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Palm Coast Council Members Declare Never To Have Been Wined and Dined by Red-Light Camera Company

| May 20, 2014

American Traffic Solutions is part of an industry that spends lavishly on lobbying state and local government officials in Florida. (tanakawho)

American Traffic Solutions is part of an industry that spends lavishly on lobbying state and local government officials in Florida. (tanakawho)

The Palm Coast City Council convened for its bi-monthly meeting at the Community Center this morning, but as such meetings go, it was barely worth the effort: the council quickly addressed only a few issues of note and adjourned in 30 minutes in what amounted to one of its shortest meeting this year.

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Only a handful of people attended the meeting. When the meeting was opened to public participation, just two people spoke, both of them raising questions about red-light cameras, the issue that’s bedeviled the council since last year. Jack Carrell asked whether the state had the authority to prevent Palm Coast from doing away with its red-light cameras (on the assumption that the cameras generate a sizable chunk of revenue for the state). The answer is simply no: the state authorizes local governments to have red-light camera systems, but it may not force them to do so.

A Palm Coast resident then asked the council members directly whether any of them, or Landon, had ever been directly wined and dined, by, or been the recipients of campaign contributions or gifts of any sort, from American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based private company that runs Palm Coast’s red-light camera system at a great profit. ATS is among the firms that most heavily lobbies state and local governments, spending millions of dollars a year in the effort. Milissa Holland, a former county commissioner, is now a lobbyist with the Southern Strategy Group, whose clients include ATS.

The council members one by one, with McGuire’s exception, said no to the question posed by the mayor: “Have you received anything of any value at any time from ATS?” Landon and the city manager also said they had not received anything from ATS. McGuire was absent.

A bristling Netts also responded forcefully to the suggestion by the second speaker that Palm Coast had created a problem by installing the red-light cameras. “I would submit to you,” Netts said, “that it’s the careless drivers, the inattentive drivers, the drivers who exceed the speed limit, who don’t maintain a safe distance between them and the car in front of them, they’re the ones who cause the problem, not city council, not the red-light cameras.”

In another matter, the council unanimously approved the final plat for a 50-acre tract along Old Kings Road, not far from Town Center, in a V-shaped zone between Old Kings Road and I-95, just north of Town Center Boulevard. The plat is referred to as Old Kings Road Professional Center, and encompasses three parcels owned by Town Center LLC since 2005.

Platting is not development. It is the subdividing of land into different lots or tracts in preparation either for the sale of some or all of the lots or for the development of some or all of the lots. The “plat” (the word, a variation of plot, finds its origin in the French word plat, which means “flat”) precisely identifies a parcel’s boundaries, easements, access points and the like.

“This is one of many you’re going to see. We’ve got a number of new development proposals coming through, including the horizontal type of development, meaning utilities, streets, etc., and the platting, and this is one of those examples.”

The northern part of the property is zoned for general office use, the southern part is zoned for general commercial. The 49.5 acres are being subdivided into six lots with three shared access points onto Old Kings Road. It isn’t known for now how many buildings will go up on the sites. “All those questions are related to the site plan. We don’t have a site plan at this point,” Landon said.

The Old Kings Road Professional Center is part of the Old Kings Road redevelopment taxing district that the city set up to recoup the costs of enlarging Old Kings Road to four lanes. That means once the center is developed, increasing the value of the land, its tax revenue will contribute to the repayment. But that’s a way off yet.

The council also approved this year’s resurfacing program, which entails the repaving of 10 miles divided between 31 streets and a section of Belle Terre Parkway from Royal Palms Parkway to State Road 100. That issue was addressed in more detailed at last week’s council workshop. And the council appointed Mayor Jon Netts as the alternative council representative to the county’s Tourist Development Council, which meets once a month. Council member Bill McGuire is the usual representative, but McGuire worries that on the rare occasions when he might miss the TDC meeting, Palm Coast’s voice would not be heard in meetings that almost always deal with matters that directly affect the city.

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25 Responses for “Palm Coast Council Members Declare Never To Have Been Wined and Dined by Red-Light Camera Company”

  1. Ron says:

    I totally agree with Netts. Red light cameras aren’t the problem, PROBLEM DRIVERS are the problem!

