Iowa City City Council not fazed by state bill to ban red-light cameras


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Local leaders say they won’t halt a proposal to install red-light cameras, despite a Statehouse proposal to ban the devices.

A bill in the Iowa House would ban red-light and speed cameras across the state. The bill, which a House subcommittee approved Wednesday, will advance to the full House Transportation Committee next week.

"We’re aware of the bill in Des Moines," Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said. "I don’t see it affecting where we stand in the voting process to implement the red-light ordinance."

Hayek, who supports the red-light ordinance, said he doesn’t intend to change his position based on what’s happening at the state level.

"I believe local law-enforcement techniques and practices are best decided by local government," Hayek said, noting that the issue is not a legislative priority for Iowa City. "Our focus will be on other issues."

Hayek said it’s unlikely Iowa City would install cameras before the Legislature passed a ban. If the Iowa City red-light ordinance is approved, it would take several months to negotiate a contract with a company that administers the cameras.

"If we pass this ordinance on the third reading, I imagine the staff would issue a request for proposals," he said. "The odds are that we will know about what the Legislature is doing sometime during that period."

The city councilors will cast a final vote on the ordinance Feb. 21, and Hayek said the councilors won’t enter a contract for cameras until they know the bill’s fate.

"Council approval of an actual [camera] system is still a ways off," he said.

Some Iowa legislators said they oppose the bill because they say city governments should have authority over traffic issues.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he would vote against the bill if it reaches the Senate, and he expects most state senators would agree.

"The heart of this whole matter is home rule for cities," he said. "That’s the essence of why they can do red-light cameras right now. It’s the idea that [the Legislature] shouldn’t be messing in city affairs."

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he’s leaning toward supporting the ban, but he’s torn.

"I hate those cameras — they’re kind of Big-Brotherish," he said. "As much as I dislike the cameras, there’s a side of me that says local government has to make that decision."

Rep. Ralph Watts, R-Adel, a member of the subcommittee that approved the bill — said students should be concerned if the Iowa City ordinance passes.

"If Iowa City passes the ordinance, or whatever they plan on doing with it, all I have to say is that students better grab out their wallets," he said. "They think they’re being picked for tuition now? Just wait."