EDITORIAL: Red light on giving green light to red-light camera election next year in Aurora

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Red light.

Unlike so many discombobulated Aurora intersections, figuring out what to do about Aurora’s controversial red-light-camera scam doesn’t have to be so complicated.

City lawmakers this week sort of agreed to finally ask voters whether they want Aurora to continue sucking millions of dollars from the pockets of motorists snared in red-light-camera hustles at select Aurora intersections.

You’ve seen these things and maybe even been tagged by them. Cameras perched at a handful of busy intersections that snap pictures of license plates of cars deemed violating red-light ordinances. Scofflaws are automatically mailed traffic tickets with hefty fines. The city, raking in millions each year, steadfastly insists that the roads are safer because of the program.

We, and plenty of others, disagree. State lawmakers this year passed yet another bill aimed at curtailing these thinly veiled municipal money machines, but, for a second time, Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed the measure, saying that this is a matter of local control.

Point well taken. So the point now is that Aurora City Council members who are critical of these red-light rubes, and those on council who just begrudgingly cede that voters want a say in the matter, have agree to let local voters take control.

Green light.

But wait, even though there’s a general election in November — which for no additional cost would serve as a place to ask voters to decide this red-light-camera referendum once and for all — lawmakers are leaning toward a pricey special election next year.

Red light.

Here’s the reality: Lawmakers know well that voters who turn out for general elections, and especially presidential general elections, like to vote “no” and often “hell no” on a wide range of things. These voters often come out only every four years with a sour look on their faces and poison on their ballot pens.

Green light.

So if you ask voters in November if they want to continue to Aurora’s red-light-camera scam, the chances are very good that the Xerox Co., which runs this scam for Aurora, could count on taking down the cameras for good. Since the programs are pretty much universally unpopular with commuters across the country, even those who keep their eyes closed while voting will want to give a big ‘no’ to this question.

On the other hand, almost no one, relatively speaking, turns out to vote on municipal special elections, even those conducted by mail-in ballot. It’s the city’s electoral elite calling the shots then, an often older and more conservative group of voters. These voters are very likely to have a different opinion than the population at large, although it’s much more art than science predicting what the turnout might be.

And the cost for skewing the election toward a relatively few? Upwards of $350,000 as opposed to pretty much nothing if city officials ask voters this fall.

Red light.

There’s talk of possibly asking voters at the same time to answer Aurora’s odd race-track interference question again, a long story in itself, but that’s just talk right now. But there’s no good reason to preclude a larger group of city residents to have a chance at weighing in on the city’s notorious red-light green machine.

Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in hopes of possibly skewing the election and preventing the biggest possible pool of voters to have their say sets off only one thing for us and most Aurora residents: a flashing red light. Hold the election on the general election ballot.