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County Sends Protest Letter to Palm Coast Over Red-Light Spy Cameras on SR100

| September 17, 2012

State Road 100, a great place for more spy traffic cameras, according to Palm Coast, not so great, according to county government. (© FlaglerLive)

State Road 100, a great place for more spy traffic cameras, according to Palm Coast, not so great, according to county government. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission voted 4-1 this evening to ask the Palm Coast City Council to reconsider its decision to spread installations of automated spy-and-snap red-light traffic cameras to State Road 100—a state road that, by falling within Palm Coast’s boundaries, gives the city the right to regulate within its code enforcement department. The city categorizes its spy cameras as code enforcement devices rather than policing devices.

In a polite if terse letter that recognized the county’s very limited say in the matter, Commission Chairman told the council that the cameras may force county residents to avoid S.R. 100, hurting commerce along that road, and send bad vibes to visitors and tourists who would then, by word of mouth, spread negative sentiments about Flagler County and Palm Coast.

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“Advertised as the closest beach to I-95, it could impact tourist[s] unfamiliar with the red light cameras,” Revels wrote. “Getting a ticket of $140 may become an unpleasant reminder of their visit and a reason why they will not come back to visit our community.” The fine is actually $158. “Moreover, people tend to share their negative experiences with more people than they discuss good ones. A negative experience with the red light cameras is counterproductive to the word we are trying to convey about our community.” (See the full text of the letter below.)

The Palm Coast council, which meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday, is likely to politely acknowledge the letter and ignore it, though taking that stand would further irritate rtelations between the two governments. Those relations have been growing more brittle since last year, after long period of calm.

The camera sites were selected by American Traffic Solutions, the private company running the system for Palm Coast and cashing in on most of the profits (once the state takes its 52 percent cut), and by the city, based on the more lucratively trafficked intersections in the city. Palm Coast makes at least $700 per camera per month, which, based on the 52 cameras ATS plans to install ultimately, works out to $36,400 a month, or $437,000 a year, not counting potential additional revenue once ATS has maxed out its cut. But while Palm Coast will make money on the cameras regardless of where they’re installed, ATS cannot make money unless the cameras are installed in places where people will run them—and where there is enough traffic to make the projection profitable.

In essence, Palm Coast has run out of such lucrative intersections on its own municipal roads. So it’s going after the county’s and the state’s. County fire officials have not helped ATS along.

Revels spoke more forcefully during the meeting, just before the vote approving the letter. “I just want to restate that this is just a request that I hope the city will take seriously, and consider it, and think about the ramifications for the rest of the people in the rest of the county, particularly their business community,”  Revels said.

She had spoken of receiving a stream of communications from people raising issues with the cameras, including one “right before we started this meeting from a family who says that when the red light cameras were installed in the core area of Palm Coast, they quit going there to shop, at Bells and Walmart and instead they were going to Target,” Revels said. “They just feel trapped in their home is their statement. They just really don’t like going out and they worry about our major income of our tourism, and how that would affect tourism if people get a bad taste from that. They’re thankful that we might make this request to the city of Palm Coast.

The commission’s decision drew opposition from Alan Peterson, the commissioner who’s down to his last few meetings (he lost a reelection bid in August).

alan peterson flagler county commission

Alan Peterson (© FlaglerLive)

“We talk all the time about trying to protect home rule and invasions of federal and state government on a county’s activities or a city’s activities,” Peterson said. I personally think that this matter is a mistake. I think that it’s involving the county, however politely it is stated, in matters that are solely the responsibility of the city of Palm Coast. Nobody likes red-light cameras. I didn’t like it when I got a ticket for not paying attention and the yellow light turned red just as I entered the intersection, but it was my own fault. People get a citation because they have violated Florida traffic regulations.”

He said the biggest complaint is turning right on red, an issue he learned about when he was on the Palm Coast City Council—when, he said, the council made sure that only reckless drivers who didn’t so much as slow down considerably got cited, not those who carefully made their way to a turn.

But that comment clarified why Peterson was in a difficult position as a county commissioner supporting a letter of protest to Palm Coast: he could not in good conscience have been—as he was—fully supportive of the spy cameras when he was on the council, only to switch off that support as a commissioner.

