Voters to get chance to put brakes on traffic cams
Two years after falling well short of the number of required signatures, opponents of Tucson's red-light cameras have filed enough petitions to force the City Council to either pull the traffic-control devices or put the matter before voters in November.
About two-thirds of a random sample of the 40,000 signatures turned in last month were found to be valid by officials, meaning the organizers of Tucson Traffic Justice filed more than double the required 12,730 signatures from registered city voters.
The City Council can vote to remove the cameras, or voters will find the group's initiative on the general election ballot.
The group, led by former state legislator-turned political gadfly John Kromko, claimed to have collected about 53,000 signatures but culled the petitions to remove many from those who were ineligible to sign.
The County Recorder's Office determined that 1,258 of the 2,018 signatures examined were valid.
The group wanting the red-light cameras removed from eight Tucson intersections narrowly missed a spot on the ballot in 2012. Then, they turned in about 22,000 signatures, but only 55 percent were valid, leaving them more than a thousand signatures short of the mark.
The city has traffic cameras at the eight high-traffic intersections, and officials have said that the number of collisions at those points has fallen from 193 in 2007 — prior to the introduction of the cameras — to 61 in fiscal year 2014.
"It is apparent that the presence of traffic safety cameras has had a positive impact on reducing red-light running and speeding occurrences," the most recent city report said.
After payment to the contractor operating the program, as well as police and court costs, the red-light cameras net the city about $1.2 million in 2014, down from $2 million in 2011 as the number of tickets issued has fallen. About $1.2 million went to contractor American Traffic Solutions, with $354,000 going to the Tucson Police Department and $296,000 in court costs.
Kromko said he expects the private contractor to "dump a ton of money into the campaign to keep the gravy train rolling."
Kromko, a Democrat, served in the Legislature from 1976-1990. He was prompted to push for a removal of the cameras when he received a ticket himself, he has said.
Prior to his 2012 effort, he had faced petition troubles before. After a 2008 run for the Legislature, he pleaded guilty to forgery charges related to the signatures on his nominating petitions.
While he needed to turn in just 400 signatures to make the primary ballot in a state House race, he turned in twice that many. He lost that election, and was charged with 19 counts, including forgery, identity theft and fraudulent schemes, regarding 29 disputed signatures on his petitions. As part of a 2009 plea deal, Kromko was forbidden from running for office for five years and placed on probation for two years.