Arizona voters aren't going to get a chance to drive a stake through the heart of photo radar, at least not this year.
Shawn Dow, chairman of Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar, admitted Thursday that volunteers for his group had collected only about 120,000 signatures to put the question of banning photo enforcement of traffic laws on the November ballot. He legally needed 153,365 valid signatures; given the number of names usually thrown out of petition drives for various reasons, that made the real goal closer to 185,000.
But Dow insisted that the effort to kill photo radar is not dead. He said members of his organization already are working to put the question of the use of photo enforcement on the ballots of cities that have the systems. Dow said the signature requirements for city initiatives are less stringent than those for statewide measures.
Dow said it is "impossible for an all-volunteer organization to get something on the ballot.'' Virtually every measure that has qualified for the ballot in the last decade has used paid circulators.
Some Arizona communities have been using photo enforcement for years.
One type records the speed of passing vehicles, using either radar or embedded pavement sensors. The system snaps photos of the driver and the license plate, generating a notice of violation.
Another uses pavement sensors and cameras to catch those who run red lights.
But the controversy took off two years ago when then Gov. Janet Napolitano pushed through legislation to create a statewide photo radar system. Napolitano insisted the only issue was safety.
She admitted, though, the program was set up in a way to generate the most revenue: Drivers who did not fight the citations and simply paid the $165 fines would not have the violations reported to their insurance companies and would not accumulate points on their driving records.
And the contract was set up so that Redflex Traffic Systems got a share of every ticket paid.
Jan Brewer, who became governor last year after Napolitano quit, earlier this year directed the state Department of Public Safety not to renew the two-year contract with Redflex when it expires later this month. But none of that affects locally operated systems which can continue to remain until lawmakers or voters say otherwise.
The failure of the petition drive led to some harsh criticism of Dow by Andrea Garcia, an organizer of the related group Camera Fraud, whose members had agreed to help gather the necessary signatures.
She chided Dow for keeping the number of signatures gathered a secret until now. Garcia said that if she had known how far short of the goal the petition drive was she could have helped to spur volunteers to do some extra work.