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Palm Coast Mayor Netts Would “Violently Protest” Raising Red-Light Fines From $158

| May 28, 2013

Palm Coast's most hated road weed. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast’s most hated road weed. (© FlaglerLive)

Red-light camera fines in Palm Coast will not jump from $158 to $408 if Mayor Jon Netts has any say about it.

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“My position is that if we even think about something like that, I will violently protest it,” Netts said at this morning’s Palm Coast City Council meeting. “Court costs are not supposed to be money-makers. Court costs are supposed to cover the legitimate cost of hearing an appeal.” The statement signals a slight but discernible shift in the mayor’s thinking about red-light cameras, which take far more money away from the local economy than they leave in. (The mayor later this afternoon said he had made a “poor choice of words,” and that “vehement” protest would be more accurate.)

An omnibus transportation bill awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature includes several pages changing the law regarding red-light cameras. The pages, largely benefiting red-light camera companies such as American Traffic Solutions—which runs Palm Coast’s 43 cameras—were inserted in the very last hours of the legislative session, without review by legislative committees or analytical panels and without public comment, and approved as part of the larger bill.

The amendments once again give local governments the authority to run their own red-light hearings, with their own hearing officer, as was the case before July 2010. That year, the legislature passed a law requiring all red-light camera ticket appeals to go through an independent, court-appointed magistrate, to eliminate conflicts of interests (since it is in local governments’ interest to impose as many fines as possible, to generate cash).

Palm Coast has issued a request for proposal to hire a hearing officer again.

Another amendment to the law extends an individual’s window to appeal a ticket from 30 days to 60 days. And drivers would not be penalized as much for making turns on red, though such turns would still be subject to red-light camera fines. The difference is that if a driver goes past the white line then stops before making a turn, the maneuver is no longer subject to a fine, as it had been. Either way, drivers who make a rolling turn at less than 12 miles per hour are not fined.

But the most contentious part of the new rules would be an allowance granting local governments the authority “to whack these huge—in my opinion—court costs,” as Netts described them Tuesday.

jon netts palm coast mayor city council

Jon Netts. (© FlaglerLive)

Here’s how it would work: Currently, a red-light camera ticket has to be $158. That’s not what local governments get, however. The state takes $83 of that–$70 for the general fund, $3 for a spinal injury trust fund, and $10 for a Department of Health trust fund. That leaves local governments with $75 per ticket.

Out of that money, local governments must pay whichever company administers its camera system. ATS’s agreement with Palm Coast is a flat rate: the city gets $700 a month for every camera in place. That works out to $361,200 a year for the 43 cameras currently functioning. ATS gets the rest, or what currently amounts to roughly $1.2 million a year, assuming all tickets are paid. That’s more than three times Palm Coast’s take.

To increase local governments’ take, the new proposal would allow cities like Palm Coast to impose new “administrative” fines: if a driver decides to contest a ticket, then cancel, there would be a charge of $50. If a driver contests a ticket and loses at the hearing, the local government may impose an additional administrative fine of up to $250, bringing the total cost of the ticket to $408. Such additional costs would presumably go into the city’s coffers exclusively. The state wouldn’t get a penny. Depending on how contracts are written, the company administering the cameras would not, either.

That’s the additional cost Netts is opposed to.

“My understanding is that those amendments to our code [that] will be coming to this council will not include an increase” of the fines, Palm Coast Attorney William Reischmann said.

“That’s fine, because I would vote against it,” Netts said.

Scott has yet to sign the legislation. But the bill automatically becomes law if he doesn’t sign it by week’s end. Later today at a Miami school, Scott is scheduled to sign the bill that forbids texting while driving.

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22 Responses for “Palm Coast Mayor Netts Would “Violently Protest” Raising Red-Light Fines From $158”

  1. Alfred E. Newman says:

    If the city really cared about its citizens’ safety, they’d monitor the mostly ignored stop signs in Palm Coast’s shopping centers. Want to end your life quick? You don’t need to overdose or shoot yourself, simply walk around Publix’s parking lots. You will get nailed by a person who sees an empty spot and speeds the wrong way to grab it before someone else.

