Redding City Council Renews Unpopular Red-Light Camera Contract and Bids City Manager Farewell

It is safe to say Redding’s eight red-light cameras are not the city’s most popular feature. Unfortunately for grumbling drivers who got dinged $500 for a rolling right-hand turn or another infraction, the people who like them carry some clout: the police chief and all five city council members.

Following the recommendation of Police Chief Rob Paoletti, the Redding City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to renew a four-year contract with Glendale, Ariz.-based Redflex Traffic Systems, the company that operates the cameras in Redding.

Paoletti told the council the cameras have made the targeted intersections safer and reduced the number of collisions citywide. Since the cameras first went online in 2007, wrecks at the five intersections have dropped from 96 a year to 30, Paoletti said.

Police Chief Rob Paoletti urged the council to continue with the red-light camera program. Photos by Jon Lewis.

Police Chief Rob Paoletti urged the council to continue with the red-light camera program. Photos by Jon Lewis.

At the intersection of East Cypress Avenue and Bechelli Lane, accidents decreased from 31 a year to three; downtown at Shasta and Market streets, collisions were reduced from 16 to two; and at Hilltop Drive and East Cypress Avenue, collisions dropped from 22 to four.

The controversial cameras (dozens of cities in California have cancelled their red-light camera contracts, including Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego, Yuba City and Davis) are doing their job and freeing up police officers to be more proactive, Paoletti said.

Councilwoman Julie Winter said she fully supports the cameras, even though her husband was ticketed for a rolling right turn at the corner of North Market Street and Lake Boulevard. She said she drives through that intersection on a daily basis and has had five dangerously close calls. Noting a two-thirds drop in the accident rate, she said “this is not a money issue, this is about saving lives.”

Councilwoman Kristen Schreder said she has reviewed videos recorded by the cameras and watched as drivers careen straight through an intersection despite a red light. She said one driver who challenged a ticket was shown to be talking on a cell phone as failed to stop at a red light.

Bob Crawford said he received an unwelcome Christmas gift last December in the form of a $500 ticket for rolling through a right-hand turn and decided to do some research. He said a study in Los Angeles showed that the overwhelming majority of citations were for rolling right-hand turns—not the “straight through” red-light runners the city was trying to eliminate.

Wendy Bryan said she objected to Redding police contracting with an outside company to enforce traffic laws. “There’s a lot of room for error,” she said, adding that “I don’t like the idea of a company and a camera taking a picture” and traffic tickets being the result.

Under terms of the new contract, Redding will pay Redflex $4,375 a month for each of the eight red-light cameras Redflex operates at five intersections. The previous contract called for monthly fees of $4,500 per camera. Redflex, in turn, will allow Redding to claim operating costs of $900 a month for each camera.

Paoletti said the contract has a cost neutrality clause which means the city cannot lose money: if revenue from the cameras fails to cover the city’s cost, Redflex will absorb the difference. The city’s red-light camera program began to cover its costs and produce a revenue stream once cameras were installed at Hilltop and Cypress, Paoletti said.

As a result, the department was able to put one-time funds of $98,000 towards a massive computer upgrade and add $173,000 to its vehicle replacement fund.

Paoletti said a team of three retired officers work a combined total of 20 hours a week reviewing videos and photos from the cameras and determining which violations warrant a citation. Redflex is not involved in issuing tickets and the cost (the fine is $100 and fees, taxes and assessments make up the other $400) is the same whether the ticket comes from a camera or an officer.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

Kurt Starman’s farewell

–Issued retiring City Manager Kurt Starman a resolution and gave him an ovation during a brief ceremony to mark his 11 years of service as city manager. Each council member expressed their appreciation. Councilwoman Francie Sullivan said Starman “was always a gentleman,” even when suffering a barrage of criticism from irate citizens.

Retiring City Manager Kurt Starman.

Retiring City Manager Kurt Starman.

“I’m grateful to live in a city where we have a reserve,” Sullivan said, attributing that safety cushion to Starman’s prudent leadership.

Starman, in turn, tried to deflect the praise toward “the very bright and dedicated people who work for the city of Redding. We have an outstanding leadership team and we’re very fortunate to have them.”

Department heads stand and applaud Starman.

Department heads stand and applaud Starman.

City Council members were unanimous in their praise of Starman's service.

City Council members were unanimous in their praise of Starman’s service.

Assistant City Manager Barry Tippin was appointed interim city manager. The council met Monday in closed session to interview the four finalists for the city manager position. The council’s hiring decision could be made next month.

Hill Country CARE Center

–Heard a report from Lynn Dorroh, CEO of Hill Country Community Clinic, on the two-month-old CARE Center now operating at 1401 Gold St. The center provides urgent outpatient mental health services 365 days a year.

Lynn Dorroh.

Lynn Dorroh.

Dorroh said the center has been well received by its neighbors, who had initially expressed concerns. A licensed clinician is always there to provide help for those overwhelmed by emotional distress, traumatic events or life stressors.

The CARE Center staff has already seen a lot of suicidal clients as well as people suffering from schizophrenia, panic attacks and other mental health issues, Dorroh said. The center is open from 2 to 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. For more information, call (530) 691-4446.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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