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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Red-light camera foes gain support


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- Red-light camera opponents since last year have been collecting petitions in hopes of getting a referendum on the November ballot.

A May 19 deadline is approaching, and while more than the required 477 signed petitions are in hand, volunteers plan to collect as many additional signatures as possible in coming weeks, said Shirley Miketinac.

"We have the numbers, but we're still concerned because we have to turn them in one filing," Miketinac said. "That's why we're still collecting; It's very important to go way over the top."

If the petitions are submitted and the number of valid signatures comes up short, the process will have to start over again. And that could delay the referendum.

Brooksville's red-light camera program has upset some city and county residents who maintain the cameras are used to generate money and that the devices punish drivers unfairly. Brooksville's City Council maintains the cameras are about safety more than revenue, and county commissioners have called for the removal of two of 16 red-light cameras on county property.

Miketinac said citizen petitioners don't have the same advantage as candidates running for office, whom City Clerk Janice Peters has helped navigate a "gray area" in the city's charter that requires petitions to be submitted in one batch.

Pat and Shirley Miketinac arguably have become the faces of the red-light camera issue. They consistently address the Brooksville City Council on the topic, as well as the Hernando County Commission, and have hit the pavement with the petitions at local events.

Shirley Miketinac said volunteers manning a booth at the Hernando County Fair last weekend collected 200 additional signatures for the referendum petition.

An issue all along has been the overwhelming enthusiasm to sign the petitions, Miketinac said. In order to be counted, the petitioners must live in the city of Brooksville and have up-to-date voter registration with the elections office.

"We're really being careful, and finally narrowed down a list of questions (to ask people)," Miketinac said. "People want to sign so badly."

While the goal is getting petitions signed, informing residents on Brooksville's red-light cameras and right-on-red turn rules is equally important, Miketinac said.

Volunteers hand out fliers with information, Miketinac said, and listen to motorists' questions, concerns and stories about the red-light cameras - a responsibility that should fall on the local government, she said. Miketinac also said she worries many people who receive a ticket don't know they have options when it comes to contesting it and don't realize they can wait for their ticket to become a uniform traffic citation and have it addressed in county court instead of by the city's magistrate.

County judges do not allow red-light camera footage in court, and Miketinac said she and her husband have attended magistrate hearings for the past three months and personally not seen any tickets dismissed.

Supervisor of Elections Shirley Anderson said Thursday it would take a few employees several days to verify the signatures.

In March, city council members decided neither to extend the contract with red-light camera vendor Sensys, nor move to terminate the contract early.

In February, City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said during a budget workshop the city collected $487,330 in red-light camera revenue during the first quarter of the fiscal year, which made up about 21 percent of that quarter's budget.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday .com

(352) 544-5283

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