Feathered Bastard

Photo Enforcement Follies: Why Sam Crump Rocks, and the Arizona Republic Bites

Has anyone informed the graying fuddy-duddies at the Arizona Republic that its shoulder-padded goddess Janet Napolitano is no longer Guv? The Republic's fawning, faceless editorial writers continue to kiss her broad tuchis in absentia by slavishly adhering to the party line on such Nappy fiats as her Orwellian photo enforcement program. This envisions Redflex radar cameras in Sand Land from the California border to AZ's one with New Mexico, your constitutional right to face your accuser be damned.

The Rep's allegiance to the old Nappy regime explains the Repugnant's diss today of state Representative Sam Crump's bid to end Redflex's tyranny with House Bill 2106, which prohibits state or local authorities "from using photo enforcement systems to detect speeding violations on state highways." The Republic's nudnik scribblers use data from DPS, the prime beneficiary of the Redflex cameras, to argue that Zona highways are safer because of those steely sentinels.

Never mind that AAA has called DPS' study into question. Or that the fine imposed equates to a regressive tax that will hurt the poor and middle class most of all. Or that photo enforcement has inflamed a popular rebellion that ranges from Camerafraud.com's attempt to get an anti-photo radar initiative on the ballot in 2010 to camera-blocking Santas and a pickax-wielding motorist.

The Repugnant parrots the line that it's not about money, when we all know that it really is. Even the Napster, the Repugnant's skunk-coifed Stalin said as much, claiming the cameras would raise $90 million for the state's coffers.

The simple fact of the matter is that the cameras are wildly unpopular, loathed by all but the blue-hairs in Sun City who want everyone to drive as achingly slow as they do. But even if a camera on every street corner, at every intersection, on every 300 feet of state highway were to make us safer, would it be worth it? If so, why not place cameras in every home, or make a 10 PM statewide curfew mandatory, or make all citizens wear ankle bracelets that monitor their movements? Wouldn't these steps also make Arizonans far "safer" than they are now?

"This is a major public policy issue," Crump told me recently of the photo enforcement scheme. "It was not deliberated. It was snuck into the budget last year, with a lot of raised eyebrows. So now we're having this debate. We're learning about the video [taken by Redflex's cameras]. We're learning about Tucson, about 1,000 subpoenas that were just invalidated. That's what happens when you don't have a sworn officer issuing out citations."

As for the argument that the cameras make the roads safer?

"I reject the premise that this is about safety or non-safety," replied Crump. "That's not the choice. I want safety too, but the ends don't justify the means."

What was it that Ben Franklin said about people willing to give up liberty for security deserving neither? Maybe the Repugnant's scribes need to bone up on their Founding Fathers and stop licking Nappy's chunky heels now that she's in DC. 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons