Tara on the Traffic Enforcement
What is your perspective regarding “Speed on Green”? If Red Deerians renew your mandate on October 16th, how would you propose to approach Traffic Enforcement next term?
I did not support and voted against “Speed on Green” cameras during the 2017 operating budget debate for a couple of reasons. While cameras are a more cost-effective means of traffic enforcement than paying for municipal police staff, I disagreed with how Speed on Green came forward. The purpose of Traffic Enforcement is intended to be community safety, for example by deterring unsafe speeding in school zones or vehicles from running red lights, both of which have potentially significant impacts for the safety of our citizens. However, because Speed on Green only came forward for debate in the budget, the optic in the community was that Speed on Green was about revenue and not safety. In my view, Speed on Green should have been a policy discussion first in the context of the broader safety objectives of traffic enforcement and in relationship to other traffic enforcement measures such as red light cameras and photo radar. Not only that, it concerned me that the public had not had much opportunity to provide Council with their thoughts prior to the formal debate.
However, Council majority ultimately supported Speed on Green and a contract has now been implemented. While a new Council may revisit the matter, it would now be at a financial detriment to the tax payer because there would be a financial penalty of contract cancellation, plus the shortfall $300,000 of anticipated revenue from Speed on Green would then be assigned to the tax base, neither prospect of which would be in the interests of the tax payer.
Having said this, in my view the answer to public frustration with respect to Speed on Green and photo radar is an integrated review of the policy strategy and the operations of traffic enforcement. Early in the new Council’s workplan will be a review in accordance with the above. Traffic enforcements needs to be aligned with safety objectives (such as preventing high speed collisions, intersection t-bones, and pedestrian collisions) and not about revenue generation in and of itself. Furthermore, speed violations need to be reasonably enforced at thresholds that compromise safety (certainly not the 1 or 2 kms. over that recently occurred in another Alberta City) and in transparent locations that are chosen on grounds of safety risks or identified citizen concern.
The tools of traffic enforcement need to work in tandem with each other and align not just to traffic safety objectives, but also in alignment with community safety priorities. People often take exception to regulatory offenses appearing to take priority over criminal offenses, so traffic safety needs to protect the safety interests of Red Deerians in proportion to the safety interests of police resources being allocated to criminal enforcement.
It is also important to note that traffic enforcement revenue is used to subsidize the police budget. If photo radar, red light cameras and speed on green were all removed, the approximately 1.2 million dollars they generate toward existing police operations would then be passed onto the taxpayer, the equivalent of an approximately 1% tax increase. Alternatively, removing approximately 1.2 million dollars from the police budget would theoretically translate into an approximate reduction of approximately 8-10 police officers. I could not support either of the above prospects, especially considering our local crime challenges and recessed economy.
Given all the above, I believe that a comprehensive review is in order which will balance public safety interests with citizens’ right to expect regulatory reasonableness.