Midterm election coverage has largely focused on the historic shift of power in Washington, for obvious reasons. This partisan story line has overshadowed one of last week’s most significant bipartisan wins as Democrats, Republicans and independents banded together across all demographic lines in five cities to banish Big Brother.
Take the city of Mukilteo, Wash., a wealthy Seattle suburb that handed President Obama 62 percent of the vote in 2008 (a generous five points more than the rest of that blue state). At first blush, that liberal town wouldn’t seem to have much in common with Anaheim, Calif., a city in Orange County, which is the only major coastal outpost for the GOP in the Golden State. Yet with similar 70 percent and more votes, residents in both Mukilteo and Anaheim abolished the use of red-light cameras and speed cameras.
The companies behind the robotic ticketing racket didn’t take these electoral challenges lightly. In Harris County, Texas, one firm spent $2.1 million on advertisements featuring hospital employees, firemen and police officers speaking up in defense of the program. The ads, of course, didn’t mention that funding for the commercials came from the red-light-camera company or that each of those special-interest groups received a cut of the multimillion-dollar profit generated by the enterprise. The attempt to wrap the money grab in a cloak of safety didn’t work. Residents in Houston and the suburb of Baytown saw through the spin and voted down the cameras.
A Rice University poll taken on the eve of the election underestimated opposition to the cameras, but the results nonetheless shed light on the demographics of the Houston vote. The survey found blacks and Hispanics were more heavily opposed to cameras than whites. A whopping 83 percent of those in the 18-to-34 age bracket wanted to abolish cameras. This suggests that the Internet generation has figured out that cameras are a scam, leaving photo-enforcement advocates with little hope for the future. “We won because people just don’t like the cameras,” Philip Owens, campaign manager for the Houston anti-camera referendum, told The Washington Times. “Governments throughout the country just need to accept that. It just rubs people the wrong way. We instinctively know it isn’t right, and we all know it’s about the money.”
The relatively poor Cleveland suburb of Garfield Heights rejected cameras just as four other cities in the Buckeye State - including Cincinnati - had done in previous elections. From Anchorage, Alaska, to Sykesville, Md., from towns of 4,200 to a metropolis of 2.2 million, from red states to blue, the result is the same. In all 15 ballot-box contests that have taken place over the years, cameras have lost - usually by wide margins.
It’s time for elected officials to park the photo-radar vans and pull down the intersection spy cameras. Aside from a gullible minority, you’re not fooling anyone. Republicans, Democrats and independents rarely agree on issues of public policy, but on this they speak with one voice. State legislatures in Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin have listened to the people and adopted statewide laws prohibiting automated enforcement. It’s time for the rest of the states to give Big Brother his walking papers.