Monday, December 9, 2013

ZAP! #143: Smile, You're On...

ZAP! #143

     Remember the days when folks would shudder if it was mentioned that “Big Brother” was watching them?  Then, the times gradually changed to where every minor detail -- that used to be personal -- was now being required to buy toothpaste, obtain a flu shot, or order cheddar-flavored popcorn from the Popcorn Factory.

     Sure, folks protested a bit along the way, but to little avail.  Nowadays, the invasion of personal privacy has reached pandemic proportions.  (Look how successful OBL was in his attempts to be off-grid before Seal Team 6 tracked him down to provided a house warming party.)  What with NSA, CIA, IRS, FaceBook, Tweeting, Instant Messaging, the new health care fiasco, hackers, e-mail phishing and additional technology tripe that staff of the CCR doesn’t know or care about to utilize, someone on the local, state and national level has their eyes and possibly ears following your activities 24/7/365 without your even being paranoid.  (Even the world is available for all those schemers wanting to have $300 million sent to your bank account due to the “untimely death” of someone who thinks you might be gullible enough to provide them with your banking info.)  Sadly, all this doesn’t even include the corporate marketers who buy customer lists and monitor every roll of toilet tissue and bottle of Merlot wine you buy.  (And this could even account for your receiving snoring adaptor brochures in the mail unsolicited.  You do snore, don’t you?)

     This brings us full circle to the topic for light photo-traffic enforcement(Just wait...the connection is there!)  For the past several years, the benefits of these photo-minions of law enforcement for traffic infractions in Irving have accrued to the city.  While the contractor and city seem to be having an amorous affair with this “Big Brother” approach, the citizenry still has questions and concerns that have remained unanswered.  The first of which is: Whose pet project was this to enter into an extended contract for a somewhat secretive source of city income?

     On the December 12, 2013 city council agenda, the contract to amend and continue the red light photo-traffic enforcement program has a new wrinkle that the agenda detail currently does not clarify.  As stated in the agenda summary: “Provides additional options for vehicle detection methods allowed with the approval of the city council.”  Does this really support the city’s Goal #9 from a citizen’s perspective?  Please!  (Would GPS devices being implanted on wayward vehicles be the council’s answer?)  

     While some of this may be explained when the council considers this agenda item, it would only be fair if folks knew what these detection methods were firsthand.  And a secondary thought could be: How comfortable should one be with the current city council approving yet another means of citizenry surveillance?

     While the council is mulling over this little wrinkle, additional questions that should be considered and made public are: How can one realistically (not speculatively) demonstrate that the program has actually reduced traffic accidents?  How many occurrences are there when one party unsafely and quickly stops at an intersection -- to the detriment of the person who then rear-ends their car -- resulting in a reportable accident?  What is the total revenue collected from this program on an annual basis?  What are the total cost to the city to utilize the services and equipment of this contractor?  How much revenue accrues to the city?  How much does the contractor receive from any fines collected?  What is the financial take for the contractor for the use of their equipment?  How are the funds, received by the city, spent and who has the oversight of these funds?  Are the ‘yellow light’ camera settings designed and set by the city to capture as many folks as possible?  (The number of seconds the yellow light stays on is critical to when the second photo is taken of a potential violator.)  Does the city’s ‘yellow light’ time settings follow the standard time settings of other cities that have these units installed and operational?  Is the adjudication process for a potential offender fair and impartial if an appeal of the citation is requested?

     Finally, does anyone remember how representative Harper-Brown had her PAC-money, grubby fingers all over the red light camera deal when she placed, as an attachment to a House bill, this measure to another bill that was on its way to assured approval?  Do you recall how Democrats and Republicans were both miffed at her stealth special interest actions in this matter?  Was this just another classic example of Harper-Brown representing Irving, or her PAC and special interest concerns?

       Just a thought: Wouldn’t it be less expensive or Big Brother scheming if only “Photo Enforced” signs were planted all over the city so that drivers wouldn’t know if a traffic signal might actually be capable of capturing any potentially reckless activity?  

     With this approach, there wouldn’t be any pictures taken that would later be available as a YouTube video showing you slinging down a Bud Light Lime while munching on a Sonic chili dog as you streak through an intersection in fifth gear!

………………….Mark Holbrook