    Better yet: step out of Target’s main entrance and cross without looking.
    Drivers there routinely blow that stop sign. Most drivers erroneously think that in those lots,
    the rules of the road don’t apply. It’s amazing to watch.
    I’d be in favor of cameras there. Maybe people would give a darn for a change.
    Nothing like a fat fine to teach you a lesson in road manners.

    Isn’t it interesting how American Traffic Solutions interests are served by last minute additions
    via the Omnibus Transportation bill?
    I wish that that everyday working people had politicians sneaking in self-serving legislation for them too!

    What a joke our corrupt government is. Only it isn’t funny……

  2. Realty Check says:

    But its all about our SAFETY, not the money right, this is nothing more than a cash cow for cities and the state.

  3. Magnolia says:

    It’s utterly amazing how a mayor changes his tune when faced with recall.

  4. concerned citizen says:

    Well said Mayor Nets. Every citizen in the City of Palm Coast has said the same thing. Not to mention that if you get pulled over f or running a red light the fine is only $ 166.00 and you can attend traffic school. The economy is bad enough as it is do we really want struggling families getting stuck with a $400.00 bill? I think NOT!. Thank you for standing up as Mayor and hopefully your voice will be heard because the commission sure as heck isn’t hearing the voice of the community who put them in office.

  5. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    More then 40yrs I served as a Law Enforcement officer in Flagler and Volusia Counties. Some of the positions I held were Police Chief of Flagler Beach and Bunnell. I also served the citizens of Ormond Beach as an Law Enforcement officer. At no time was I ever assured of an conviction in court. The court system had the final say. The law of the land assures everyone of the right to confront their accuser in court. The traffic cameras do not guarantee the right to confront your accuser. Many times I appeared in traffic court and lost what I thought was “air tight” cases. The judge did not see the case the way I did and threw the case out. I was not happy when I lost the case, but that is the way the American Justice system is supposed to work. The traffic light cameras reek of the “old Kangaroo courts” system where a person does not get a “Fair Hearing” The traffic cameras will some day be found unconstitutional , hopefully soon!

    • Paul Henry says:

      Amen Chief! It is surely great to hear another retired officer espouse this point of view. In my case, I served as a deputy sheriff for 2 years, then a trooper through lieutenant on the FHP for the remaining 23.

      I did not ticket everyone I stopped. Like you, I did not “win” every case in traffic court. One key difference is that our county court judges are not beholden to the city as a hearing officer will be. Another key difference is the 1:35 AM law as written by Sen. Brandes has no requirement for any legal training for these officers- a city can use their dog catcher if they wish.

      Automated for-profit law enforcement is a bad idea, and it breeds corruption. The trail begins at city hall and leads to Tallahassee.
      “In the future, there is significant revenue to be generated by this venture”
      Former Gulf Breeze, FL Police Chief Peter Paulding, who now makes $2,000/month in retirement thanks to an automated for-profit device program he used his official position to implement.

  6. Richard Henderson says:

    When Republicans tell you how what job-creators they are, they mean jobs like the ones in the red light camera industry. Rotten deal for the citizenry complements of our legislature. Vote the bums out.

  7. TG says:

    The $408 is like 150-200 short of what I make every two weeks. What the hell ! Luckily I don’t live here no more but I do come to work here. This is just insane! The rich are just getting richer and us citizens are just making them have that smile on their face. Rick Scott needs to go if that does go through.

    • Paul Henry says:

      Regardless of where you live, unlike an officer-issued ticket, and automated for-profit ticket can affect you if you own a vehicle. All it takes is a mistake by the device company or the officer mailing the ticket- and both have happened here in Florida- and you are now required to prove your innocence.

      Even with no mistake, if your tag is copied you are also on the hook. This happened to 79 year old Donald Abbott in Volusia County and he was convicted even though the evidence clearly showed it was not his vehicle that ran the light.

  8. Local citizen says:

    We need new administration starting from Tallahassee, county, and city. It does not matter wether they are Republicans or Democrats but they must have the desire to truly represent the citizens of Florida instead of their self serving agendas. Someonr please wake me up from my dream!

