The Bird Trumpets Redflex’s Demise in Pinal County and Tweets About Nova M’s Move Left on the Dial

LOCAL HERO

This wacky warbler has but one wish for the New Year. No, not peace on Earth. Not for a gazillion-dollar Powerball win. Not even to awaken one day on a tropical island next to a bikini-clad Kate Winslet and a nearby shipwreck full of the good ganja.

Nah, what The Bird longs for most in 2009 is an end to photo enforcement's Stalinist grip on Arizona's roadways. Initially, this seemed a lost cause. Outgoing Governor Janet Napolitano had sold the state's freeways kit and caboodle to the Australian company Redflex, with which the Arizona Department of Public Safety has its contract. Our beloved Sand Land had thereby fallen under Redflex's all-seeing Mordor-like eye.

Pinal County's newly elected sheriff and photo enforcement foe, Paul Babeu.
courtesy of the Pinal County Sheriff's Office
Pinal County's newly elected sheriff and photo enforcement foe, Paul Babeu.

Enter the Bird's new hero, Paul Babeu, the newly elected sheriff of Pinal County and the first-ever Republican to hold that position. This November, Babeu defeated incumbent Democrat Chris Vasquez, campaigning on a platform that included an end to the county's contract with Redflex. And by the time he was sworn in on January 2, Babeu had informed Redflex that the Pinal County Sheriff's Office would no longer be signing off on the citations produced from the three photo-radar vans Redflex operated in the county. (The company has no stationary cameras in Pinal.)

"We have ended photo radar for speeding [in Pinal County]," the new sheriff told the anti-photo enforcement Web site CameraFraud.com in a YouTube video that made news across the state and beyond. "Photo radar's last days are now behind us, because they ended on the First of January."

The boldness of Babeu's move was that he had single-handedly ended the county's agreement with Redflex by refusing to participate in it. According to Babeu, Redflex cannot issue citations for Pinal without the sheriff's sign-off. So even though there's time left on Redflex's contract with Pinal, Babeu's put the kibosh on all future Redflex tickets.

(The three-member Pinal County Board of Supervisors was set to vote on sending a formal notice of termination to Redflex on January 7, which is after New Times goes to press.)

According to Pinal County Judge Dennis Lusk, whose court oversees such citations, there have been more than 7,000 Redflex tickets that have come through his court since the program began in 2007, and though Lusk would offer no opinion on Babeu's move, there have to be some in Pinal who'll be sad to see that revenue stream ended. Along those lines, Redflex flack Shoba Vaitheeswaran did not return this raven's repeated calls for comment.

As for the DPS, which separately from the Sheriff's Office oversees its own Redflex roving photo-enforcement vans in the county, Lieutenant James Warriner told The Bird that Babeu's move changes nothing for his department, insisting, "We will still be operating our cameras on state and federal highways as mandated by the governor and state legislators."

Babeu acknowledged that the DPS had the right to operate inside his county, but he deplored the "corrupting influence" of government entities partnering with private vendors like the Aussie firm Redflex, or its homegrown competitor American Traffic Solutions.

"It's almost Orwellian, taking out the human element," Babeu told The Bird, using idealistic language rarely heard from politicians these days. "This is the beauty of our republic, that we have real-life police officers or deputies that have discretion — discretion that is built into the law. When we take out that discretion, it's very clear to me that the whole reason behind this issue is money."

Babeu called on incoming Governor Jan Brewer to "do the right thing." By that, he means ending the state's partnership with Redflex and bringing down cameras that have been popping up all over like some evil weed. As for arguments by the DPS that photo enforcement decreases traffic fatalities, Babeu pointed to criticisms of recent DPS studies by AAA that suggested such findings might be flawed.

The straight-shooting new sheriff dismissed concerns that government needs the money from this revenue stream because of harsh economic times. It's unfair, Babeu suggested, for government to seek to balance its budget on the backs of citizens.