Peterson went on to criticize the commission for suggesting “that individuals coming into a jurisdiction of Palm Coast don’t have to obey the traffic regulations that the residents of Palm Coast have to obey, that they don’t have to obey traffic safety rules and regulations,” though no one on the commission would have agreed with that characterization of the issue: red-light cameras are controversial for many reasons, not least of which their legally tenuous grounds. Cities with red-light cameras are in litigation in Florida in state and federal courts, with the issue not likely to be settled until it reaches at least the state Supreme Court (where it appears headed, as appellate courts have reached contradictory conclusions).

“It’s my understanding,” Peterson said, “that the sites that were selected for these cameras were ones that were recommended by the public safety people in Flagler County, the fire department, the sheriff’s department, these are where accidents occur—”

“Not Flagler County, Mr. Peterson,” Commissioner Nate McLaughlin corrected, “not Flagler County.”

“I was told that, if that’s not true then I stand corrected on that particular issue,” Peterson said.  “But it doesn’t change my objection that this is a city of Palm Coast issue, not one that the county should be involved in, so I oppose the sending of a letter even though I think it is written in as friendly a way as possible.”

Commissioner Milissa Holland said she supports home rule, but that local governments have issues that impact each other regardless of their jurisdictional boundaries. “There are times where we have our municipalities come to us to talk about an impact that we’re going to have on our community with some of the decisions that are made. It’s no different than, in my opinion, us reaching out to different government entities by just a suggestion of relaying some of the input that we’ve received throughout the community.” The letter, Holland said, is not insisting on anything, or “mandating that they do it, other than just a suggestion and the relaying of information that’s caused some concerns for others.”

McLaughlin had pressed the issue earlier this month. He called it a “reasonable request” for one stretch of road in the county. Commissioner George Hanns recalled an instance at a previous Potato Festival in Bunnell when the Bunnell Police Department was at both ends of U.S. 1, “writing tickets as fast as they could, and it really interfered with the people coming to that event, and we heard it all day long, about some people just turned around and went home.” He added: “The letter, he added, is very tastefully done. Obviously I didn’t write it.”

Barbara Revels’s and the Flagler County Commission’s Letter to the Palm Coast City Council:

Dear Mayor and Councilmen:

I have been contacted by residents of Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Palm Coast and unincorporated Flagler County regarding the planned installation of Red Light Cameras along the State Road 100 corridor.

While we fully recognize the City’s right to install cameras anywhere within your City boundaries, even over State Highways, we ask that you consider a request to not place these cameras along the State Road 100 corridor. Up to this point you have primarily placed the cameras in the City’s core on roadways entirely controlled and almost entirely used by the citizens of Palm Coast. With the cameras proposed on State Road 100 you will now be affecting other communities and tourism in a major way.

barbara revels flagler county commission

Barbara Revels

Citizens have asked that they have the ability to travel and do their shopping from Flagler Beach to Bunnell without having to encounter such cameras, They have stated that they currently avoid shopping in Palm Coast’s core area due to the traffic and Red Light Cameras. These citizens are also concerned about the greater possibility of being rear-ended in a traffic accident because of the necessity to slam on brakes, fearing a costly ticket should they not stop quick enough [sic.]. With our large elderly population this new technology will affect them as well.

This same mindset may carry over to our visitors causing tourists to avoid our community.  Advertised as the closest beach to I-95, it could impact tourist[s] unfamiliar with the red light cameras. Getting a ticket of $140 [the fine is actually $158] may become an unpleasant reminder of their visit and a reason why they will not come back to visit our community. Moreover, people tend to share their negative experiences with more people than they discuss good ones. A negative experience with the red light cameras is counterproductive to the word we are trying to convey about our community.

Additional congestion may be another reason to avoid placing camera on State Road 100. The highway 100 corridor is a busy connector road that moves many people to places of work and shopping. People fearing the possible incidence of a red light camera shot may tend to drive considerably slower, thus exacerbating traffic congestion when the speed limits allow for much faster traffic movement.

I, therefore, respectfully, ask that this issue be brought to the City Council for reconsideration.

Barbara S. Revels, Chair
Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

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46 Responses for “County Sends Protest Letter to Palm Coast Over Red-Light Spy Cameras on SR100”

  1. Clint says:

    When are the money vampires here in Palm Coast going to start ticketing the DANGEROUS and CARELESS bicyclist who are running in GANGS terrorizing the roads. Something needs to be done. And there should also be a law against people wearing SPANDEX . Its a freak show out there !


