Though Mayor Earl Leiken does not consider the addition of red-light cameras to be a significant budgetary matter, it could generate as much discussion as any change slated for 2013.
City officials plan to continue the discussion on major-intersection cameras that would detect red-light and speeding violations at the next 2013 budget session on Monday. Shaker Heights Police Chief D. Scott Lee is scheduled to give a detailed explanation regarding why the police department wants to implement the technology used by communities like Cleveland and East Cleveland. The public will also have an opportunity to chime in on the issue.
The matter was discussed at the city's first budget work session on Nov. 19.
"The purpose is to help the police maintain safety and security in the community," Leiken said at Monday's city council meeting. "The safety implications are obvious."
The mayor believes that there are at least twice as many people driving through the city on a daily basis as there are residents. He added that police will inform residents where the cameras will be located and signage will be installed. Leiken said he did not know specific locations yet, but most major intersections in the city are likely to be included.
Leiken said the city receives emails and calls about speeding, particularly in the morning hours when people commute to work. He cited the recent death of 25-year-old Shaker Heights native Brian Horwich as an example of the type of incident that the cameras could help prevent.
The mayor has also received messages from people who are leery about the concept and why the police department is recommending it. In response to emailers and Shaker Heights Chamber of Commerce President Debra Hegler, who spoke in dissent during a public portion of the council meeting, Leiken insisted that the installation of cameras is not a move to generate more revenue.
"It will provide some revenue, definitely, but that is not the primary reason we want to do it," he said. "(There are) lots of concerns expressed by residents about speeding, not just in the main streets, but also on the side streets. We're going to get more police in the neighborhoods who can monitor the situation on the side streets and deal with the issues there, and red-light cameras would likely be on the main streets."
Leiken said the city has not projected revenue from violations that would be caught by the cameras.
Hegler told council and city officials that she believes most cities who install cameras do so for monetary reasons.
"I think that the issue is not only an insult to the community that has recently agreed, in order to help balance the budget, to payroll tax increases," Hegler said, "and then their reward is now we're seeing an increase in revenues all across the board in the city, from the recreation department to certificates of occupancies for rental properties.
"Now, we're looking at a hidden tax, or a not-so-hidden tax, in the form of red-light cameras being considered as part of the budget."
Aside from offenders, the cameras would not come at a cost to residents, the mayor said. Instead, the third-party company the city chooses to operate the ticketing system would take a percentage of the revenue from violations as compensation instead of charging the city for the cameras. The city has yet to put out proposals for companies that operate violation cameras.
Leiken said the city is prepared for backlash.
"Anything that involves change is going to be resisted," Leiken said. "It's going to require all of us to be more careful when we go through major intersections.