Aurora hits the brakes on photo-red-light vote

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AURORAThere will be no Aurora-centric issues for voters to decide in November, and red-light cameras breezed past a yellow light.

AS.PhotoRedlight1576.040716-640x360That’s thanks to Aurora City Council members ultimately voting at an Aug. 15 special study session against several proposals that would have asked voters in November whether to continue the city’s photo red-light ticketing system.

Three different measures for November that would have asked voters whether they want to continue or ban Aurora’s photo red-light enforcement system failed to receive a majority vote from Aurora City Council members, who either found the questions biased towards one side or wanted to make too many amendments.

Ward I Councilwoman Sally Mounier’s measure would have asked voters for a “yes” or “no” on a measure to prohibit the city from issuing photo-red light traffic tickets.

“I like to give the public an opportunity to vote on this issue. It is so controversial. The real arbitrator of this should be the public,” Mounier said.

At-Large Councilman Bob LeGare’s measure would have asked voters if they wanted to continue to allow the city to use photo red-light enforcement to issue traffic tickets to drivers that enter an intersection after a light turns red. Voting “yes” would allow the cameras to remain in place at Aurora’s intersections.

Ward IV Councilman Charlie Richardson’s measure would have asked Aurora voters whether they want to continue the city’s photo-red light program if all of the money goes to nonprofits that aid Aurora law enforcement. Voting “yes” would allow the cameras to remain at the intersections.

“My ballot question is intended to be a positive representation of photo red,” Richardson said. He said his constituents were more supportive of the program when they learned that  in 2015, about $1.1 million of photo red-light revenues went to a  “nexus” program that supports nonprofits who provide a substantial service to law enforcement. Councilwomen Francoise Bergan and Renie Peterson said if Richardson was including information about the nonprofits, voters should also know how much money was being paid to Nexus, the program’s contractor, as well as how much police staff time was being used for the program.

Richardson said he didn’t think those amendments could be approved on the floor in time to make the November ballot.

In order to make the November ballot, all of the photo red-light measures would need to be approved at an Aug. 22 regular city council session in order to be finalized by the Sept. 9 deadline for all local ballot measures, according to  City Clerk Karen Goldman.

Fearing a crowded November ballot, Aurora Council members were initially  considering a special election next May to ask voters whether to continue the city’s photo red-light ticketing system.

That idea was however was nixed at this study session because some council members said the process was too expensive.

Goldman said a special election next spring would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $400,000. She said that Aurora had not held a special election in 30 years and that voter turnout at special elections held in 1983 and 1986 were low. She said however, voter turnout at a special election in 2017 could be as high as 30 percent with the addition of mail-in ballots, which were not available to Aurora voters in the 1980s.

The loss of a spring ballot also meant Aurora City Council members could not move forward with other measures proposed for that election.  One would have asked voters whether they want to create an elected city auditor position. Another would have asked voters to repeal a ban on racetracks, and another would  have asked voters whether they want to extend the probationary period for new Aurora police officers. One measure would have asked voters whether they want Aurora City Council to appoint Aurora’s public defender.

Aurora Council  also nixed a November 2017 ballot measure that would have asked voters to allow the city to take on new debt without increasing taxes in order to pay for $81 million in transportation projects.

The measure was initiated by LeGare, who said the city could pay off the new debt for Aurora transportation projects from the $4.4 million the city expects annually from marijuana sales.

Aurora At-large Councilwoman Barb Cleland took issue with using marijuana money to fund such a measure.

“If marijuana money does not come in, it’s citizens covering the debt,” Cleland said.