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Red-Light Cameras: L.A. City Council Split on Whether to Nix 32 Expensive, Unpopular Ticket Traps

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Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 9:15 AM

click to enlarge $500 richer? - ILLUSTRATION BY KYLE T. WEBSTER
  • Illustration by Kyle T. Webster
  • $500 richer?
The red-light rebels of L.A. were all kinds of thrilled yesterday to learn that the LAPD's Board of Police Commissioners had voted 5-0 to tear down incriminating cameras placed at 32 of the city's busiest intersections, just waiting for a careless car to try and squeak through on yellow. It was a complete turnaround: In December, the commission unanimously voted to keep the program intact.

So, props. But the commission's decision will mean very little without a similar move by the L.A. City Council this June 17.

It would be bold, but it's a no-brainer. City Controller Wendy Greuel has been calling for an end to the clunky red-light-camera program since she got into office. From her scathing audit:

click to enlarge CITY CONTROLLER'S OFFICE
  • City Controller's Office
Even if the council were merely feeling greedy, and wished to keep indirectly taxing us with gut-wrenching $500 red-light tickets (because lord knows the General Fund could use the spare change), this wouldn't be the way to go about it. All said and done, the motion-censor technology has cost L.A. taxpayers over $2.6 million since its inception in 2009, with 77 percent of tickets going unpaid. (And we don't blame the delinquents.)

Yesterday, the City Maven reported that "it doesn't appear likely that the Los Angeles City Council will overturn the decision" and quoted one councilman, Greig Smith, expressing his doubt that 10 of 15 city leaders would back such an unpopular program.

But Bernard Parks, ex-LAPD chief and one of the council's wise old free-thinkers -- to whom many less-informed councilmembers tend to look up -- has been a No. 1 advocate of the red-light cameras.

So, from where we're sitting, the vote could go either way. And that's saying a lot under the paranoid reign of City Council President Eric Garcetti, during which votes have been unanimous 99.993 percent of the time.

Our biggest fear, at this point, is that the council will be too proud to admit the city's colossal waste of time and money so far, clinging to this notion that the red-light cameras are integral to traffic safety. Because they're not. Councilmembers, if you're reading: There's nothing sexier than a politician who admits his mistakes. (Unless you're Anthony Weiner. That kind of confession makes us want to gouge our eyes and cancel our Twitter accounts.)

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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