Red-Light Cameras Line the Pockets of Very Bad Boys

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A disgraced former Miami-Dade County commissioner and a Hialeah businessman once banned from getting county contracts are making big bucks off the red-light camera blitzkrieg in South Florida. Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which has installed red-light cameras in 22 cities in Miami-Dade and nearly 80 cities across the state, employs Larry Hawkins as a lobbyist and uses Hector Ortiz as a subcontractor.

You might recall that Hawkins, when he was a county commissioner, was the target of several sexual harassment complaints. In one case, the Florida ethics commission fined him for subjecting female staffers "to repeated and continuous lewd" behavior. In another incident, a woman testified that Hawkins grabbed her breasts, kissed her, and exposed himself to her in a Chicago hotel room in 1989.

After telling New Times columnist Jim DeFede in 1994 that he had never flashed or come on to one of his accusers because he had found her "to be fairly unattractive," he was removed from office by voters. Now he is back at county hall lobbying for ATS, which plans to bid on a contract to put red-light cameras at intersections in unincorporated Miami-Dade.

He joins a lobbying corps that includes state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Tallahassee powerhouse Ronald Book, and the county mayor's son Carlos Gimenez Jr. (who has lobbied in the City of Miami).

Then there's Ortiz's company Horsepower Electric, which has installed red-light cameras at 19 intersections in Miami. Horsepower is ATS's exclusive subcontractor in Florida, says ATS spokesman Charles Territo.

In 2005, Ortiz and Horsepower were banned from obtaining county work for two years as a result of Ortiz's involvement in a 2001 federal bribery case against Richard Mendez, a bureaucrat who oversaw construction projects at Miami-Dade airports. Prosecutors claimed Ortiz gave Mendez money to steer contracts to him and his son. Ortiz, who was never charged with a crime, insisted he was only providing loans to a friend.

After the ban was lifted, the county commission awarded $11.6 million in streetlight and traffic systems to Horsepower. Territo declined comment but says "ATS has a strong team in South Florida that shares our commitment to road safety."

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10 comments
Chemical Man
Chemical Man

Do your homework on ATS, They are a very bad company who use whatever and whoever they can to meet their financial goals, Including George Hittner, Their VP of legal who's dad is a Federal Judge, " I wonder why they hired him".  Houston sent them packing, Best thing they could have done. 

jcwconsult
jcwconsult

In almost every case, longer yellow intervals on the traffic lights will produce fewer violations than red light cameras. But greedy cities prefer the too-short yellows so the cities and their business partner ATS (or another vendor) can collect thousands or millions of dollars with predatory red light cameras (which should be called red light cash registers).The Florida Department of Transportation helps to facilitate the installation of predatory red light cameras by allowing the yellow intervals to be set for the often under-posted speed limits instead of for the actual 85th percentile approach speeds of free flowing traffic under good conditions. This is improper engineering, facilitated by FLDOT.  If red light cameras could only be located at lights with yellows timed to the actual 85th percentile approach speeds, the red light camera industry would collapse in Florida and there would be almost no cameras installed.See our website for the science, but red light cameras are a revenue scam, not a safety program.  James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

tom2
tom2

Local bad boys notwithstanding, there's just something unseemly and sleazy about any local officials who use law enforcement as a means of generating revenue.  Consequently, photo enforcement has never survived a public vote.  Perhaps it's time tor Miami to step up.  They've been banned outright or so severely restricted as to make them unworkable, in Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin.  Lakeland (FL) paid $667,000 to wrongfully convicted drivers in a class action lawsuit.  More than 500 red-light camera tickets worth about $250,000 were dismissed after a Superior Court Judge affirmed her earlier ruling that the Napa (CA) contract with its camera provider violated state law.  Des Plaines (IL) will add no more because they're not effective.  Albuquerque citizens just voted them out.  Last I heard, red-light cameras are used in about 500 communities in 26 states, less than 2% of America's 30,000 communities.  If city bosses really believe cameras reduce accidents, they'd have marked them with large bright colors instead of making them difficult to see.  The people aren't stupid and it looks like most realize this is NOT the kind of world free humans want, a world in which our superiors and their police remotely monitor our actions to ensure approved behavior.

Joe Donnellan
Joe Donnellan

Privatized traffic law enforcement systems may or may not be a useful tool in keeping drivers and pedestrians safe. But when private firms and municipalities consider profits first, and safety second, the public interest is threatened.  Before pursuing a camera system contract, local governments should heed the advice (http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/int... ) of the Federal Highway Administration and first investigate traffic engineering solutions for problem intersections or roadways. If officials decide that private enforcement systems are appropriate, they should avoid deals that constrain decisions about protecting safety. Privatized traffic law enforcement should be used solely as a tool for enhancing traffic safety – not as a cash cow for municipalities or private firms. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group will be releasing a report on this subject on October 27.  Once it is released, it will be available at www.uspirg.org/trafficcamrepor.... - Joe Donnellan for U.S. PIRG

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

While I fully agree that there are shenanigans afoot here regarding ATS, I just wish we could do something about red light running in South Florida. God knows I've been so close to being taken out by the sixth car turning left on red more times than I can count.

DiegoHenry
DiegoHenry

ATS has a lot of other "boys" working for it.  To read about some of the older ones, do a Google on Rosenker Kroske Clark.

LouSanis
LouSanis

No no no this can't be right. Red light cameras promote safety. Nothing else. Especially not to generate money or line pockets. No no that is not the case at all.

Steady Runnin
Steady Runnin

wat a bunch of assholes,,,,,and isn't it proven that red light cameras don't actually work

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