Doral’s City Council gave the green light to red-light cameras on Wednesday.
The council voted to set up a local hearing board to handle red-light ticket appeals, which drivers now have the right to request after a new state law went into effect July 1.
Doral had opted to suspend issuing tickets until resolving the matter by council vote. Now, the owner of any car blowing a red light will get $158 fine in the mail.
The vote was 4-1. Mayor Luigi Boria had suggested eliminating the city’s 11 red-light cameras and opposed creating a hearing board.
“You’re never going to prevent an accident with a red-light camera,” he said. “At the end of the day, those people that are running the red-light cameras are going to keep running those red-light cameras.”
But Vice Mayor Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera and Councilwomen Sandra Ruiz, Ana Maria Rodriguez and Christi Fraga voted to approve the measure, saying that the cameras prevent deadly accidents and change bad driving habits.
Ruiz said besides safety issues, breaking the contract Doral has with American Traffic Services, the company that administers the cameras, would be too costly to pursue.
Marc Buoniconti, president of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and son of Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, spoke during the public hearing before the vote.
Bound to a wheelchair after suffering a spinal cord injury 28 years ago on the football field, Buoniconti told the council to keep the cameras because they save lives.
“It prevents injuries, it prevents these terrible accidents, and it keeps our communities safe,” he said.
Statistics kept by the Doral Police Department show little difference between major intersections with the cameras and those without.
Police Chief Richard Blom noted that although there has been a small increase in rear-end collisions at some intersections, the city has had fewer deadly collisions and a dip in the number of violations.
“If the violations are going down, it has to at some time start preventing accidents because it’s changing behavior,” he said.
He said the cameras have so far brought little revenue to the city, with few funds left over from the citations after paying American Traffic Services.
Felipe Madrigal, founder of Doral’s Rotary Club, spoke on behalf of the Doral Community Coalition supporting the cameras and suggesting any leftover money be put to good use.
“The funds from red-light cameras should be used to improve safety around our schools and parks and to educate citizens,” he said.
The council’s regular meeting was the last in a marathon day that began with a 9 a.m. budget workshop. The council did not finish either the workshop or the regular meeting. The workshop will continue at 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall, 8401 NW 53rd Terrace. The regular meeting will continue at 5 p.m. that afternoon.
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