    Good for you, Mr. Mayor!

    • RHWeir says:

      I agree, it’s epidemic here that drivers don’t stop for stop signs, make up their own speed limits, run lights, roll thru stop on red and then turn right and not use turn signals. I have also noticed quite a few folks with open containers while driving, more than I have seen anywhere since the 70s. So, lets just enforce the traffic laws, 86 those cameras and I seriously hope no elected or appointed officials accepted anything from anyone including ATS. If they did, we they may have to go away for a while.

    • Genie says:

      The “problem” is the way in which the yellow lights have been shortened intentionally. And the fact that the legal process is being skipped over.

      However, the real problem here is that most of the money from this is leaving the state. How stupid was that? Why not an office here to administer the program? At least we’d have gotten some JOBS out of the deal.

      Sorry, but this was poorly done and we all know it.

  2. It is good that the members have not taken anything from ATS.

    But the fact remains that red light cameras lose a lot of money unless they ticket mostly safe drivers for small technical fouls that endangered no one.

    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

  3. Face It says:

    Face it; nobody likes PC because of the Red light Cameras. I work with folks in St. Augustine that avoided buying a cheaper home in PC just because of the Red Light Cameras. Most folks would rather pay a more expensive mortgage/rent to avoid living in an area with Red light Cameras. These cameras create a lot of anxiety and stress that is just too overwhelming.

    • blondee says:

      @Face It: If your friends are caused overwhelming stress and anxiety by red light cameras, they probably shouldn’t be driving at all.

  4. JoJo says:

    What does this statement by our Mayor have to do with Red Light cameras? Netts said, “that it’s the careless drivers, the inattentive drivers, the drivers who exceed the speed limit, who don’t maintain a safe distance between them and the car in front of them, they’re the ones who cause the problem, not city council, not the red-light .”

    All of the above should be performed by the Flagler County Sheriffs Office and not red light cameras. There is no enforcement. I see people driving 30, 40 MPH at school crossings.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Just this morning TWO drivers blew past me doing well over 30 in the Belle Terre 20mph school zone while I was coming home from dropping my kid off at the school. Where is the enforcement? It’s been ages since I’ve seen an officer working that zone.

      But the city thinks that drivers making safe right turns on red without coming to a complete stop is their biggest traffic problem? Get real, city council.

  5. m&m says:

    ALL politicians are on the take for one thing or another.. They’re not going to admit to it because that would break their code… One lies and the other one swear to it.

  6. Sherry Epley says:

    LOL! I am thinking they must have been wined and maybe not dined enough because no sober person would have agreed to such a “one sided” contract.

    Palm coast voters should remember the lack of intelligence/education/ethics/honesty/integrity of their current political leaders come next election time!

  7. Rob says:

    Netts bristled. Good for him.
    Under his leadership this city has gone backwards. If you stand still, you go backwards.

    Highest unemployment, foreclosure leader, empty storefronts and strip malls.

    Oh but they are building a city hall, that should turn things around and draw job creating business like a magnet.

    What happened to the petitions to recall him and the tea party councilor?

  8. JtFlagler says:

    I don’t doubt for a minute that Council was correct in their answer regarding direct benefits from ATS. That’s not how it works. Graft and bribes are always handled through the backdoor, such as contracts to friends or relatives that later on put cash into your pocket. We don’t have to look far to see it every day in this county. Lawyers, real estate brokers, insurance companies, construction surveys, inspection companies. Somebody is always working for somebody who knows somebody who is a friend or relative of somebody. Capiche!!!!!

  9. confidential says:

    @JTFlagler. Correct!
    Our taxpayers funded assigned contracts go up for auction on the block, to the highest graft offered.

  10. PJ says:

    Blah Blah Blah, it is still a con. You don’t need to be wined and dined to make a stupid choice on behalf of the people. It seems to happen all the time in our local governments…..just plain stupid get rid of the cameras and let the cops do their jobs……..PJ

  11. Mary Cannady says:

    I have read by posters that the yellow warning lights have been adjusted since the cameras were installed. Does anyone have proof of this? Has the city ever been asked to verify or deny this?

    • Genie says:

      @ Mary, the Council was asked this question at a recent Council meeting and confirmed that the yellow warning lights had been adjusted “to state standards”.

