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Friday, May 14, 2021

Guest Commentary

Red light cameras reek of corruption


The citizens of Houston forced a referendum on red light cameras because the city has allied itself with a corporation to initiate profit motivated law enforcement at the expense of due process.

Despite Keep Houston Safe’s efforts to block the vote, it’s on the ballot labeled as Proposition 3.

Warren Buffet sees automated law enforcement as a growth industry.That’s why Berkshire Hathaway poured hundreds of millions of dollars — through its subsidiary Goldman Sachs — into American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the red light camera company from Arizona.

Projected returns amount to tens of billions of dollars. ATS enticed city hall by promising income in the tens of millions of dollars. The city of Houston has essentially colluded with 21st century carpetbaggers manipulating traffic light timing at camera intersections to steal money from citizens.

City, police and local hospitals split profits with ATS. Publicly traded companies subsidize ATS, a private corporation. It’s an old Greenback Shuffle to hide behind proxy companies. In fact, Goldman Sachs has two seats on ATS’s seven-member board.

Since there’s no legal statute regulating yellow light times, ATS can conspire with officials to cut times to pop more people. It’s a money grab that the city, state, auto insurers, hospitals, ATS, Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway use to steal from motorists.

Safety is the pitch; however, to generate more citations, they reduce yellow light times at camera intersections.

This strategy has effectively replaced properly timed traffic lights — the only proven method of increasing safety.

With all of the profiting going on, one has to wonder if they are also manipulating timing at non-camera intersections to increase accidents to push for cameras at these intersections?

Case in point: South Sam Houston Parkway at West Fuqua. They tacitly pitched camera installation at this infamously dangerous intersection by using a tragic fatality as a selling point.

If true then, is this blood for money? Instead of properly timing lights, the city, police, hospitals, ATS and Keep Houston Safe lobby for more cameras. That’s both callous and evil.

Keep Houston Safe is ATS’s political action committee. They’ve got megabucks to lobby for red light cameras. They site studies that claim red light cameras save lives — studies mostly done by privately funded groups with fiscal ties to red light cameras. Bob Stein, lead investigator for the “Rice Study” admitted that the data TX Dot supplied had an error of plus-or-minus 100 feet.

Stein found that the distance of their margin of error is equal in length to an additional intersection.

Keep Houston Safe prefers data that can be fudged to fit a certain viewpoint. Additionally, this study was funded through HPD. Other studies conclude that cameras increase accidents by increasing rear end collisions. Other reports found results of increased T-bone collisions, contradicting the cameras’ alleged benefit.

The Hospital District spokesman admitted there was no reduction in traffic related injuries at camera intersections and no hospitals conducted their own independent studies.

Remember, hospitals have received tens of millions of dollars generated from red light cameras.

The real reason the Houston Chronicle has come out in support of red light cameras is advertising. Berkshire Hathaway has many companies like Geico that advertise in the Chronicle.

Newspapers worldwide have been folding since the Internet’s rise and struggle to remain solvent. Advertisers are their life blood.

The Chronicle has cowed down to Berkshire Hathaway and other auto insurers, who can threaten to pull advertising dollars if their wishes aren’t met.

This rule applies to television media, who are beholden to their advertisers.

TV news anchors can subtly influence viewer opinions by the way they portray subject matter, the types of stories they air and by allowing camera proponents to inject their opinions into stories — like HPD captain Bill Staney’s remarks on a tragedy at South Sam Houston Parkway at West Fuqua.

Remember, a huge sponsor of these TV broadcasts is Berkshire Hathaway’s subsidiary, Geico. That’s the economic force these corporations use to bribe and bully our allegedly unbiased media.

Here’s what’s at stake regarding red light cameras.

Will Houston be the first major city to sow the seeds of Free Market Law Enforcement by allowing Proposition 3 to be voted on because of multibillion dollar corporate backing and slick advertising?

Shall we allow our rights to become a traded commodity, manipulated by a corporate-judicial system whose chief incentive is to invent new ways to penalize innocent citizens for the sake of increasing stock value?

Shall we allow our city officials, police, local hospitals and media outlets to be bribed and bullied by multibillion corporations? Shall we be the first city to usher in a plutocratic police state where corporations are allowed to dictate legal statutes?

If no would be your answer, then vote NO on Prop 3.

Mike DeLeonardis is a citizen activist and Houston resident.


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