Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's push to regain the ability for cities to install PhotoCop-like traffic enforcement will hit the City Council tonight.
Soon the push will reach the Utah Legislature.
Tonight at City Hall, Anderson's administration will discuss with council members Rep. Roz McGee's bill that would give cities the ability to install photo radars that snap pictures of speeders and of vehicles that blow through red lights. The registered owners of those vehicles are then slapped with tickets.
Anderson has asked the council to use the city's yet-to-be-hired lobbyist to advocate for the legislation, but the council has yet to sign off on such support.
A draft of the bill gives cities and other jurisdictions ability to install photo radar or "automated red light traffic enforcement systems" as long as signs are posted informing motorists about the devices.
The draft bill also forces cities to establish a "clear and simple" process for car owners who weren't driving their cars at the time of the citation to have the tickets dismissed. Still, those owners have to provide some proof that they weren't the ones driving when the violation occurred.
"This is legislation that would not require but it would permit municipalities or jurisdictions to add a tool to their traffic enforcement kit," said McGee, D-Salt Lake City.
McGee, who represents the Salt Lake neighborhoods just south of the University of Utah, said constituents often complain about neighborhood speeding. Photo radar would let the city crack down on such speeding, she said.
But Councilman Dave Buhler, who represents many of the same neighborhoods, dislikes photo radar. When he was a state senator he voted to ban cities from using the technology.
Back then, in the early '90s, a few cities, led by West Valley City, employed a controversial style of photo radar. Data from West Valley show accidents were down when the system was in place.
However, many complained that the cities placed the radars only on main thoroughfares so they could ticket people who were just traveling through the city.
"Cities were using it to generate revenue from people who don't live in their city and couldn't vote them out of office," Buhler said.
The alleged abuses prompted the Legislature in 1996 to ban cities and other jurisdictions from using the technology except under very limited circumstances, which made it impractical to use at all.
Instead of photo radar, Buhler, who along with Council Chair Jill Remington Love successfully crippled the city's speed bump program, says increased traffic enforcement by police is the answer to the city's neighborhood speeding issues.
Other council members seem more receptive to photo radar.
In Sugar House, Councilman Dale Lambert supports the idea, especially in residential neighborhoods. While it may not be right for all streets, Lambert said, the technology should be available for cities to use if they have real problems.
"It's not really a revenue issue at all," he said. "We shouldn't do it just to generate revenue."
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