Christie’s proposed 10% income tax cut, the State Senate leader said:

“It’s not the income tax that’s a problem in this state, it’s the property tax, I don’t know anyone that’s screaming for an income tax cut, but I sure know people crying to (get) help (with) property taxes.”

So the only taxes Sweeney thinks are a problem are the ones imposed by other people.  His 8.97% income tax, 6th highest in the USA is fine.  His  7% sales tax, tied for 2nd highest in the USA is wonderful.  The people love paying them!  It’s those darn property taxes – which are what pays for our schools, police, fire protection, plowing, sanitation, and many other services we enjoy -, those are the problem.

The reason Sweeney doesn’t know anyone who is screaming for an income tax cut is because because he doesn’t hang around with productive people.  This is understandable, however, because so many of them don’t live in New Jersey anymore.

Sweeney is all for cutting taxes.  Just not the ones that fatten him and his cronies.  If he wants to cut property taxes he should run for city council or mayor.  If he wants to do his job as senate president he should be cutting state taxes.

February 21, 2012

Actual Photos Taken By Red Light Cameras

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:42 pm

Of The Accidents THEY JUST CAUSED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These photos were taken by red light cameras in Oxnard California of accidents resulting from panic stops caused by those very cameras.  They are from a report commisioned by former Congressman and House Speaker Richard Armey.

Here’s nine more studies that conclude that red light cameras increase accidents.

We don’t have a problem now.  Why would we want to create one?  Do you want to see these scenes repeated in Belmar?

I really believe that as part of their oath of office, our public officials should have to take the same oath that doctors take:

FIRST, DO NO HARM!

 

February 19, 2012

Red Light Camera “Pimping”……. The Perfect Crime?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:12 pm

From a story (no longer available on-line) in the Montgomery County (MD) Sentinel newspaper:

As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county’s Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera “Pimping” game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that “mimic” those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

“This game is very disturbing,” the parent said. “Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that “our civil rights are exploited,” and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing fad among students.

Fox News even did a story about it:

 

If this really catches on there is absolutely nothing law enforcement can to about it.  It exposes the basic contradiction this type of enforcement system has with the foundation of American criminal justice.  That is that the offender must be positively identified.  Even in the case of parking tickets, while we may not know who the driver was, at least the car is positively identified.  Photo-shopped license plates can easily fool a red light camera, but can’t fool a living, breathing ticket writer. 

I brought this up at Wednesday’s red light camera presentation.  Mr. Callari from American Traffic Solutions had no “solution” for that one!  Nor did Belmar police chief Tom Palmisano.  It is the perfect crime.

This problem alone is sufficient grounds to reject the use of traffic enforcement cameras in Belmar or anywhere else for that matter.

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:20 am

The first question I asked Charles Callari of ATS last Wednesday was what is the maximum amount of time the government has from the day of a red light offense being recorded to when the ticket is received by the car’s owner.  I was astonished to be told it is 90 days.  Think about that.  You could still get a ticket for something that occurred before last Thanksgiving!  I was told most of the time the delay is weeks and not months but even a few weeks is too long, and still, it could take months.

Most of us have driven through probably more than a thousand lights in the last three months.  Do you remember all of them?  Do you remember the details of any of them?  Even from last week or two weeks ago?  Of course not.  How can you defend yourself against allegations of some minor traffic error from weeks or months back? 

When you get pulled over by the police you know what just happened.  You know if the car behind you was following too closely for you to stop short without risking being rear-ended.  You know if you were on a patch of ice and risked skidding if you braked too forcefully.  You can’t be expected to remember this stuff weeks later.  Are we supposed to take notes about every action we take on the roads so we can later defend them?

This is why the voters of Baytown, Texas passed a referendum stating that red light camera tickets could not be issued unless a uniformed police officer was present at the intersection at the time of the offense.  (Baytown was promptly sued by camera operator ATS and had to settle the suit pay paying ATS $1 million!) 

This problem alone is sufficient grounds to reject the imposition of red light cameras on the people of Belmar.

February 18, 2012

Freedom To Get The Red Light In Belmar?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:52 am

Who’s kidding who?  Of course it’s all about the money.  There is no way we would even give a moments thought to installing red light cameras here in town if there weren’t some really handsome revenues at stake. 

At Wednesday evening’s council meeting a certain Mr. Charles Callari, of American Traffic Solutions (ATS), made his case for Belmar to contract with his company to install and operate these evil devices.  The mayor was kind enough to allow me to ask Mr. Callari some questions, some of which I presume were rather uncomfortable for him.  In my opinion his responses did nothing to counter any of the objections I expressed.  I hope I was able to persuade our mayor and council to drop the idea, as they did when first contemplating  the use of these malevolent contraptions a few years ago when Ken Pringle was mayor. 

Over the next few days, or possibly weeks, I will be discussing some of the many reasons why Belmar should not allow these God-awful machines to darken our town, and why we should stay away from these sleezy red light camera companies like ATS and their chief competitor, Redflex.  But my primary objection is with the whole concept of punishing people for profit.  Once we decide that government, in collusion with private companies, can turn it’s criminal justice system into a tool to enrichen it’s self, then the pursuit of justice will ALWAYS take a back seat to the pursuit of profits.  As a matter of fact,  justice won’t even be on the same bus as profits.  It will be in the back seat of an old school bus 16 buses back from the stretch limo that profits is riding in.  We hear a lot about “Wall Street greed” lately.  But the greed of the people in the government makes the white-shoe boys on Wall Street look like Franciscan monks. 

Speaking of Wall Street greed, it might interest you to know that ATS’s largest shareholder, at 30% ownership, is none other than top Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Goldman executives carrying out a recent aquisition.

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February 11, 2012

You Can Deal With This:

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:01 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or You Can Deal With That!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The top photo is an artist’s rendering of the proposed restaurant to replace Fishermans Den over at the marina.  It’s beautiful!  So clean and modern!  (I have to tell you I’m really sick of this phony Victorian look that’s so prevalent down here.) 

It is part of a $10 million dollar development project that includes a tiki bar on the pier and a miniature golf facility to the south of the restaurant.  It is a totally private undertaking done on land it will lease from the borough.  Details here, and here.  

And the second photo……………… is of the government.

I presume the two main partners in this venture, David Bettencourt of Long Branch and Michael Tennyson of Spring Lake are both millionaires.  What would Belmar have gotten if “soak the rich” politicians like Barack Obama and Steve Sweeney had gotten to that $10 million before they were able to spend it on creating this beautiful new marina for us? 

This: 

 

 

 

 

 

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God only knows how many great things we would have if the politicians had been letting people keep more of their money.  When we see them mugging it up for the cameras at a ribbon cutting for some or another new government crap, they are presuming that people like Mr. Bettencourt and Mr. Tennyson were only going to keep that $10 million buried in shoeboxes in their backyards but thankfully, dedicated public servants such as themselves were able to pry it from them and use it for “The People” instead.  But the only way to know what “The People” really want is to let them voluntarily spend and invest their money the way they see fit.  If Sweeney and Obama get their “millionaires’ taxes” that they are both aching so badly for, we are going to see a lot fewer good things happening in our country and in our state.    

 

February 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:49 pm

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