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2013-02-03 City Keeps Eye on Camera Bills in Statehouse (Press-Citizen)

2013-02-03 City Keeps Eye on Camera Bills in Statehouse (Press-Citizen)

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City keeps eye on camera bills in Statehouse
Feb 2, 2013 | 2 Comments
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Written by Adam B Sullivan Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa City’s plans to implement red light cameras are facing opposition from near and far. In addition to a local petition aimed at banning automated law enforcement cameras, Republicans in the statehouse are again making a push to get rid of the cameras across the state. City of Iowa City staffers say they’re in the process of studying traffic patterns at the intersections that might get red light cameras. One official said he’s keeping an eye on talk of banning cameras, but because cameras aren’t in use in Iowa City yet, new laws or regulations wouldn’t have a huge effect here.

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“For us, since we haven’t started automated traffic enforcement, it wouldn’t affect us much, but the communities that already have the cameras in place, I think that would affect them a lot more,” said John Yapp, an Iowa City Bills in the Iowa Legislature transportation planner.
• Senate File 19: Automated traffic enforcement systems would be outlawed. The city of Iowa City’s lobbyists oppose this bill. • Senate File 20: Except contractual costs for operating automated traffic enforcement systems, revenue from fines and citations would have to be disbursed to nonprofit organizations with a presence in the community. The city of Iowa City’s lobbyists oppose this bill. • Senate File 21: Municipalities and counties could use automated traffic enforcement cameras, but they would have to install signage to notify drivers where the systems are in place. Additionally, violations would have to be reviewed by a human officer before fines or citations are issued and cities using automated traffic cameras would have to file annual reports about accidents occurring in areas with automated enforcement systems. The city of Iowa City’s lobbyists
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The Iowa City Council narrowly approved a plan to explore the use of red light cameras early last year. At the time, supporters said the cameras could help reduce the number of intersection accidents. Since then, a small group of local activists has begun collecting signatures to bring about a public vote on an ordinance to ban all automated law enforcement cameras, including traffic cameras and surveillance drones. Organizers say the opposition is based on privacy concerns.

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“I think there is a trend here that kind of goes against the traditional ways of this country, this push for total safety and total control over what happens in your life” said Aleksey Gurtovoy,

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one of the leaders of Ban Cams and Drones in Iowa City. The group needs 2,500 valid signatures in the next two months to move forward with the initiative. Traffic cameras also are facing opposition at the state level. A Republican-sponsored bill in the Iowa Senate would outlaw automated traffic enforcement cameras.
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A similar bill passed the Republican-controlled Iowa House last year, but didn’t see a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Iowa Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, predicts the bill will see the same fate in the Senate this year. However, there also are a slew of bills that would allow automated traffic enforcement cameras, but apply stricter regulations or block cities from using revenue from the cameras. Yapp said it’s too soon to say how one of those bills might impact Iowa City’s plans. “How it might look with those bills or how the structure would look, I don’t know,” Yapp said. “It’s premature for us to start looking at that until we know more.” A poll conducted by The Des Moines Register almost a year ago showed Iowans are almost evenly split on the issue of traffic cameras. According to data released last February, 50 percent of survey respondents support banning red light cameras, while 46 percent oppose such a ban. Support for a ban on anti-speeding cameras was slightly higher at 51 percent.
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Reach Adam B Sullivan at asullivan@press-citizen.com or 8875412.

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