As city budgets may be in even more budget trouble than their state counterparts, mayors are looking for creative ways to raise the revenues needed to cover their expenses. In recent weeks, some cities have looked to drivers as a source of these revenues, angering many residents.
Up and down California, cities have used red light cameras as a way to raise funds, with drivers crying out that they are an unfair way of issuing fines. Thursday, South San Francisco began issuing tickets to red light runners caught on camera after four years of debating the issue at city council.
In Anaheim, however, city council members have moved to ban red light cameras, a step that would require voter approval. Officials there have announced that they will not use the enforcement of driver safety as a source of revenue. Mayor Kurt Pringle told The OC Register:
“It’s very discouraging when government thinks its sole purpose is … to use public safety as a revenue-raising tool.”
However, other city officials assert that red light cameras both benefit taxpayers by raising revenue and reduce traffic accidents. The LA Times reports:
The city’s red-light camera program, one of the largest in the nation, has drawn praise from supporters who say it helps efficiently police dangerous intersections, discourages red-light running and frees up patrol officers for other duties.
Regardless of the costs and benefits of red light cameras, they put city officials in the questionable position of profiting from dangerous drivers. Like excise taxes that raise revenue from citizens’ dangerous or unhealthy behavior, red light cameras are an inappropriate revenue source.