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Anti-camera petition certified

Tribune staff

Published:   |   Updated: June 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM

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Pat and Shirley Miketinac have gotten one step closer to realizing their goal of ridding the city of red-light cameras.

On Monday, the Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Office certified 536 signatures on petitions that the Miketinacs submitted in an effort to get the red-light camera issue placed on November ballot. The number was about 60 more than required.

The Miketinacs spent several months walking neighborhoods and attending community festivals and events to talk to people about red-light cameras.

“The people are the treasure,” Shirley Miketinac said. “People welcomed us into their homes and talked to us. It’s a close-knit community. People are very serious about this.

“Some people have gotten multiple tickets in one week.”

Although the Miketinacs say that there is widespread support for their cause, and although the petitions have been certified, there is still no guarantee that the issue will be on November ballots.

“It has to be deemed constitutional. There will be a legal review to see if, in fact, it is a constitutional referendum,” said Brooksville Mayor Kevin Hohn, a proponent of the cameras. “The city attorney will review it for legal reasons and, if necessary, it will go through the court system.”

The Miketinacs said that about 95 percent of the people they have spoken to also want the red-light cameras gone.

Hohn, who has heard the Miketinacs speak at nearly 20 City Council meetings, scoffed at that.

“I live in Southern Hills, and there’s quite a contrary opinion to theirs,” Hohn said. “There are people who are against (the cameras), but as soon as we have a conversation, they usually agree.”

Hohn said that most of the backlash he hears about the cameras comes from the Miketinacs, but the retired couple has an ally in another Brooksville politician, Hernando County Commissioner Jim Adkins, whose district includes the city.

Adkins has worked closely with the Miketinacs since August, and suggested the petitions as a way to amend the city’s charter, since a majority of the City Council favors the red-light cameras.

“Shirley and Pat, and quite a few others, were discouraged from talking to the city on the camera issue, as well as the right-hand turn on red and the 5 mph speed limit,” Adkins said.

The 5-mph right-hand-turn speed limit in Brooksville makes the Miketinacs bristle. Not only is the 5-mph limit difficult to adhere to, they say, but people who go over the limit are caught by the cameras.

Citing Department of Transportation statistics, the Miketinacs and Adkins argue that Brooksville’s right-on-red speed limit is unreasonable, as it is the lowest in the Tampa Bay area.

In Sarasota, the speed limit on right-hand turns is 25 mph; it’s 18 mph in Tampa; 15 mph in New Port Richey and Hillsborough County; and 12 mph in St. Petersburg; Clearwater and Port Richey do not have specific right-on-red speed limits.

Further rankling the Miketinacs, Adkins and others is that there are no signs informing motorists of the 5-mph right-on-red speed limit.

“If it’s 5 mph, post it,” Adkins said. “I’ve reviewed some of the same video footage that officers view when determining who gets a ticket. Some of the (violators) actually came to a stop during the turn” and got a ticket, anyway.

“I’ve tried to do a 5 mph turn, and I got it down to 7 mph or 8 mph, and I was riding the brake,” he said. “It impedes the flow of traffic.”

Adkins said that tickets for exceeding the 5 mph right-on-red speed limit cost $150.

“That’s what upsets people,” he said. “That’s a trip to Publix, food for your family.”

With an understanding of the math formulas used in calculating the duration of yellow lights, Pat Miketinac has successfully challenged the yellow-light times at several intersections and gotten them lengthened.

Adkins said that their main focus now is to persuade voters to go to the polls in November to vote against the red-light cameras — if the issue makes it on the ballot.

Camera opponents often point to money generated by tickets as the reason that city officials want to keep them.

In February, City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said during a budget workshop that the city collected more than $487,000 in red-light camera revenue during the first quarter of the fiscal year.

“It’s not a safety issue at all,” Pat Miketinac said.

Hohn disagreed.

“It is a safety issue,” he said. “None of their arguments are valid. The funds (collected) go to a very specific reserve fund for roads to be repaired and for safety issues. It’s not like we’re collecting money to pad the city budget. That’s just not the case.”

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