  12. Joe says:

    Totally agree with Bob, highest unemployment, foreclosure leader, empty storefronts and strip malls ect… Mark Twain got it right when he said ” Politicians and diapers need changing for the same reason” Vote em out!

  13. Steve Wolfe says:

    Law Enforcement is not-for-profit. The Fire Department is not run for profit.

    Why this exception for red light violation enforcement?

    In my mind, it is just another example of the genius of marketing. If someone can determine a need for something (or invent the need we didn’t even know we had) for which there is profit potential, someone will develop it, market it, and profit from it. That’s capitalism and liberty. But not all of it is good innovation. Just because something CAN be done doesn’t necessarily mean it SHOULD be done. I believe that local law enforcement should be in-house, and not for profit. Yeah, that’s old-fashioned, and surrenders this innovative approach to traffic enforcement that turns it over to automation. But we can’t question our accuser (camera), and these live cameras each represent a Constitutional violation against our privacy with surveillance of us at these intersections without a warrant. Then, in order to make the system client-friendly, the cameras issue “code violations,” so non-law enforcement types can verify and preside over your guilt, and you can’t use typical traffic court defenses, such as, “I was not driving that auto at that time,” regardless of evidence. So, overall, it is not only the genius of marketing at work to develop such a system of automated fine generation for a municipality, but even the operation of the cameras has been engineered to minimize the citizen’s defense, maximizing the profit per camera.

    Ah, but the state, having infinitely more wisdom, comes to the rescue and says, “I’ll settle this: hand over 52% of the money. That will take the profit incentive out of it! There, another problem solved!” Meanwhile ATS gets most of the rest. No profit there, eh? Not even enough to lobby municipalities all over the country AND their host state governments. Sure. So, no to direct wining and dining. But yes to some kind of benefits to someone. Is it safer at RLC intersections? That’s debatable. Plenty of studies suggest no. Much of the support for the efficacy of RLC’s comes from RLC companies and their lobbyist partners. But one thing is becoming clear: citizens largely hate them. Nine out of ten RLC referendums are defeated. Here’s hoping to see that referendum this year in PC, but don’t hold your breath. If the pressure is off the council because petition efforts seem stalled, then the hedging we are hearing from the city could be smoke. We need to keep the pressure up. The contract with the Sheriff’s Department is less than $3 million for this fiscal year. Palm Coast spent more than that to realign a short stretch of Old Kings Road for development that never happened. I think we can expect more from REAL law enforcement, but we might have to curb or suspend some of the city council’s other ambitions in order to pay for more service from the Sheriff.

  14. Rob says:

    Has anyone asked the town council and the mayor the million dollar question?

    Why did you negotiate a closed end contract and leave the city no option to discontinue the services of ATS without out significant cost to the city to terminate the contract?

    HUH? HUH?

  15. Matt Christopher says:

    Rob is correct, questions remain. Who made this decision to extend the very ATS biased contract? What deliberations occured? How does this decision benefit the community as a whole? The voters will decide in the end.

    • Genie says:

      @ Matt, or at least the 11% who will bother to vote will decide.

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      The signature is Landon’s as you can see on the contract itself. I believe Flaglerlive posted it. But keep in mind, Jim Landon’s job is to execute the orders of the council.

  16. tulip says:

    Rob seems to be the only one who has thought of directly asking the question he brought up in his post of May 22.

    So why didn’t Rob attend a meeting and directly ask the council that question? It could’ve been a very interesting answer.

    • Rob says:

      If you must know why I didn’t ask the question at a meeting it’s because unlike many in Palm Coast I work. And since I look to make Good money and not the subsistence wages paid in this city/county I have to travel. Unless one is fortunate to have an overpaid, cushion, public service job in government, or the school system their wages for the most part are subsistence. The median income for this area is less than $23,000 per year. Asking such a pointed question will only be met with obfuscation not a factual answer, so the question was pretty much rhetorical, a question to spur citizens who read this news journal into critical thinking.
      And to preempt any comment as to why I continue to live here, like many others I am stuck, stuck with real estate whose value is than the outstanding balance.

      That is why I didn’t attend a meeting.

  17. Shark says:

    Just like they were never wined and dined by centex and ginn!!!!!!

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