Red light camera companies influence St. Pete elections

3:18 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - There's just one more day before some city council candidates in St. Petersburg will learn their fate, but several have received a little extra boost in the campaign's closing days from the companies that provide the city's red light cameras (RLC).

American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and affiliated companies Mulhill ICS and Platepass LLC have contributed to at least two candidates' coffers, according to recently-filed campaign finance reports.

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City Councilman Jim Kennedy, a favorite to retain his District 2 seat, received a pair of maximum donations ($500 each) from camera companies this month.  Kennedy has long been a supporter of the technology and told 10 News he has never met with any ATS, Mulhill, or Platepass representatives.  He said the checks "just arrived" one day.

"I think (RLC) provide safety and stop the most dangerous type of accidents: T-bones," Kennedy said, adding that the city's bump in accidents at RLC intersections last year was probably due to distracted driving, not the cameras.

Meanwhile, District 4 frontrunner Darden Rice, who has never served on council and opposes RLC, also received a maximum donation of $500 from ATS in recent weeks.

Rice directed 10 News to her website, where she addresses red light cameras

I am not in favor of red light cameras.  They erode trust and make the city feel less friendly. They were clearly introduced to increase revenue and have fallen short on their stated objective to improve public safety.  They are regressive in structure, hurting lower income, working people the most.  Further, because they are not a smart technology, and the human element of discretion is replaced by the camera, they are error prone.  Safety is important.  I recommend we look at a meaningful way to engage the citizenry to address traffic related public safety issues.  The recent discovery of shortened yellow light signals at RLC intersections certainly reveals that the motivation for implementing red light cameras is clearly about revenue, not safety.

American Traffic Solutions told 10 News last spring they weren't "buying" influence, merely supporting politicians that supported intersection safety technologies.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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