  2. initialjoe says:

    I am ok with red light running ticket generating cameras…I got one because I didn’t pay attention once on the Parkway and now I tend to pay attention. One thing I dislike is all the drama queens scared of getting tickets that now stop on yellow and nearly cause me to run into their cars. PLEASE…PLEASE…JUST DRIVE NORMALLY.

    I also don’t believe the ticket should be given to the cars owner…it should be given to the driver since it would be theor fault.


    • Ben Dover says:

      that`s why they are illegal in so many states , it don t take a picture of the driver just the license plate


  3. tulip says:

    @Blondie I don’t think Mr. Peterson was looking for sympathy, I think he was just expressing the thought that he wasn’t paying attention, wasn’t thrilled at getting a ticket, but knew he deserved it. And I imagine that is the thoughts of a lot of people, although they wouldn’t admit it.

    @ GENE There are many states with red light cameras, look it up.

    @FB Insider, you are exactly right. My friend got a ticket in the mail, along with a reference # to use online where she could see the video of herself going through a red light.


    • Gene Ralno says:

      Revenue cameras are old hat by now but more than 30 referendums in other parts of the country have voted them out. Houston not only had to terminate its revenue-cameras but also was ordered to pay a million dollars to the camera company for violating the contract. Private contracts restrict government discretion to set and enforce traffic regulations at the peril of public safety. Many have been ordered to refund unjust fines. Fifteen states have banned them outright, partly because they know the scofflaws always find a way around law enforcement and good citizens never do. The simple fact is it’s difficult and cost-prohibitive for private citizens to file lawsuits to make the city do the right thing. Sixty million drivers in about half of the states now are distracted by revenue cameras while commuting or shopping. Outraged citizens are reacting by ousting local politicians, frequently based on this one issue alone. However, with tax money, most cities will work through expensive litigation because they’re patient, tough, resilient, and above all, they desperately need the money. But the outrage continues against politicians who install revenue-cameras to escape the consequences of their fiscal irresponsibility. And it’s particularly outrageous when they use their police powers to fleece the people they’re supposed to serve.

      To make matters worse, uses of revenue-cameras are being diversified. Thus far, cities have implemented revenue-cameras to fine drivers for radar detectors, eating, insufficient tire tread, excessive tinting, license tag violations, expired inspection stickers, HOV lane violations, map reading and cell phone usage. Washington, D.C. has eight ticket cameras that cite motorists for inching their bumpers past a line – at STOP SIGNS! Ticket-cameras have been suggested for not using turn signals or using them improperly. One company sells a mobile revenue-camera system that monitors the speed of 32 vehicles simultaneously, across four lanes coming and going. Another growing scheme is to install cameras on 458,229 school buses transporting round trip, about 28 million kids annually. What the camera manufacturers don’t tell you is from 2006 to 2009 we had only 82 fatalities nationwide and 68 were caused by the bus drivers. Doing the math, we lose about 20 kids each year and 17 of those tragic fatalities are caused by bus drivers. Only three are caused by errant drivers. That’s about .00000001 (.000001%) or about one out of every hundred million pupil-trips. Admittedly, that’s also one fatality too many but seems to me all that money could be better spent on other things that might actually stop errant drivers before they kill even that one. It also would seem we have many other much more worthy accident prevention programs for which our money should be spent. To put this in perspective, four children are killed on tricycles each year, 33% more than by drivers who ignore or don’t see school bus signals. Borrowing a worn-out argument, it’s a solution looking for a problem.

