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Garfield Heights red light district
PAC rolls out ads
by WKSU's KABIR BHATIA


Reporter
Kabir Bhatia
 

Compared to the deluge of election ads this season, Garfield Heights’ traffic camera campaign has been relatively low-key.  But like many of this year’s higher-profile campaigns, the effort to KEEP the traffic cameras involves corporate donations and political consultants. 
 

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Garfield Heights has been using cameras to ticket speeders since May, 2009.  Unmanned, unmarked SUVs park at busy intersections and automatically send data to their home base, at Redflex Traffic Systems in Arizona.  That data could cost drivers 100 dollars without warning.
Citizens who don’t like the cameras forced the issue onto Tuesday’s ballot. Their referendum would ban their use, whether for stoplights or speeding. But a PAC calling itself Safe Roads Ohio is running ads touting the safety benefits of the cameras in the financially strapped city.
98 percent of the funding for the PAC came from Redflex Traffic Systems, and Garfield Heights police Lt. Gary Wolske notes there is a relationship between the City and Redflex.
"(WOLSKE)...They own the system, I'm sure they have a stake in it.  But obviously they make money on it because it's a percentage type thing.  We make so much on a ticket, they make so much on a ticket.  I'm sure they wanna see it remain because everybody's making money..."
Alexander Lamis is an associate professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University.  He says the funding of the ads is NOT unusual.
 "(LAMIS)... If it's made public I guess that's all the citizens need to know and then they can decide, based on that information, how to react to the advertising campaign..."
The pro-camera group touts itself as a grassroots effort aimed at keeping citizens safe.  The cameras are downplayed on the Web site, and aren’t even mentioned in at least one ad.
Earlier this year, Garfield Heights began issuing refunds to drivers caught by its speed vans, which were supposed to target anyone going 10 miles or more over the speed limit.  Instead, city officials found most drivers were getting tickets while still in the 10 mile per hour buffer zone.
 

 
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