Mitch Perry Report 3.6.14: The politics of red-light cameras in St. Pete


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There's a very real possibility that St. Petersburg City Council will vote this morning to terminate the city's contract with its red-light camera vendor. Mayor Rick Kriseman said yesterday that if the Council doesn't kill the contract today, he's prepared to end it in September.

Red-light cameras have been a major issue in Florida in the past couple of years as more localities have begun using them to crack down on those who don't stop when they're supposed to. But there has been a strong resistance in certain circles, with the argument that the $158 fines are cash cows for local governments. Such arguments have gained particular resonance in St. Petersburg.

During the 2013 mayoral campaign, Kriseman said he stood with incumbent Bill Foster in supporting their use (as does Tampa's Bob Buckhorn). Kriseman said, "I support them for the purposes of public safety, not as a revenue generator. ... The fact is that red light cameras change driver behavior and cut down on the most dangerous types of accidents."

But in a statement issued yesterday the mayor said he's heard enough doubts about the technology to make him change his mind. Besides, the cameras have effectively changed people's behavior.

"Should the program continue beyond tomorrow's City Council meeting, and should red light behavior continue to improve resulting in revenues which fall below the costs of the program, we will remove cameras at that time," he wrote. But he says if there is in fact a need for the cameras (i.e. accidents go up) he's not resistant to bringing them back.

That's actually a pretty sound policy. It also coincides with St. Petersburg GOP state Jeff Brandes' idea to kill such cameras outright. Work done by WTSP's Noah Pransky and St. Pete Polls' Matt Florell have also contributed to disdain for the cameras in St. Pete.

Will Tampa and Hillsborough act next? It hasn't been as big an issue on this side of the Howard Frankland. Not yet, anyhow.

In other news… Everyone was all smiles at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, and why not? It's not exactly business as usual when the governor of the state comes around promising $194 million to your facility, as Rick Scott did yesterday in his #Let'sKeepWorking campaign. 

Hey, climate change foes, Chipotle now says its prices are going to go up because climate change is affecting supply,  and hence the price, of avocados. Can you deal with that? While you ruminate, a new organization called the Climate Change Lobby is going to open its doors in St. Pete this weekend.

And Hillsborough County's government yesterday approved funding for tax incentives for two major film productions — one from Hollywood, the other from Bolllywood — to be made in Cigar City.


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