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Miami commissioner battling red-light cameras received two tickets

Miami Commissioner and mayoral candidate Francis Suarez wants to remove the city’s controversial red-light cameras -- and has vowed to raise the issue when the commission meets on Thursday.

He has some first-hand knowledge of the program.

Vehicles registered to Suarez have received two tickets from red-light cameras since 2010, according to records obtained by the Herald/Times from American Traffic Solutions, or ATS, the Arizona vendor that provides the cameras for most of the Florida municipalities that use them.

One of the tickets was later dismissed, but one remains uncollected, a company spokesman said.

Suarez said he didn’t recall either.

"In both cases, I suspect I was doing a very benign action that would not have been ticked by a police officer," he said. "That highlights the problems people have with these systems... they were supposed to be about safety, but they have really become about generating revenue."

The first violation took place in Coral Gables on March 13, 2010, according to ATS records. There is a balance due of $125.

“As far as our records go, it was never paid,” ATS spokesman Charles Territo said.

Video provided by the company shows an Audi registered to Suarez approaching a red light at Alhambra Circle and South Le Jeune Road -- and turning right without first stopping.

Had the ticket been issued a few months later, the consequences would have been far more severe. Under a law that went into effect in June 2010, motorists who fail to pay their red-light tickets can have their licenses suspended and their vehicle registrations terminated. The penalties for unpaid tickets issued before the legislation are more nebulous.

The Coral Gables Police Department did not immediately return calls for comment.

Video of the second violation, which took place on Feb. 24, 2012 at the intersection of Coral Way and Southwest 32nd Avenue in Miami, shows Suarez’s black Ford making a late U-turn at a red light. The ticket was later dismissed, Territo said.

Suarez said he did not remember the details.

"I pay my tickets like any other person," he said. "I must not have gotten notice."

Incumbent Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who is running for reelection, has not received any tickets for red-light violations, according to ATS records. Regalado supports Miami’s camera program, which generates more than $3 million in annual revenue for the city.

The issue drew public scrutiny late last month, when Miami temporarily suspended the program as the result of a new state law requiring municipalities to hold their own hearings for appeals of red-light camera tickets. The commission will vote Thursday on whether to establish special hearing boards.

Comments

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Andy Fernandez

Commissioner Suarez probably received that second ticket on his way home, as he lives in Coral Gate and making a U-turn at that light is the quickest way to get into the mostly walled-off neighborhood.

A neighborhood, by the way, that is also illegally walled-off, a $1.5 million boondoggle that prevents other City of Miami residents from being able to walk or bike to 22nd St from 16th St.

Meanwhile, he has repeatedly shrugged his shoulders as residents north of 16th St have been victims of routine speeding from commuters and drag racers taking shortcuts from/to 8th St.

I'm no fan of Regalado, but Francis Suarez has shown his true colors. In 2011, I invited him into my home for a neighborhood conference on speeding issues, and all he did was promise the world, suggest impractical courses of action, profess his love of unbridled development without regard for quality of life, and refer to elder female constituents of his as "dude".

The man is unfit for public service, and we can expect more of the same if we allow him to pull the wool over our eyes long enough to sneak into the mayor's office. Be vigilant, Miami.

Dumb

Now I know why they call him Francis "the future" Suarez. He can't seem to remember the past! Nice try being our next mayor, you clown!

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