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Members also vote to shut down red light cameras

By Janis Mork

September 29, 2013 (El Cajon) - At Tuesday’s El Cajon City Council meeting, Council unanimously voted to not set a fee on sale of alcohol. The councilmembers also voted 4-1 to permanently remove  the red light cameras, with Mayor Mark Lewis voting against the measure.

First was a resolution on the annual alcohol sales regulatory fee under the new Deemed Approved Alcohol ordinance, which restricts sale of single-serve alcohol containers and cracks down on stores selling to minors or people with a series of alcohol-related arrests.

It’s important we have a zero fee,” said Councilman Gary Kendrick. ”Then it has no effect on businesses that operate legally.”

 No one from the public spoke for or against this item. The vote was 5-0.

Next, Council addressed the agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems for the red light photo enforcement services. Council had agreed to cover up the cameras for six months to see if there would be no need for them.

El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman gave an update. “I can report no significant increase in traffic collisions and a reduction in the fine of running red lights.”

Councilman Bob McClellan replied, “I think the compliance overall is better than it used to be.”

Kendrick wanted to know, “Since the suspension, has it been safer or as safe?”

Chief Redman answered, “As safe.”

First to speak from the public was Bob Warner from Redflex. “ The goal is to modify the drivers’ behavior.” People have to take into consideration the engineering, education and enforcement, he said. Engineering is how the roadway is designed, education is about public awareness ,and enforcement “has to be consistent and available at all times.”   Cameras are there 7/24, noted, then recommended extending the suspension of the cameras for a longer period rather than eliminating them.

Last to speak was Humbert Cabrera, former engineer for Sony Electronics. “In my estimation, this whole thing is a farce. I’m here representing the people of El Cajon... Part of pro business is taking away the red light cameras.” He then recommended that the cameras be taken down. “Just cancel the whole thing.”

Kendrick observed, “ I’ve never seen a more unpopular program than the red light cameras... People here have told me they’re taking a different route, avoiding the red light cameras... Clearly, based on the police report, people are safe drivers... I’m going to support keeping these cameras out.” Then he proposed taking the $60,000 currently spent on staff time related to the cameras and instead, “have a traffic cop patrolling the streets at problem areas.”

Pro tem Mayor Bill Wells offered his views. “Before I was on council, they decided to put the cameras in... Then we saw people hated it...  People have gotten more freedom [now]. We’ve gotten more money... We’ve got people shopping here now because they’re not afraid of red light cameras.” He added, “Cut out the red light cameras, take them down. This is a trend across the nation.”

Councilmember Tony Ambrose spoke. “Bill, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head... Most of the time, everyone has told me they hated it... When we put the covers on, people told me ‘good job’... We should take the cameras down... Spend money on law enforcement.”

Councilmember Bob McClellan agreed. “If we haven’t improved safety, we don’t need it.”

Wells then made a motion to terminate the agreement with Redflex immediately.

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