  9. DoubleGator says:

    The BEST move for the Mayor would be to get rid of the damn cameras, ASAP. Dumb move to begin with, i.e. fleecing the citizens of this county. Who voted for this scheme to begin with?

  10. Jon Hardison says:

    I’d have to agree with DoubleGator at this point. It was one thing when the “excuse” was safety, but now that that sham has been exposed it’s probably best we move on and forget the entire thing ever happened.

    But it is free money so the chances of that are pretty slim. What ever happened to the law that was supposed to stop cities from being able to use cameras? HB 13-some-crap-or-other? I liked that one!

    If this were really about safety we’d have cameras, but wouldn’t be fined. Our licenses would be automatically suspended for a time on each violation and no money would change hands because the cost of having no license, even if only for a week or two, is WAY worse for most than the cash.

  11. fla native says:

    He must have gotten a ticket.

  12. Pete says:

    “Violently Protest”. I want to puke. Give me a break.!

  13. Ron Hubbard says:

    This sound bite from the mayor is equivalent to a torturer saying that he will refuse to strike you with his whip only two times but never five times.

    Cold comfort at best.

  14. Realty Check says:

    Just look at the revenue they are taking in and guess who authorized this, the entire council and city manager saw an influx of cash and jumped right in. This is like winning the lottery for the city, an unlimited annuity payment, month after month free cash. This will not go away; a simple fact is vote out the city council next election or live with the choice you made last election. Not saying a new council would be better, but a vote out may send a message to our new leaders, if not we will have the same old BS in the city of PC.

  15. Stephen Donaldson says:

    RLC are not about safety they are about money.

    Most “violations” are petty: 1. right turns onr ed, stopping on or over the stop line, and split second mistakes that longer ambers stop.

    Stop sign scameras are not any better, many tickets are for just not stopping long enough or not in the “right:” area. and
    camerafraud on Facebook

    ALSO call or email Gov. Scott and ask him to line item VETO the RLC amendments in HB 7125 that take away due process in RLC challanges.

  16. Glad I left Palm Coast says:

    Must be re-election time !!!! Just obey the law and stop where you are suppose to stop. COMMON SENSE hello people !!!!

  17. Please remember that in July 2011, the Florida Department of Transportation changed the rules on setting yellow intervals on the lights so that cities could deliberately set or retain yellow intervals too short for the ACTUAL approach speeds of at least 85% of the vehicles. This allows cities like Palm Coast to deliberately set or keep yellows up to about one second too short for the actual approach speeds.

    This deliberate mis-engineering of the lights causes thousands of inadvertent split-second violations across the state and the state takes the first $83 of each $158 ticket (52.5% of the total money-grab), which explains how the state had $51 million rea$on$ to love the new rules in 2012.

    Red light cameras are ALWAYS about money, not safety. If red light cameras only ticketed the very small percentage of dangerous drivers who violate red lights by over one second or who fail to yield the right of way making slow rolling right on red turns, the cameras would lose so much money they would all be taken down. The entire red light camera industry in Palm Coast and every other Florida community is a scam for money that needs to be banned entirely under state law.

    Call your state Representatives and Senators to ask that ALL ticket cameras be banned. Call every local official to demand the cameras be removed from your community. Vote out every elected camera supporter at both the state and local levels.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  18. Jennifer Lopez says:

    its all about the money for them! the City of the palm coast love to ” beg borrow and then steal”
    Ah we cant afford Police, but they use the County’s. Ahh we cant afford to put our own schools in yet, but they use the Flagler ones already in, and then complaint about helping with sales tax.
    Lots of golf courses, lots of tennis courts. But nothing there to help with most of the issues that start in Palm Coast. That is why they have those lights, is to hit the people to pay off there debt.

  19. Agnese says:

    Mr Netts, weren’t you a big supporter of the red light cameras ?

  20. Josie says:

    Who needs the lights when you can “coast around the corner @ 12 MPH?” If the FHP were watching this, “just who do you think would pay the fine?” Which will it be, please!!!!

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