Apparently, someone at City Hall saw the recent imbroglio about the red light cameras and decided to speak up. Those red light cameras are saving us from ourselves.
The statistics about tickets issued and accidents reduced aren’t the most interesting part of the story. That’s buried at the bottom, where city staff told the council that expenses for the program are bigger than revenues. I realize that no one on the council pays any attention during these briefings (and certainly no one in the media), so I’ll quote from a story earlier this year: "But had the council delayed the vote two weeks, council members would have been forced to plug a $140,000 hole in the Dallas’ 2007-2008, since revenue from the 40 new red light cameras is included in City Manager Mary Suhm’s budget proposal."
If the cameras aren’t generating enough revenue, we’re going to have budget problems later this year. What will have to be cut to pay for the red light cameras? This is smoke and mirrors, not sound public policy.
I’ve taken a fair amount of grief for this, but I’ll say it again: If we want red light cameras to make the roads safer, then let’s install red light cameras for that purpose. That’s a terrific idea, and I’m all for it. But if we want to balance the budget, then let’s cut programs or raise taxes. Doing stuff like this might fool the council in the short term, but it’s no long-term solution to the city’s annual budget dilemma.