Monday, June 22, 2015

Seitz calls for cities to refund Red Light Camera ticket fines

Red Light Camera Investigation Prompts Call for Cities to End Legal Action, Issue Refunds

Senate Republican calls for cities to apologize and end the program
COLUMBUS State Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) called on cities using red light cameras to immediately end their lawsuit against the State of Ohio, apologize to the General Assembly and refund fines to drivers.

Seitz made the demand following news reports of a federal investigation alleging that an executive of a red light camera company bribed city officials to keep the cameras running despite legislative action to ban them.

“I call on the cities to apologize and dismiss their lawsuit,” said Seitz, who has led the effort to outlaw red light cameras, including recent action to reduce state tax dollars going to local government funds by the amount of the fines. “We always knew it wasn’t about public safety. It was about money; we just didn’t know it was about shady money.”

According to news reports, RedFlex CEO Karen Finley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. Federal court documents allege that improper campaign contributions were directed at elected officials in Columbus and Cincinnati during an eight-year period between 2005 and 2013.

"I have always maintained that photo enforcement cameras were more about money than safety," Seitz continued. "Today’s criminal case proves how right I was, even though I never dreamed that municipal officials would take bribes to fleece their own taxpayers. Apparently, a new side benefit of our recent state law on restricting and regulating the use of these cameras will be to restrict the opportunity for corrupt officials to receive bribes. I call on the cities that continued to disregard our state law to immediately dismiss their lawsuits against the state and to make full restitution to the motorists whose traffic tickets are the product of corrupt activity by the very municipal officials who are supposed to be protecting the taxpayers against governmental abuse.”

Read the federal court document here:

In 2014, the Ohio Senate voted to prohibit cities from using the cameras, and the cities sued the state in an attempt to overturn the ban. The court case is still pending.

Read local media coverage of the investigation and bribery plea here:
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State Senator Bill Seitz represents the 8th District in the Ohio Senate, which encompasses a portion of Hamilton County. Learn more at You can download a high-resolution photo of Senator Seitz for your use by clicking here.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Enquirer: Now we know Streetcar operating costs

So, part of the Streetcar shell game during the reign of Mayor Mark Mallory and Finance Committee Chair Roxanne Qualls was to never project operating income den expenses from the Streetcar.  Yes, it is hard to believe, but City Council and the administration steadfastly refused, before, during and after embarking on the Streetcar boondoggle, to run numbers for an operating budget, until now.

This was by design and for two reasons: First the number would have been unacceptably large, and second because it deviated from their standard theme that the Streetcar "costs" were entirely capital in nature.  Indeed, the whisper campaign they started and perpetrated was that the ticket sales and advertising revenue from the Streetcar would pay the operating costs.  It was, of course, the foundation of Rob Richardson, Jr.'s false claims complaint against COAST to the Ohio Elections Commission on behalf of Streetcar advocates that no operating fund dollars were getting plowed into that wasteful project.

The underlying theme of all of these mechanizations was that the Streetcar would have no impact on City operations.  Because the City cannot run a deficit like the federal government, any losses must be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget (i.e., police, fire, or road maintenance) or by (heaven forbid!) revenue increases.  And the City could not tolerate admitting that it intended to ultimately cut police and fire services to fund their pet Streetcar-to-nowhere project or -- gulp -- to raise taxes.

Of course, that was all a lie, a ruse, a smokescreen, a shell game.  As the Enquirer so accurately states in its headline today: Now we know.

Now we know the truth: The Streetcar is going to cost the taxpayers $4.7 in losses per year.  That's $4.7 million per year from police protection; $4.7 million per year from fire protection; $4.7 million per year from road maintenance.  That's because there is no other source of operating funds and nowhere else to cut from the City Budget.

At some point, the number $3,5 million in operating losses was tossed out there by the City.  COAST called bullshit on that, and proudly calculated and predicted that the losses would be in the $5 to $10 million per year range.  And understanding that the City's current $4.7 million operating loss number does not include depreciation of the rolling stock and other known expenses of operating the Streetcar, it loos like COAST's projections will be spot on.

So, Rob Richardson, Jr. who exactly was lying and who was telling the truth?