Sioux City mayor challenges new state traffic camera rules
By Kristen Johnson, Multimedia Journalist/ Weekend Anchor - bio | email
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
Sioux City is running out of time to decide whether to fight a new state rule restricting traffic cameras. The rules, over whether cities can operate red light and speed cameras, will change Wednesday.
City Attorney Nicole Jensen says the city council is keeping all options open. However, Mayor Bob Scott doesn't mince words.
"We should sue the state,” he said during Monday night’s city council meeting.
The Iowa Department of Transportation says it wants to make sure cities side with safety not financial benefits when making camera decisions. New rules require communities to prove the cameras are targeting high-risk areas.
"We'll work with the cities if we feel like we have concerns or feel like there needs to be modifications, or if there's other safety counter-measures that we feel should be implemented in place of, or in addition to the systems," Steve Gent, Iowa DOT Office Director of Traffic and Safety said.
Jensen says the city's waiting to see what the DOT does, come Wednesday. They're looking into the language of the law, and whether Sioux City might be grandfathered in. There is a termination clause in the contract with Redflex for changes at the state level.
"Something that would prevent the city from operating these programs going forward,” explained Jensen.
However, this rule change was not voted on by the state legislature. Instead, it was made by the DOT. Because of uncertainty at the state capitol, city leaders have elected to pull any future revenue out of the operating budget, a projected loss of $400,000. However, city won't have to pay camera contractor RedFlex, for the lost revenue.
"The only time we pay money is when citations are issue. So, the city will actually never go backwards,” explained Assistant City Attorney Justin Vondrak.
Sioux City's mayor said the issue goes beyond the buck. To him, it's about local control.
"I'll argue for home rule for cities 'till the day I die, because we know better what's going on in our community than some bureaucrat in Ames, Iowa,” said Scott.
Despite the mayor's conviction to pursue legal action, Jensen says the city council as a whole has not indicated which direction they'd like to take.
The city received an injunction last year to keep its speed cameras on I-29, after the state said they were an obstacle in the road. The two parties have a court date this spring.
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