Monday, March 16, 2009

Smile, You're On Govt. Camera

Just as we in Toledo are signing a petition to eliminate "Red Light" Cameras from our city intersections, our local State Representative Peter Ujvagi is sponsoring a bill to place similar cameras on construction sites to watch for speeders. 

Now the goal of the cameras, according to Rep. Ujvagi, is safety; but according to an editorial in The Blade on Sunday, only about 30 deaths per year occur due to passing motorists in construction zones across the country. A far greater percentage of such deaths occur with job related accidents. Likewise in the injuries related to passing motorists in such zones, the only numbers cited point to approximately 22% of them being related to traffic. So while the safety of highway workers should be of concern to all of us, and following traffic laws on our highways (especially in construction zones) should likewise be something we are all aware of, why the sudden fuss about putting up these cameras? 

Well for those of you not yet experiencing this recent technology (an ever-shrinking number), Both Red light and speeding cameras are designed to capture the license plate number of the offending car. The citations filed however are civil ones, carrying no points against the offending car owner but a great deal of annual revenue to the budget of the local government handing them out. Yes, I said car owner. You see the system is not designed to capture the offender, but the offender's vehicle instead. And since this is a civil and not criminal prosecution, the concepts of "innocent until proven guilty", "the right to be confronted by one's accuser", and "the right to a trial by a jury" are all set aside without that pesky little Bill of Rights of the Constitution getting in the way. 

Not set aside however, is the fine of up to $250 imposed for such a violation and the impact that such fines could make on diminishing government budgets. The state now it seems, learning from cities across the country that such laws and the installation of such cameras will be held up by the courts, would like to extend its reach into the potential new revenue stream. 

But what the heck, let's not stop there. Perhaps next we could look for speed cameras in our school zones for the safety of children or jaywalking cameras at intersections, ostensibly mounted to protect citizens at crosswalks. They too could be used to offset shortfalls in local and state budget. Maybe we could even mount cameras inside of bars to monitor the compliance with local smoking regulations (in Toledo, we would probably make the bar owner pay for the cameras as well).  

I know that all of this may sound a little far-fetched, but if Rep. Ujvagi gets his way, we will move one step further down the slippery slope of increasing government surveillance and a decreasing value to the Constitution that limits the control of our government over our everyday lives. It hasn't happened yet, but some day sooner that we expect, we may be able to paraphrase a line from an the old TV show produced by Alan Funt,  

"Sometime when you least expect it, a notice may come in the mail to you that says Smile, you're on government camera".



Winky Twinky said...

You sure got that right!!!

Hooda Thunkit said...

Whether it be Peter Ujvagi, Our sock puppet Police Chief or our "beloved" mayor uttering the words, "it's not about the money, it's about safety," I hope their jaws/teeth fall out of their heads.

A lie is a lie is a lie, no matter who tells it, nor how sincere they are when they utter the lie...

A pox on them I say.

May a hundred thousand fleas take up permanent residence in both of their arm pits and "other" (nether) regions.

Tim Higgins said...


I have to say that I love the curse, but in the be careful what you wish for category may I suggest this instead:

May you never be out of view of one of the cameras that you appear to so love.

kck_kat said...

Hey, didn't they make a movie about this once? Big Brother is watching!