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Editorial: Adios Redflex, for better or worse

speedvanSANTA FE, N.M. — A Santa Fe City Council committee has voted to kill off a proposed new contract with Redflex, the Arizona-based company that is the kingpin of photographic traffic enforcement.

Santa Fe had a contract with Redflex starting in 2009 for the system used in what are colloquially called “speed vans,” which were parked around town and photographed speeders, resulting in thousands of tickets. The contract expired in January and since then Santa Fe has been a speed-van-free zone.

Redflex was the only bidder for a new contract. But the council’s Finance Committee, in a 3-2 vote, decided against it on Monday night, meaning the contract won’t go to the full council for consideration.

Redflex itself had complicated consideration of reinstituting camera monitoring of the motoring public.

Over the past year, accusations arose that Redflex had offered bribes to government officials in several states, including New Mexico (although no evidence or specifics of bribery here has ever been produced). Santa Fe’s leaders did get a letter from Redflex acknowledging inappropriate behavior by a former company executive who has been fired, according to City Councilor Ron Trujillo.

(Ex-Redflex CEO Karen Finley recently pleaded not guilty to charges that she forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a retired Chicago official to help procure $124 million in contracts.)

We’re sorry to see the speed vans go. As Trujillo, the biggest supporter of the speed vans that many in town considered an unfair nuisance, said this week: “You can go anywhere in town and see people running stop signs and speeding, and we’re trying to prevent that.”

In particular, the vans were a better way to slow traffic in residential areas and school zones than those damnable speed humps. Tickets for drivers with a heavy foot on the gas pedal are preferable to making everyone bounce over the big bumps.

A UNM study shows that crashes in Santa Fe dropped by about 500 a year over the first three years of the Redflex contract. But councilors who opposed going back to the speed van system somehow argued there wasn’t proof it was helping, and that it wasn’t “efficient and effective.”

Probably the general public howling about getting tickets from the stationary municipal equivalent of military drones also had something to do with the vote against speed vans. Anyone who’s lived in Santa Fe a few years (and Trujillo is a native) knows that, while we have many positive aspects to our inclusive, tolerant, diverse, culturally rich and creative community, we also consider traffic laws more like optional suggestions that can be ignored at any given moment (see turn signals, left-turn red lights or, in fact, any red light, as well as speed limit signs).

Maybe a company that’s scandal-free can come forward and make another try at speed vans in Santa Fe.

Until then, be careful out there.

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