Monday, June 20, 2011

Lewis Mischaracterizes Marty Chavez, Cops Out on Red Light Debate

Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, who is running for Congress, had an op-ed piece the other day advocating a referendum about keeping the red light cameras in Albuquerque.
Lewis’ argument has several big problems starting with a mischaracterization of former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez role in the red lights. Lewis says, "It was forced on our city by the previous mayor without any consultations with either citizens or the City Council."
In considering this, note that “mischaracterization” might be considered a really long word for “lie.”
No “consultations” with the city council? Well, the city council had to approve the contract with the red light guys, so it would seem they were consulted. In my brief Google search, I found one story indicating that the council approved a draft of the contract and that maybe Mayor Chavez played fun and games between the forced and the final contract. Whether that was true, or not, I’m not too worried about the details, but clearly the council was involved.
As to citizens, one blogger claimed “everyone” opposed the red lights. Equally, clearly, citizens were involved, maybe only the blogger and his best friend.
So we have a double mischaracterization.
Later, Chavez equivocated one way and then another about red lights as he contemplated a run to the Senate. Again, there was public dialogue.
While the red light cameras are a bit Big Brotherish, I see two substantial reasons to oppose them.
1. A retired police officer and friend is correct when he says that citizen / police interactions should be between people, not a person and a piece of equipment. That said, I suggest the lights are an example of the consequences when there are too few people. One goes to capital equipment to deal with the situation.
2. The red lights miss the point. The solution, I continue to believe, is to change the definition of running the light from entering the intersection after the red to still being in the intersection after the red.
For me neither point is persuasive.
Lewis makes two populist points worthy of consideration.
1. The whole thing is a conspiracy of insurance companies. Think about this. Insurance company CEOs sat around a table somewhere and chose to support red light cameras.
2. In advocating a referendum, he also advocates the multi-referendum California approach, which has resulted in the disaster that is California's government today. Of course, given the opportunity, people will oppose the cameras. The incentive of the people is to reduce chances of getting caught.
Lewis says, "On rare occasions, some questions should be decided by referendum." The red light cameras aren't even close. I refer you to California. What else, I wonder, might Lewis consider appropriate for a referendum? Leash laws? Pot-hole repair policy?
In our country, we have representatives. They vote and that should be that. If voters don’t like the vote, we have the next election. Elected officials are paid to make decisions and stick with those decisions, not to advocate cop-outs such as referendums. What is Lewis going to do in Congress, if elected, advocate national referendums?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Politicians have made every decision on this program for 6 years. I said during my council campaign three years ago that the best thing for this program is to put it before the voters and I've been consistent since then. What is the fear of the people of Albuquerque weighing in on this? People want their voice to be heard.

I don't believe this program has anything to do with public safety. In studies all over the country including our own UNM research study the cameras have proven to cause more accidents with very little evidence that they have a positive effect whatsoever.

Additionally, studies all over the country do prove that there are many alternative measures that have been proven to reduce accidents at intersections including extending yellow lights, all-red clearance times, improving sight lines at trouble intersections, and much more. If we were really interested in public safety, we would take every problem intersection in the city and implement these proven alternative measures. Extending a yellow light by one second is proven to decrease accidents at intersections by 80%.

Reasonable people that actually read these multitude of studies conclude that there is a better way. Cities large and small all over the country are getting rid of these programs based on serious studies.

City Councilors make thousands of decisions each year without asking the voters for their input. This is one of very few issues that will go before the voters. The ballot question is not a referendum. The council is simply asking for input from the voters, and the Journal as well as all the TV stations and media have clearly explained that.

The mayor also in a press release explained that this ballot measure is not legally binding and that the council would have to act one way or the other. This ballot question is similar to the 1/4 cent for public safety tax where this tax question was on the ballot for the people to weigh in. The decision of the voters did not enact the law. The council still acts legislatively one way or another, but is not legally bound to do so. The council has the ability to raise taxes or lower them at any time by up to a 1/4 cent without voter approval.

I would take the time to do your own research of the many studies out there as I have before passing uninformed judgment.

I will always do my best to make decisions based on what I believe is right for the community. Having said that, Republicans, Independents as well as Democrats have expressed widespread support for a public servant that thinks enough of the people of Albuquerque that he would suggest allowing them to have a say in such an important issue.

I would be glad to participate in a formal public debate on this issue if you're inclined to set one up.

Dan Lewis