The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to continue to paying a contractor to collect fines from about 50,000 drivers who have not paid traffic tickets for being caught on camera running red lights before July 31.
The council voted over the summer to end its photo red-light program at the end of July because of disputes over the cameras' safety benefits, the nearly $480 price of the tickets and concern that the contract violated the city's boycott of Arizona. American Traffic Solutions, which managed the camera program, is based in Arizona.
At the urging of Councilman Mitchell Englander, the council voted 11-2 to continue paying American Traffic Solutions about $11,000 per month because of the outstanding tickets. The police department needs access to the company's database of photos and evidence in order to collect outstanding fines.
Assistant Chief Legislative Analyst June Gibson told the council that the city continues to generate revenue by collecting the fines, making it worth the cost of paying the contractor.
In September, the tickets generated about $107,000 in revenue for the city. Gibson said the city can and should end the contract when the cost of the contractor exceeds the ticket revenue.
Gibson said news over the summer that the Los Angeles County Superior Court was not enforcing the tickets caused a steep drop in the number of people paying the fines -- about 39 percent between July and August. She predicted the Los Angeles Police Commission, which is monitoring the revenue generated from the tickets, would likely vote to stop collecting the fines by January or shortly thereafter.
Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian cast the dissenting votes.
"I thought we voted to kill this red-light camera program. It seems not to die. I think we need to put a stake through its heart at some point," Koretz said.
Englander fired back.
"We've ended the photo red-light program. The stake is in the heart ... now we still have to deal with the body," he said referring to the 50,000 unpaid tickets.
The city has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to continue collecting the fines as long as it is not costing the city a dime, Englander said. "In fact it's not."