East Cleveland becomes first U.S. city to approve traffic cameras

Voters said yes to photo enforcement after mayor threatens layoffs

Transportation Management News www.cleveland.com November 15, 2011
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Traffic cameras can be the bane of the law-bending driver; the tickets issued using the cameras are notoriously hard to wiggle out of in court because of the photographic evidence of a driver speeding, or running a red light or stop sign.


Despite a general nationwide irritation with the cameras, last week, voters in East Cleveland became the first city in the nation to approve the use of the traffic cameras, according to Cleveland.com.


But voters rejected traffic cameras in other parts of the city, including Garfield Heights, South Euclid and Ashtabula, adding to the growing national movement against the much-disparaged devices.


Before this election, photo enforcement cameras had never survived a vote anywhere in the nation. Sixteen campaigns, including five in Ohio––more than any other state––had failed to persuade voters to approve the technology to target speeders and red-light runners.


More than 54 percent of East Cleveland voters opted to keep the cameras, according to final, unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.


Mayor Gary Norton raised the stakes for voters considering cameras. At a meeting last month, he said the city would lay off 68 employees, or roughly one-third of municipal employees, if residents voted out the cameras and the city lost the resulting ticket revenue. The majority of the lost jobs would affect the city’s police and fire departments.


East Cleveland launched its photo enforcement program in 2006 by rolling out mobile speed cameras. Last year, the city expanded the operation and installed speed and red-light cameras at key intersections.


South Euclid has deployed only one mobile speed camera, which is placed on neighborhood streets where residents complain of speeders. The city began its program in May. Police Chief Kevin Nietert said a decrease in speeding violations over the first few months showed that drivers had begun slowing down.


Residents in East Cleveland, South Euclid and Ashtabula petitioned for the right to challenge the camera programs in their communities.


Garfield Heights asked voters to consider camera use on a limited basis. Last November, in a narrow vote, residents chose to prohibit photo enforcement after the city installed mobile speed cameras. Mayor Vic Collova then proposed a more restrictive program that allows cameras only in schools zones and park and recreation areas.


Even with the more limited program, photo enforcement lost by a wider margin than in 2010 in Garfield Heights. Cameras also lost by sizable gaps in South Euclid and Ashtabula.


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