The long debate over automated traffic enforcement cameras has resumed at the state capitol.
A bill that’s cleared a Senate subcommittee would prohibit Iowa cities from using out-of-state companies to install and maintain the cameras or to issue the tickets for speeding and running red lights. Pete McRoberts, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, suggested requiring only Iowa companies be involved ensures they’re accountable to Iowans.
“Companies that sell products to cities for the purposes of issuing demand letters to citizens, well, those should be within reach of the Open Records Act or at least legal discovery,” McRoberts said.
Mike St. Clair is a lobbyist for Sensys Gatso (GAT-soh), a company based in the Netherlands with a U.S. subsidiary that manages the traffic camera systems in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and other Iowa cities. He said the bill is “anti-free market.”
“The cities should be able to choose whichever vendor best suits the needs and provides the best service and frankly it comes down…who has to the best technology.” St. Clair said. “…That’s part of why we’re representing and working with as many cities as we are in Iowa.”
Independence Police Chief Dave Niedert said his community has never had a problem with Sensys Gatso and the bill takes away local control. “The State of Iowa and many municipalities use out of state contractors and firms for many reasons,” he said.
Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman spoke against the bill during a subcommittee meeting Monday afternoon.
“The company can be located anywhere in the world and as long as they work in partnership with a city and a law enforcement agency to provide safe roadways. that’s the issue that everyone should be concerned with,” Jerman said.
Another bill that’s under consideration in the Senate would require police departments to hold at least two public hearings to explain the data collected from traffic enforcement cameras and what alternatives have been tried in the areas where cameras are ticketing speeders.