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Mayor: Let’s end red-light cameras

The mayor of Doral said Wednesday that he will submit to the city council a proposal to eliminate the cameras used to identify and fine traffic-light violators because he considers them an unnecessary mechanism for tax collection.

“These cameras have become a nightmare for the people of Doral,” Luigi Boria told El Nuevo Herald. “I believe these cameras are used to take money from the people, and we don’t need to continue to collect this type of indirect taxation.”

The surprise initiative was announced by Boria after the council on Tuesday approved to postpone a discussion of a state measure providing the creation of a fine-appeals board beginning Monday.

Boria said that, since 2011, the city of Doral has had a contract, effective until July 2014, with American Traffic Solution (ATS), an Arizona-based company that operates the cameras installed along Northwest 36th Street at the intersections with 79th, 87th, 97th and 107th avenues.

The cameras photograph the license plates of the vehicles that run the red lights. Later, ATS sends a $159 fine to the driver’s home.

The mayor said Doral has collected about $1.4 million per year. About $300,000 of that amount has done into the city’s coffers.

Boria said ATS plans to set up cameras at seven other corners in Doral.

“I am absolutely opposed to that plan,” Boria said. “Not only am I opposed to seeing more fine cameras installed in our city but I’m also seeking the elimination of such cameras in Doral.’’

Deputy Mayor Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera and council members Christi Fraga, Ana Maria Rodriguez and Sandra Ruiz have asked for more information about the issue.

On Wednesday, Rodriguez-Aguilera said she understood Boria’s position, and that of a broad sector of the Doral population, in rejecting the detector cameras. But, she noted, sometimes the authorities must make decisions that “are not popular.”

“I think that in certain places, the cameras prevent accidents; in others, no,” she said. “I agree that cameras at 11 corners would be too many, but in order to make an appropriate decision I need more information.”

Fraga said that if the cancellation of the municipal contract is viable, “yes, I would support the initiative.”

“If it is possible to do it, I’m in agreement,” Fraga said. “However, we council members must have more information before we can make a decision.”

Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez said although the cameras have not been popular, they have helped prevent accidents.

“Those who obey the law will not be fined,” said Rodriguez during Tuesday’s hearing. “The idea is to prevent accidents and deaths.”

The Council members have asked Doral police for a report on accident statistics. They have also asked the city’s legal department what penalties the city might face if it broke its contract with ATS.

In 2011, the City of Hialeah unilaterally canceled a contract it had signed the previous year with ATS to set up cameras in that municipality, Boria pointed out.

After the approval of a measure introduced by Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, the Hialeah council canceled the contract with ATS. The penalty could have been more than $1 million, but Hialeah negotiated its reduction down to about $150,000.

Boria said he will wait for the report from Doral’s legal department.

“At this time, certain state regulations have been approved that obligate us to set up offices for the appeal boards that were not contemplated in the original contract,” Boria said. “Now we’re waiting for the legal recommendations, but I’m definitely in favor of eliminating the cameras.”

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