Santa Fe: Don’t jump the (radar) gun

March 31, 2019

I only wish everyone in Santa Fe had read the Steve Terrell column (“Speed cameras wrong way to slow drivers,” Roundhouse Roundup, March 24). I really hope Santa Fe’s city councilors and Mayor Alan Webber read it.

For those who didn’t, the column addressed and reminded us of the City Council’s discussion and probable vote to bring back the unoccupied vehicle speed monitors, which has been on the back burner for some time now. Let me be clear, I do not like them, but I am not opposed to the unoccupied speed vehicles and agree with the mayor. They can be an effective safety tool.

And, yep, I got nailed once, last time they were out and about in our fair city. I was doing a few miles over the speed limit — guilty and I paid my fine, as did Steve. It stung and I didn’t like it. But, what I didn’t like then and don’t like now, is that so much of the money paid by local Santa Fe speeders in fines again will go out of the city and out of the state to pay for these contraptions, the subsequent issuance of speeding tickets and collection of the fines imposed.

During the last go-round with these robot camera cars, one city official had the gall to say, “Most of the money we will collect in speeding fines will be from tourists, anyway, so it’s a win-win deal.” Wrong! If you want visitors to come back and/or say good things about Santa Fe, you don’t want to fine them for doing 30 in a 25-mph zone (and I’m not advocating that tourists go scot-free). But, that’s another topic.

What percentage of the collected fine is going to the contractor?

Let’s say 40 percent of the fines collected go to the out-of-state contractor. Let’s say that over a period of time, a million dollars is collected in speeding fines — at 40 percent, that’s $400,000 going out of state. What a sweet deal. For the contractor, not for the city and not for its citizens. Instead, let’s say the city buys and owns the apparatus to equip its own vehicles to do exactly the same thing. Then, 100 percent of the fines would stay in Santa Fe. That’s a sweet thought.

I have no idea what the deal with the Arizona contractor is costing and what it involves this time around, but it just seems like Santa Fe will be getting the short end of the stick. Sure, they do the setup; the processing of data gathered by the speed wagons; they do the mailing; they do the collecting, etc.

If Santa Fe did all of that, how many jobs would it create for people in Santa Fe? And even if it all cost 100 percent of the “take,” who cares? It’s money that’s being paid in wages right here in Santa Fe. And remember, the contractor would not be doing this if it was not making a profit. And that’s just on 40 percent of the total collected.

And, while the city is being transparent, let constituents know what the fine spread will be. Am I going to be ticketed for going one mile over the speed limit or five or 10 over? Is there a fine structure, escalating with each offense, or is it a flat ticket every time? Share that with us, please.

Please, councilors, before you sign that contract with that Arizona contractor, be transparent, show us the costs of the service, software and hardware that this out-of-state outfit is providing, and convince us that the only way this program will work is to farm it out. Show us that you have explored the feasibility of us, the city of Santa Fe, doing it ourselves. In other words, just give us the bottom line.

Al Lucero is a longtime Santa Fe businessman.