Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cleveland, Maple Heights traffic cameras lose, voters vote to get rid of them, the cameras disproportionately targeted the Black community

By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Most Read Online Black Newspaper and Newspaper Blog  Kathy Wray Coleman is  a community activist and 21-year investigative journalist who trained for 17 years at the Call and Post Newspaper. (www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)

CLEVELAND, Ohio- Voters in the majority Black cities of Cleveland and Maple Heights, a Cleveland suburb, dismantled the red light and speed cameras that ticket motorists for speeding , red light and other infractions, and overwhelmingly supported a charter amendment to get rid of them,  a huge  lost for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland City Council.  

According to unofficial results of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections,  Cleveland voters, at the polls on Tuesday, supported the charter amendment 78 percent to 23 percent, and Maple Heights voters voted against the cameras at nearly the same rate.

Cleveland City Council reluctantly passed a city ordinance to place the measure before voters, even after residents collected over 13,000 signatures, more than twice the amount needed, and the  Ohio Supreme Court, by a unanimous vote, had to order Maple Heights City Council to do the same after city council tried to skate the issue.

The Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals deemed the Cleveland traffic cameras unconstitutional in January of this year in the case of Sam Jodka vs The City of Cleveland, saying that the administrative procedure to challenge the tickets cannot take the place of municipal court judges. The eighth district decision is binding on the city of Cleveland and all traffic camera programs like it in cities, townships and villages across Cuyahoga County, the state's largest of some 88 counties, and of which is 29 percent Black.

The city has appealed, which is now a nullity.

Cleveland's 64 cameras generate roughly $6 million annually, most of them situated on the predominantly Black east side, compliments of lobbying by Mayor Jackson, who is Black, and Black east side councilpersons, including Jeff Johnson, Zack Reed and Kevin Conwell.

West side Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins, who is usually at odds with the mayor,  led the charge to try to convince voters that safety is at issue and that the traffic cameras are meaningful. Most city residents,  however, in both Cleveland and Maple Heights, resent them, some saying that the Black community is unfairly targeted , others complaining that they have been erroneously ticketed, and some saying that the cameras are a money scheme that should not take the place of police officers doing their jobs.

Also at issue was the absence of an opportunity to confront an accuser since the traffic cameras act in place of police officers that would normally issue the traffic tickets.

Community activists opposed the cameras and have protested against them.

Cleveland is roughly 58 percent Black and Maple Heights, a Cleveland suburb, is about 68 percent Black.

The Ohio Supreme Court is hearing a claim of unconstitutionality of the cameras in a Toledo case that mirrors Cleveland and the state legislature will likely determine the issue relative to a bill pending
that seeks to ban the cameras altogether. (www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)