VISTA — Vista’s nine red-light cameras aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
The City Council voted 3-2 to keep the red-light camera program in place despite public commenters urging leaders to end the program. Councilman John Franklin and Deputy Mayor Amanda Rigby voted against the motion.
The city of Vista has been in contract with Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc. since 2009 to maintain the red-light cameras. The city has nine cameras, which capture photos of drivers who run or fail to stop at red lights, at five intersections. It pays Redflex $2,833 per month, per camera.
Councilman John Franklin said the “financial harm” a ticket has on a person or family is why he opposed the red-light cameras. About 4,000 tickets are issued a year and $2.4 million in fines are collected. Each ticket brings into the city $158.38.
“These folks are visitors,” Franklin said. “They work in Vista, they live in Vista. They are people who would spend the money in the restaurant or local businesses or for life’s necessities.”
Deputy Mayor Amanda Rigby, who was the only council member to vote against the program in 2014, placed the item on the agenda for discussion. She said the city should explore other ways of improving traffic safety without punishing drivers.
“I question the effectiveness of the red-light camera program,” Rigby said. “I would like the city to look at the tools in the toolbox.”
Rigby also questioned the employees at Redflex after a Chicago Tribune investigation showed illegal deals between the former CEO and a Chicago transportation official. Former CEO Karen Finley pled guilty to a bribery scheme last year.
“Our good name and our good reputation should not be in business with a company like that any longer,” Rigby said.
Rigby and Franklin were supported by four public commenters who all asked the City Council to end the red-light camera program.
“If I can avoid them, I’ll go somewhere else,” Winifred Meiser told the City Council. “I don’t even like to think I’m going to get caught. I hope we dispose of them and give people the chance to act like sensible drivers.”
But, a council majority said the program increased traffic safety in the city.
“There’s an easy way to avoid getting a red light camera ticket — don’t run the red light,” Councilman Cody Campbell said. “All you have to do is stop at the intersection. This is a safety issue.”
Councilman John Aguilera said the red-light cameras felt like “Big Brother” but it improved safety.
“I don’t really like red light cameras,” said Aguilera, who admitted to receiving a ticket. “But if we’re saving lives, I’m willing to take that chance.”
Although the red-light camera program will stay in place, the City Council agreed to explore other companies who could provide the program. The city’s staff was advised to explore other companies or negotiate for better prices with Redflex.
“When we put the red light cameras in, staff evaluated the need for the cameras and we did it based solely on the premise of creating a safe environment, and it’s worked,” Campbell said. “Major collisions have gone down.”
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.