"Government has a responsibility, just like each of us," Babeu stressed, "to tighten its belt. Become more efficient. Set fiscal priorities . . . I have full faith in our new Legislature and our new governor. I think they should reject [photo enforcement] out of hand. This $100 million or whatever DPS is going to create for them is dirty money."

Anti-Babeu bloggers and other opponents have claimed that there's a bit of self-interest mixed in with Babeu's high-minded, libertarian rhetoric. They call Babeu an unrepentant speed demon and point to Redflex tickets that Babeu's received previously, one of which Babeu returned to Redflex, telling the company he wasn't the one driving and that the photo was so blurry the driver couldn't be made out.

Babeu admitted he'd had speeding tickets in his past, including a recent one in Scotts­dale that he paid. He maintained that his position on photo enforcement has nothing to do with any traffic citations he's received. He noted legal problems inherent in Redflex citations:

"People have no obligation [concerning tickets mailed to them]," said Babeu. "Because it's not properly served. Unless somebody actually serves you, you can't lose your license, you can't get your license suspended, or anything like that."

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6 comments
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Jara
Jara

Your post is great! pretty much sure lot of your readers had a great knowledge after they read your post. It seems that everyone has submit their mature views regarding this. Hope to see more of this.

Jara

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David Wilbur
David Wilbur

"Of course, you have to dodge the process server for four months, but if you make it past that marker, the citation's history."

That doesn't always work. I didn't "dodge" the process server -- I simply never saw him. I got a ticket and I chose the "let 'em serve me option". Again, I never saw a process server. I did, however, get a notice that my case was decided and my license was suspended. It was at this point that I went outside and found an UNDATED, UNSIGNED copy of the citation, covered in dirt and somewhat damaged from water, laying under a bush in my front yard. I turned it over to my lawyer and he had the case dismissed due to improper service. BTW, the process server swore out an affidavit stating that he had contact with me (liar).

Be careful with that option.

Also, my ticket would have resulted in the only points on my license and an insurance rate increase, in addition to the fine. All of which would have happened had I been pulled over by an officer using his discretion.

These new tickets: No points? Not reported on DMV record? Just pay or we take your license? How is that not about money? (And the whole "face your accuser" thing....) I'm all about improved traffic safety, but this is becoming a joke.

TommyC1
TommyC1

UtOh! Sheriff Babeu needs to be looking over his shoulder. arpaio has likely added him to the witch hunt list. NOBODY gets more press than arpaio and doesn't pay for it in some way.

LEGAL Immigrant
LEGAL Immigrant

"Arpaio's war against Hispanics"

You're an idiot, Bird. There's not a war against HISPANICS, there is a fight against ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. Pull your bird-brained head out of your feathered ass. I busted my ass to get into this country LEGALLY and I did it. I am now a proud citizen of the United States of America. I am also proud of my heritage as a LATINO. I am a law-abiding U.S. citizen and I believe in what Sheriff Arpaio is doing to enforce the law. Laws protect citizens.

The governor's office can't get the job done. The City of Phoenix wants to kiss the asses of people who've come into it ILLEGALLY, since they have not done anything useful about the situation. (And people rip on San Francisco for being a sanctuary city. Please.) The sheriff is doing his job and he's doing it well.

It must be so rough for you to sit on your ass all day and type words into a computer to rip into those who actually go out and help the community. Criticism is easy to write from a cushy office away from the crime and the danger. I say it again: You're an idiot.

Tino

lilly
lilly

wow a sheriff who really has guts! not afraid, and is for the people Pinal county here i caome you can have the big blow hard bag of lying wind you call a lawman.voted americas WORST sheriff a hole ar pie hole

Jim Briggs
Jim Briggs

Can we vote for Shereiff Babeu here in Maricopa County? This guy kicks ass. Wish we couldd trade him for old Ar-pie-hole. Joe looks like he couldnt run a lap around his office building. This Babeu looks like a cool motherfucker who could probably climb a mountain if he had to. Plus he sent Redflex packing. Thats my kind of shereiff. Babeu for Shereiff of Maricopa County. Maybe he could run in 4 years when Joes term is up.

 
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