Oregon fines man $500 because he used math to criticize red light cameras without having an engineering license

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/oregon-man-claims-state-muzzles-red-light-camera-critique-n751371

Oregon Man Claims State Muzzles Red Light Camera Critique

April 26, 2017

An Oregon man’s public criticism of the mathematical formula used by red light cameras got him in trouble — not with the police but with the state engineering board.

So he’s suing, claiming a violation of free speech.

After his wife got a ticket based on a red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, Mats Järlström, a Swedish-born electronics engineer, studied the calculations used to determine the length of the yellow light cycle. He concluded it was too short, because it failed to account for the longer time a driver needed to turn a corner, rather than go straight through the intersection.

Convinced the cameras were using an out-of-date formula, he took his message to practically anyone who would listen — local TV stations, a conference of traffic engineers, and even the state board of engineer examiners.

That’s what got him in trouble.

The board fined him $500 and said he was violating a state law by speaking about engineering issues without a license.

“By providing the public with his traffic engineering calculations,” the board said, “Järlström engaged in the practice of engineering.” And since he didn’t have a license issued by the state, he was violating the law, it said.

Now he’s suing in federal court, accusing the state of violating his First Amendment right to speak about a public issue.

“Criticizing the government’s engineering isn’t a crime. It’s a constitutional right,” said Samuel Gedge of the Institute for Justice, a conservative public interest law firm representing Järlström. “You don’t need to be a licensed engineer to talk about traffic lights.”

As many states do, Oregon prohibits a person from practicing engineering without a license. But the state’s board of engineering examiners equates publicly talking about engineering issues with practicing engineering.

“I was fined simply for speaking out and was told that I can’t truthfully call myself an engineer. People should be free to debate any topic, including technical topics like math and traffic lights,” Järlström said.

A spokesman for the state engineering board had no comment on the lawsuit, and the state has not yet responded in court.

Järlström paid the $500 fine. But he isn’t suing to get his money back.

Another Institute for Justice lawyer on his legal team, Wesley Hottot, said the state is essentially requiring a permission slip to debate government policy. “This board and licensing boards across the country think the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them. They couldn’t be more wrong.”

April 28, 2017. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Math, Police state. 1 comment.

Lovely Warren, the mayor of Rochester, New York, said that even though red light cameras save lives, she wants to get rid of them because they disproportionately affect the poor

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/12/01/city-end-red-light-program/94730002/

Mayor cancels red light camera program

December 1, 2016

Citing disproportionate impact on some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, Mayor Lovely Warren on Thursday announced an end to Rochester’s red-light camera program.

If City Council approves, the mayor said, the cameras will go dark Dec. 31.

“I reached the conclusion the benefits simply don’t justify a further extension” of the contract, she said. “I’m very concerned that too many of these tickets have been issued to those who simply can’t afford them, which is counter-productive to our efforts to reverse our city’s troubling rates of poverty.”

Rochester launched its red-light camera program in October 2010 and currently has 48 cameras at 32 intersections.

Each ticket issued carries a $50 fine, with a portion of that going to pay for rental of the cameras and processing of the tickets. The city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems is such that Redflex loses money unless the cameras generate enough ticket revenue to cover expenses. Anything above those expenses goes to the city.

Leonard Redon, special assistant to the deputy mayor, said the program typically generates actual revenue of between $800,000 and $1 million annually.

“That was something we had to take into consideration when making this decision,” he said. “But ultimately, this is about the citizens and their needs.”

In 2012, Rochester was among 533 communities across the country using red-light cameras to help enforce traffic law. That’s when red-light camera use reached its peak, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As of this month, just 430 communities are now using red-light cameras.

The reasons officials give for shuttering the systems vary, but often include a high cost for citations and citizen outcry over the automated enforcement.

In some areas, municipalities have run into trouble because traffic signals weren’t providing motorists a consistent 3.6-second interval for yellow lights, and others have run afoul of their own state laws governing how motorists  are notified of their tickets.

Acknowledging issues here, Warren noted that the program has been “wildly unpopular” since its inception.

Transportation groups nonetheless advocate for red light cameras. The Insurance Institute says flipping the switch on the program will likely cost lives. According to their studies, cities that ran with red-light cameras between 2010 and 2014 saw a 21 percent drop in the number of fatal red-light-running crashes, while those that turned their systems off saw a 30 percent increase.

David Goldenberg, a spokesman with the Traffic Safety Coalition, said there’s no question data shows red-light cameras make intersections safer.

“The data is absolutely conclusive that cameras made Rochester roads safer and data from around the country shows that red-light running crashes, injuries and even deaths per capita go up when the cameras get turned off,” he said.

Here, a study released by the city in May showed an overall reduction of 21 percent in crashes at intersections with red-light cameras since the cameras were installed. The report looked at nearly 6,000 accident reports dating back to 2007.

Still, Warren said, she found the report unpersuasive.

“Some of the intersections with cameras did see a decrease in red-light violations, others saw an increase and some stayed the same,” she said. “Meanwhile the ZIP codes that have the city’s highest poverty rates, like 14605, 14609 and 14621 generated the highest numbers of red-light camera tickets.”

Rochester attorney Lawrence Krieger, an outspoken critic of the red-light camera program — who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the city’s use of the technology — said the decision to stop using them was a long time coming.

“This is an early Christmas present to the drivers of Rochester, to the voters of Rochester,” he said. “But I’ll take it either way. This shows this was never about safety or people actually running red lights…I’m glad the mayor reached this conclusion and I think stopping the program because it so unfairly and disproportionately hurts poor people is a good enough reason.”

In his lawsuit, Krieger claimed red-light cameras deny motorists basic protections of due process, but a state Supreme Court Justice in 2013 upheld the city’s program.

“My legal battle went back through the court system three years ago and the city won in the court of law, but today we won in the court of public opinion,” said Krieger. “The city had six years of a cash grab and that’s enough.”

City officials will determine how to best absorb the loss of ticket revenue as they begin developing the 2017-18 budget in January.

While the cameras are slated to go dark at the end of the month, all tickets issued in the past and until the program shuts down will still have to be paid, said Warren.

And, she said, Rochester police will continue to enforce traffic law, even without the cameras.

“Let me be perfectly clear: running a red light is very dangerous and puts our citizens and visitors at risk,” she said. “Running a red light is still against the law, it was against the law when we started this program and it will continue to be against the law when we end this program.”

December 5, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Political correctness, Politics, Social justice warriors. 1 comment.