St. Pete City Council votes to kill red light cams

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- In a 6-2 vote, City Councilmembers went along with Mayor Rick Kriseman's red light camera compromise to terminate the program early, no later than Sept. 30, 2014.

Kriseman sent a memo to council Wednesday evening, ahead of the meeting, as momentum to kill the cameras was mounting on council. He said when revenue fell below program costs, it would signal drivers had sufficiently changed their behaviors and the program could be retired. City staffers expect the cameras to go "revenue neutral" by September.

While ticket numbers had slowly declined in St. Petersburg since the cameras were introduced in the fall of 2011, a recentdrastic drop occured when yellow lights were lengthened to safer intervals, following 10 Investigates' coverage.

TIMELINE:10 News' Short Yellows Investigation
MAP: Short Yellows in Your Neighborhood

St. Petersburg seemed to be running one of the more responsible red light camera (RLC) programs in Tampa Bay, butit was also perhaps the most scrutinized, thanks to local critic and statistician Matt Florell.

Councilmembers Jim Kennedy, an attorney,and Bill Dudley, a former drivers' education teacher, both voted against terminating the city's RLC contract a year early.

"It's not about money," Kennedy said. "It's about safety."

Kennedy also suggested adding more cameras, comparing the program to any other safety improvement that mightcost the city money.

Dudley questioned the logic of ending a program that seemed to be working. He also called usingshort yellow lights as an excuse for running a red lighta "bunch of baloney."

Also speaking on behalf of the cameras was Melissa Wandall, whose late husbandis the namesake for the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, the Florida law that governs red light cameras. Wandall also spoke to 10 Investigates in 2013 about the benefits of the cameras.

Terminating its contract early will not cost the city of St. Petersburg any damages, per its 2011 contract with American Traffic Solutions.

Councilmembers also discussed possible refunds for drivers who were wrongly ticketed by yellow lights that were below the state's minimum, but no decision was made. Instead, the city will research how it could possibly recoup monies already paid to the state, which receives a majority of each red light camera ticket.

Find 10 News InvestigatorNoah Pransky on Facebookorfollow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips

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