by Michael R. Allen
At last night’s candidate forum sponsored by the 15th Ward Democrats, Comptroller Darlene Green received applause for an issue not directly related to her campaign. When asked about red light cameras, she said that she definitely knew of a camera that needs to be removed: the red light camera at Grand and Chouteau. Mayor Francis Slay arrived during this time, so Green directly addressed the mayor from the podium.
The problem with the light, Green said, is that it is part of changes to the intersection that forces the three lanes of southbound traffic on Grand into two with a left-turn-only lane at Chouteau. Past Chouteau, the road is back to three lanes. Rarely do left turns clog the southbound lanes, and there are always vehicles in the inside lane that have to move over at the last minute to avoid getting a camera ticket from running straight in a turn-only lane.
The audience burst into applause, for good reason. That intersection reconfiguring is one of the silliest in the city. Before the camera went up, I joined many drivers in ignoring the changes. Since I am not an alderman, getting a red light ticket fixed might be difficult, so I now reluctantly obey the pointless changes there.
All of the red light cameras violate the spirit of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and any sensible view of law enforcement. I hope that Comptroller Green’s recommendation is followed, but we need to pull them out completely. The changes at Grand and Chouteau are blatantly revenue-driven, and impede smart traffic flow there. They need to be undone. Then we need to get rid of the remaining red light cameras and find a more dignified, constitutional way of enhancing city revenue.