Lobbyist engages photo-enforcement antagonists - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Lobbyist engages photo-enforcement antagonists

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Posted: Saturday, February 28, 2009 5:58 pm | Updated: 3:15 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Getting There: For people accused of employing Big Brother tactics to siphon money from drivers yet failing to make the highways safer, I found the folks from Redflex to be quite pleasant.

For people accused of employing Big Brother tactics to siphon money from drivers yet failing to make the highways safer, I found the folks from Redflex to be quite pleasant.

Redflex has the state contract for speed-enforcement cameras, administered by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. If voters or lawmakers decide to get rid of the cameras, they’ll be getting rid of Redflex, too.

That explains why the Tribune played host last week to the company’s legislative lobbyist and two PR people. They didn’t have any news to announce, but just wanted to drop by so they could answer our questions and make their pitch to why the cameras are good things.

The lobbyist, Jay Heiler, did most of the talking, which was: A. expected, because he’s paid to do so, and; B. entertaining, because he’s got a tone bordering on flip.

(Remember when Scottsdale’s cameras busted a guy going 147 mph in his Hyundai Sonata? The big bosses at Redflex’s HQ didn’t like Heiler congratulating the car’s maker.)

Heiler had his patter down, and listening to him swat down arguments was like watching competitive skeet shooting. Pull!

“Isn’t photo radar too intrusive?” Would you rather put up with a camera click or be pulled over by a police officer?

Heiler also was willing to fire at Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who recently had declared his office wouldn’t be prosecuting drivers for criminal speeding when the only evidence was photo radar. Thomas said such prosecution meant those defendants, as is their right, couldn’t confront their accusers.

Thomas’ “constitutional argument is infirm,” Heiler said. (On Friday, Redflex got some high-placed support when Attorney General Terry Goddard issued a memo rejecting claims of the cameras’ unconstitutionality.)

But Heiler acknowledged the public has limits to its acceptance of cameras. He said people are willing to put up with strict enforcement at red lights, so authorities are seldom accused of over-reach there. But on roads, there is a breaking point where motorists believe the costs outweigh the benefits.

Although the camera system run by DPS is under attack by petition drives, Heiler didn’t see Redflex taking an active role in fighting those initiatives. Might be politically damaging for the company, he said.

One last thing: A few weeks ago, I offered a scenario in which a number of photo-radar units, combined with license-plate scanners, conceivably could issue tickets based not on motorists’ speed when they pass by the cameras but upon the time in which it took to move between them.

(It’s a simple math problem – if two cameras are spaced exactly a mile apart and a car, perhaps that dude in the Sonata, took only 30 seconds to cross that distance, that’s speeding.)

Redflex, apparently, has that capability. “Point-to-point enforcement” is a reality overseas, but not yet in America. Keep that in mind next time you’re flooring the pedal.

VIP TOUR

Local mayors, including Chandler’s Boyd Dunn and Mesa’s Scott Smith, showed off the Valley’s new light-rail system to an important visitor on Friday afternoon.

Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has much to say where federal dollars are spent. And, the Democrat from Minnesota apparently likes how the Valley is spending what it’s been given: “You’re doing the right thing, and making the right investments.”

Following a press conference, Oberstar, Rep. Harry Mitchell, the mayors and regional transportation officials piled into a Metro train at the Washington/38th Street station and rode to the 44th Street stop. There, Oberstar saw the location of where Phoenix officials plan to build a people-mover to Sky Harbor International Airport.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon took the opportunity to publicly ask the feds for cash; he said $200 million would accelerate the people-mover project by seven years, with completion in 2013.

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