Two L.A. councilmen want to hold off ending red-light camera program [Updated]
Two members of the Los Angeles City Council called Tuesday for the Police Commission to hold off on its planned cancellation of the red light camera program so that a study can be conducted on the public safety risks of ending the initiative.
Councilmen Tony Cardenas and Bernard C. Parks introduced a motion to instruct the five-member commission, whose members are appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to extend the existing red light contract with American Traffic Solutions on a month-to-month basis for up to a year while a safety analysis is completed.
The motion was introduced one week after the Police Commission voted abruptly to end the red light program on the grounds that it is a drain on the city’s budget and unfair to motorists. Drivers who refuse to pay the fines do not face serious repercussions.
“There is some evidence that the program has improved public safety,” Cardenas said. “I want to give the [Police] Department and the numbers a chance to speak for themselves and take the politics out of it.”
[Updated at 4:20 p.m.: The motion caused some confusion among commission members and their staff, who were uncertain whether the council has the authority to instruct them to take action. “It is an issue that we are going to question very seriously,” said President John Mack. “They can recommend things to us, but I’m not sure they can instruct us to do something.”
A spokesman for City Atty. Carmen Trutanich declined to comment on the question of the council’s authority, saying the motion and the contract with the camera operator needed more study.
As for the call by Cardenas and Parks to keep the cameras running while a study is performed, Mack said the commission has already thoroughly deliberated the issue. “We considered this very carefully. We would have to see some very persuasive factual arguments that would provide the basis for reconsideration.”
Commission Vice President Alan Skobin echoed Mack. “They’re asking for a study, however all five commissioners spent a lot of time studying extensive documentation and came to a unanimous conclusion. That result, from a very diverse and qualified commission, sends a strong message and should stand for something.”]
Cardenas’ motion was introduced on the same day that Lucy McCoy, a lobbyist for American Traffic Solutions, was in the council chambers discussing the photo red light program with aides to various councilmembers. Cardenas said McCoy asked him about extending her client’s contract. He said he has no interest in the needs of any particular vendor.
Cardenas said his motion will likely come up for a vote on Friday.
-- David Zahniser and Joel Rubin at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Councilman Tony Cardenas speaks at City Hall in Los Angeles Jan. 28, 2009. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times