Monthly Archives: February 2011

Red light cameras

I am getting a lot of calls on this issue, so I thought it needed to be addressed, in spite of the fact that the city has already approved it.

We’ve all seen some bozo racing through a light that has already turned red, and we seldom see one of them actually being caught. If there were cameras mounted on these traffic signals, I suppose we would catch every one of them, fine them, and force them to mend their evil ways. There’s nothing like a stiff fine to bring about a change of behavior. It’s the reason why I am careful to buckle up today.

Of course, I was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy, not caught by a red light camera that happened to notice that I was not wearing my seat belt. The deputy was there as a warning to speeders, but he caught me although I was not speeding. My point is that the same result can be had by increased and strategic patrols. I would be much more willing to increase officers than put a new system in place that could cost more.

I understand that there is a money-making opportunity for the city here. They will certainly get more fines, at least initially. But there are a couple of other unintended consequences that concern me. One is that one of the behaviors that may change is one that has been documented in other cities where they have these cameras: increased rear-end collisions as people stop abruptly. Another is that the city commissioners may see this as an opportunity to reduce the number of officers on patrol. During last year’s budget shortfall, the city inferred that they may cut over 30 officers. That means that the city’s need for more of your money, as opposed to cutting non-essential services, promotes their own bad behavior.

No closure for Koppers’ neighbors

Last night the city commission voted 7-0 to accept the EPA’s cleanup plan for the Cabot Koppers Superfund toxic waste site. The commissioners thought that time was of the essence that the cleanup get started sooner rather than later, and I understand the sense of immediacy. However, since the plan includes leaving the waste where it is, protected by a clay (“slurry”) wall 65 feet deep, that means this waste will be here for a very, very long time. And wasn’t it on the same site, a couple of decades ago, that a bulldozer inadvertently breached a slurry wall and contaminated a creek? This is why I believe it’s not a good solution. It’s sort of like having a sexual predator living next to a pre-school, and taking solace in the fact that he wears an ankle bracelet.

The commissioners were told there would be no recourse for future lawsuits if this plan was accepted. And they knew there would be no cleanup without the approval. They just want to make it go away. But the plan falls short of that. They said that incinerating the soil would cost $500 million since it has to be sent to Alabama. This begs the question: How much would it cost to incinerate it HERE? Even if you used non-incinerating technology, could you still not do it here?

So, they are throwing us a $90 million bone, and leaving us the pollution. Thanks.

Recent endorsements

I’d like to thank the Fraternal Order of Police (#67 Gator Lodge) and the North Central Chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association for their kind words and recognition. Both of these organizations acknowledged my commitment to putting core services first. I appreciate the great work done by all our first responders, and I hope all Gainesville citizens agree that without a commitment to public safety, there is a diminished quality of life.

PBA endorsement

Is Koppers getting the whitewash…again?

The Gainesville Sun reported that the EPA has issued its final cleanup plan for the Koppers Superfund site, and I doubt that the people in the Stephen Foster neighborhood will be happy. And none of us should be. The contaminated soil is to be left on the site, buried 65 feet, surrounded by an underground concrete barrier wall, and covered with an impermeable cap.  The ground would also be injected with chemicals that are supposed to keep the toxins from seeping deeper into the aquifer. This last part reminds me of the chemical dispersants that were used in the BP oil spill cleanup. The EPA ordered that “solution” to be stopped the dispersants were as poisonous as the oil, if not more so.

So, the EPA wants to let Beazer East, the polluting company, reset the clock on this time bomb for future generations. A real solution might include soil incineration, to burn off the toxins, or there are newer soil cleaning technologies that do not create emissions. I am not a scientist, but any concerned citizen who looks forward to being able to drink the water around here should demand better than what we are being offered.

Are buses a priority?

At a recent candidate forum, Ozzy Angulo, who is running for the District 3 seat, said that for a single mother with no car, buses are a core service. That is true. And to an avid golfer, I guess Ironwood is a core service. But when prioritizing the expenditure of tax dollars, you must take the whole city into account. And what I have seen with my own eyes, every day, are large, empty, or single-passenger buses making their rounds. Yes, that single passenger needs a ride, but could we not accomplish that at a far lower cost than using a vehicle the size of a small single-wide trailer?

From time to time I get corrected by some champion of the status quo who insists that the cost is covered 60% by riders, and that the rest of the money comes from somewhere else. And as long as “someone else” is paying for it, there is no problem. Actually, there is no “someone else”. All taxes are paid by us, the consumers of all products and services in which these costs are passed on as a business expense. And some of these taxes are more direct than we realize, just as the city gets over a third of its general fund budget as a direct transfer from GRU. If you pay for gasoline, you pay a tax that pays for buses.

Not only is this an expensive and wasteful means of transportation; it’s dirty, too. Our buses burn over 2400 gallons of diesel fuel per day. Is this the commitment to Green Energy that our commissioners say is so important?

What is really worrisome is that our city and county commissioners have big dreams for these big buses. They not only believe that a day is coming when these buses and more will all be filled. They want to make it happen. They want to discourage automobile travel by making it unpleasant. That is why we are looking at narrowing 16th Ave. with bike lanes. This busy road will become more congested by decreasing car capacity.

City Commissioner Tom Hawkins said last night that our buses have 9 million riders that we didn’t have 10 years ago. Does he mean that our ridership increased by 9 million riders in 10 years? Did we go from zero to 9 million, or 4 million to 13 million? And what kind of fuzzy math do you have to do to report 9 million riders in a county of less than a quarter million total residents? If I took the bus every day, for a week, to and from University, and had to transfer to another bus in the process each time, would I be 28 riders? Multiply that by 52 weeks, and I am 1,452 riders!

I am open to suggestions…