      Beyond inattentive drivers, hospitals and restaurants now use cameras to ensure employees wash their hands. And worse than that, cameras now are airborne. Forty-one public agencies currently are authorized by the FAA to fly drones. Law enforcement comprises about a fourth of them and it’s now estimated that 30,000 camera drones will be in use by the next decade. Because they fly four miles above the typical commercial airliner, 30,000 is a small number. Because they’re invisible at that altitude, I have no doubt they’ll soon be used to generate revenue. You won’t know what hit you. They’ve also been miniaturized. One inventor has produced a drone with a five-inch wing span and said, “I’ll be happy once it’s fly-sized.” You won’t see this “bug” while it watches you “conspire” against the government or watches you package chalk dust for your next cemetery visit – that’s the stuff someone said looked like cocaine or anthrax. I discovered that videos are reviewed only for unpaid or appealed citations. This unpublicized procedure, justified under the label of efficiency, reveals they’re not concerned about unjust punishment of those who would rather pay than endure the hassle. I also discovered many cities issue “snitch tickets.” These are citations “suggesting” that you’re required to admit you were driving. They “suggest” you’re required to identify the driver even if it was your spouse or child. Legally, you aren’t required to speak at all because, remember, you’re the accused.

      I’m wondering how much government oversight we need. In 1790, the population of the United States was four million and federal bureaucrats (non-military, non-elected officials) numbered about 1,000. That’s one bureaucrat for every 4,000 Americans. Today, the federal government employs three million non-elected, non-military officials. With 300 million people, we now have one bureaucrat for every 100 Americans, one percent of the population (as opposed to a miniscule 0.00025 percent in 1790). We now live in a society where a federal bureaucrat watches every group of 100 citizens — and that’s without counting the millions of state and local government employees. All this is damning evidence that city officials who support police-cameras don’t care much about the size of government and are interested only in the revenue. Seems they haven’t much interest in justice or safety. Informed communities are rejecting their fiscally irresponsible bosses and electing responsible officials who will stop or rescind costly, oppressive and dictatorial solutions. Camera enforcement has become a monstrous and lucrative business that will never end unless we stop it at the ballot box. That do it for you tulip?


  4. StopATS says:

    ATS is owned by Goldman Sachs Their only objective is to make money. If your town decides to end the contract early, ATS will sue your town for millions – they sued Houston for $25 million when the council decided to get rid of the cameras. The cameras also drain local American economies of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This is money that could be spent at local businesses that create jobs.

    20 reasons to oppose photo radar



    • Gene Ralno says:

      Actually, Goldman-Sachs owns only about a third of ATS. But you’re correct that their only objective is to make money. As an investment bank, they could do no less for their clients. It’s a 143-year old firm with assets totaling almost a trillion. ATS is only one from a list of thousands of firms. ATS isn’t on their radar either and probably amounts to a rounding error. They believe it’s a good investment. I don’t.


  5. PJ says:

    The cameras are a joke.

    Palm Coast and their mismanagement needs them to help pay for their mistakes.

    Peterson good riddens. Leaving on such a vote with many fine years of service so I say what could you be thnking?

    I think if you want public safety as I’ve said many times before in my comments on this topic is this:

    1) set the yellow timers longer to clear the intersection.

    2) if you are really trying to care the public you can have motion sensors that hold the green light until the intersection is clear. (the sherriff of Clay County would not have them insalled unless the motion sensor was installed) (he told his bosses the county commission this) What a man!!!

    3) if you must have a photo enforced light put them on the few intersections that really need them.

    one last thing…..when are we going to put these clowns the run the city of palm coast on notice…..bad management city manager and bad council leadership….. it is all just a disgrace.


  6. Linda Morgan says:

    When in doubt…just stop! Let the people who think that moving to a small town means that you don’t have obey the traffic laws get tickets and let those who choose to pay close to $4.00 a gallon for gas to shop in Ormond instead of stopping at red lights go. I also would like to add that while a rear end collision costs more than a ticket, it is not as lethal as someone running a red light and slamming into a vehicle could be.


  7. Kevin says:

    Maybe after some people get rear ended enough becoase they slam on the brakes to avoid the city counsel red light ticket when the light is yellow someone will sue the city for the camaras or the flash at night that makes you allmost wreck . It’s not about safety it’s about we did not raise the mileage rate they can’t say it’s about the average city worker who might make 25,000 a year it’s about hey let’s over pay Landon we are so smart we should make more then the govenor .Then lets plant stuff everywhere I forgot .In time it will come out in the wash .I avoid the lights to avoid a wreck from people slamming on there brakes on yellow I would sooner shop in st.augustine .ITs worth the extra gas ps vote the city counsel out if your one mile over the speed limt you will get another ticket from thier red light camaras speeding the city needs money I’m sure it’s coming so if your friends are moving here or coming on vacation send them somewhere else this town is a joke


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