As is the pattern for so many growing towns, my home of Dripping Springs, TX now bristles with cameras. The latest is a rolling ticketing machine presented as part of a school zone safety program. American Traffic Solutions operates the machine. For a taste of their reputation, check out reporting on their activities in Scottsdale, AZ. Revenue enhancing relationships between local government and companies like ATS deserve skepticism. Safety is often a cover for cronyism. Who is making what off of this deal? Who is spending the generated revenue, and on what are they spending it? What non-revenue generating methods were considered and dismissed? What safety studies were done?
I sent a public information request to Hays County. Here are the responsive documents.
I sent the four Hays county commissioners this charming email. (Text updated 2016/08/03 for a new round of letters.)
ATS is known for corruption and cronyism. They should not be invited into our community. This unbecoming association raises questions. I’m concerned Dripping Springs is becoming yet another revenue enhancement town. The van blocking the shoulder in front of Dripping Springs Elementary is an unwelcome sight. A crossing guard, a real person there to help instead of robotically levy a regressive tax, would be a more welcome attempt at safety. Instead, we get a public/private camera partnership that surveils us as we go about our daily lives.
Unaccountable ticketing robots do not welcome people to a new school year nor do they address the perennial traffic flow problems at Dripping Springs Elementary School.
KVUE interviewed Constable Ron Hood and came away with some numbers.
American Traffic Solutions provided both vans to the county at no cost. In the first year, Hays County will receive 25 percent of the money from those fines. After the first year, Hays County will receive 60 percent with the rest going to ATS.
This feels like a familiar narrative: ATS gives a free taste, ATS takes a percentage generous enough for in-kind transactional politics, local government gets hooked on regressive revenue.
These cameras are generating complaints. The flash is triggering unexpectedly. The line from ATS as relayed through Constable Hood’s office is that the flash builds up to a point of needing to discharge. We’ve had this happen to us several times, bringing into question the frequency and pattern of these build-up discharges. At the very least, this is a bad user interface backed by the threat of fines and force that we must deal with daily.
This piece from KXAN is typical local journalism that carries water for authority and asks no questions.
More press release reporting.
The van disappeared from Dripping Springs elementary a couple weeks-ish ago.
Hays county replied to a public information request for invoices and agreements with ATS. See here:
The program is coming back for the new school year:
Facing a lawsuit and a reporter’s inquiries, the Hays County Commissioner’s Court is asking County Judge Bert Cobb to tear up a contract for a school zone speed-safety camera program.
The agenda item suddenly appeared at the end of a week in which Conley and other county officials declined to answer questions about a program attorney Bill Davis contends was created illegally and in violation of the Texas Constitution.
The Commissioners Court created the program without a study to justify claims of a public safety threat and without a public hearing to explain the program before its implementation, the suit says.
Although county officials have all along touted the program as a student safety effort, there is no discussion of any study of traffic in any of the 20 school zones that were under consideration.
“It’s a program designed to take money from the gullible and it’s illegal as all get-out.”