Tags: Florida

How Traffic Cameras are Intentionally Ripping You Off

Traffic cameras raise privacy issues for sure, but they can also be devastating to your bank account.  When I see these things hovering over my head on the pleasant streets of Boulder, Colorado not only do I think of Big Brother, but also of some overbearing bureaucrat trying to get his or her hands in my pocket.  To be fair, I haven’t had any specific issues locally with the cameras and I hope not to have any in the future, but residents of Florida tell quite a different story.

In what is merely a sign of our completely corrupt and immoral times, many communities in Florida are intentionally shortening yellow light intervals at traffic intersections in order to catch unsuspecting drivers running red lights.  Not only does this lead to soaring ticket issuance, it also causes more accidents.  WTSP 10 News in Tampa completed a phenomenal investigative report.  Key excerpts are below:

TAMPA BAY, Fla. — A subtle, but significant tweak to Florida’s rules regarding traffic signals has allowed local cities and counties to shorten yellow light intervals, resulting in millions of dollars in additional red light camera fines.

The 10 News Investigators discovered the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) quietly changed the state’s policy on yellow intervals in 2011, reducing the minimum below federal recommendations. The rule change was followed by engineers, both from FDOT and local municipalities, collaborating to shorten the length of yellow lights at key intersections, specifically those with red light cameras (RLCs).

While yellow light times were reduced by mere fractions of a second, research indicates a half-second reduction in the interval can double the number of RLC citations – and the revenue they create. The 10 News investigation stemmed from a December discovery of a dangerously short yellow light in Hernando County. After the story aired, the county promised to re-time all of its intersections, and the 10 News Investigators promised to dig into yellow light timing all across Tampa Bay.

Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year inapproximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.

Money, money, money, at all costs, money.  America’s new religion.

“Red light cameras are a for-profit business between cities and camera companies and the state,” said James Walker, executive director of the nonprofit National Motorists Association. “The (FDOT rule-change) was done, I believe, deliberately in order that more tickets would be given with yellows set deliberately too short.”

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How the 1% Does Disney World

Plane tickets to Orlando?  Check.  Sunscreen? Check.  Dad’s cholesterol medicine?  Check.  A disabled person to help the family cut the lines at all the rides at Disney World?  Checkmate.

After all, how pathetically pedestrian would it be to have to wait on long lines with the unwashed 99% just to ride in the tea cups for a couple of minutes.  No thanks.  For those that wonder how the 1%, (actually more like the 0.01%) in Manhattan do Disney World, look no further.  For a mere $130 an hour you can purchase a disabled person to help you jump ahead of your monetary challenged neighbors on rides throughout the park.  From the New York Post:

Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front, The Post has learned.

The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.

The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a “handicapped” sign on it. The group was sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.

Disney allows each guest who needs a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.”

The Florida entertainment mecca warns that there “may be a waiting period before boarding.” But the consensus among upper-crust moms who have used the illicit handicap tactic is that the trick is well worth the cost.

Not only is their “black-market tour guide” more efficient than Disney World’s VIP Tours, it’s cheaper, too.

Disney Tours offers a VIP guide and fast passes for $310 to $380 per hour.

Not only do these folks want to cut the lines, but they want to get the best deal possible while doing it!  Classy.

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America in 2013: Florida Football Stadium Named After a Private Prison Company

As much as any event in recent years that epitomizes America’s descent into a decrepit gulag state in which doing the right thing and building a healthy and productive culture takes a back seat to money and profits at all costs, plastering the name of a for-profit prison company on a new football stadium passes the test.  I guess for a country that has 5% of the world’s population yet 25% of the world’s prisoners, and that provides favorable tax breaks for private prisons, this is just the natural progression of things.  Hey, at least the stock market is up!  Move over religion, equities are the new opiate of the masses.

From Businessweek:

The GEO Group (GEO) is a for-profit prison company based in Boca Raton, Fla., that calls itself “the world’s leading provider of correctional and detention management and community reentry services to federal, state and local government agencies.” It can also call itself the world’s leading provider of Florida Atlantic University Owls football, having paid $6 million to put its name on the school’s stadium.

The deal, as the New York Times points out, is unusual for a sponsorship space that’s normally reserved for soft drinks, airlines, and banks. The GEO Group’s customers are governments, not consumers. And it’s a company whose publicity strategy normally involves staying quiet. (As when, in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU National Prison Project alleged in a class action lawsuit that a youth detention center GEO Group used to operate in Mississippi was home to “rampant contraband brought in by guards, sex between female guards and male inmates, inadequate medical care, prisoners held inhumanely in isolation, guards brutalizing inmates and inmate-on-inmate violence that was so brutal it led to brain damage.”)

As long as the pigskin keeps flying, and the $70 million that Florida Atlantic University spent building the stadium doesn’t go to waste, who cares?  After all:  This. Is. America.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Just Say NO: Seattle Residents Kill the City’s Drone Program

The anti-surveillance state movement is gaining traction and following Charlottesville, Virginia becoming the first city to pass anti-drone legislation, the engaged citizenry of Seattle have now succeeded in killing their city’s own drone program earlier this month.  On the state level, while legislation has been introduced in several places, it appears Florida is closest to enacting domestic surveillance drone regulations into law.  The title of the bill is the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.”  From Forbes:

After a Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee hearing in Seattle (held the night of Feb 7), where residents raised concern over the Seattle Police Departments attempt to use surveillance drones, the program was successfully killed.

In a written response, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wrote: “Today I spoke with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and we agreed that it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority. The vehicles will be returned to the vendor.”

On the legislative side of things, multiple states are already moving to enact laws to strongly regulate the use of surveillance drones.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Maine has a bill introduced to regulate drones, as do Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas. In Virginia a hearing has already been held on a bill, while Montana has three bills, and hearings have already been held there as well.

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