Phoenix, Arizona – A recent study by CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, found that Congressman Jeff Flake has no shame when it comes to the amount of government money he is willing to waste. Phoenix’s KPHO-TV highlighted the study’s findings in which Congressman Flake has reimbursed himself $20,000 for travel, meals and other expenses. In a time when our country faces over $15 trillion of debt and 14 million Americans are unemployed, Congressman Flake thinks we should be footing the bill for his extravagant congressional lifestyle. When KPHO-TV reached out to Congressman Flake for an answer on why he finds it appropriate to waste $20,000, the sixth term congressman had no response.
Arizonans can’t afford Congressman Flake!
In case you missed it…
KPHO CBS Channel 5
Study: Some AZ Reps. Use position to benefit themselves
PHOENIX (CBS5) – Do you ever wonder how much money your lawmakers give to groups?
A new study spells it all out for the United States House of Representatives.
Of Arizona’s seven representatives, only three are mentioned in the study.
The group behind it is CREW, or Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
It decided to look into how many U.S. representatives used their positions to benefit themselves or their families.
The group claimed the answer is more than half.
People like Rep. Ron Paul, who’s campaign paid more family members than any other representative, the study said.
You’ll also see Congressman Jeff Flake, Ben Quayle and Ed Pastor mentioned.
Quayle seems to be the lightest offender in the report.
It said he gave $250 to his dad’s company for facility rental and staffing services.
The report claimed Flake reimbursed himself nearly $20,000 for travel, meals and other expenses.
Then there’s Rep. Ed Pastor.
According to the report, his wife and nephew used to work with Chicanos Por La Causa, and CREW claimed Pastor has earmarked more than $1.8 million to the group from 2008 to 2010.
The report also said Pastor gave his daughter a big one up on the competition getting her a job at South Mountain Community College.
It said Pastor earmarked nearly a million dollars in 2008 and 2009 to the school’s ACE program and steered over a million dollars in federal grants to the program four months after his daughter was hired.
Coincidentally, her salary was at the very top of the pay scale.
CBS 5 News reached out to Quayle, Flake and Pastor for this story.
The only one who responded was Pastor.
His office said he has declined to comment.
by Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has released a draft report on rail transportation, laying out its plans for high speed rail in Arizona. While the department’s plan is a comprehensive document covering all types of rail-based transportation, the sections on high speed rail appear to get the most attention, complete with schematics and maps. The evidence, though, points to high speed rail as a boondoggle waiting to happen.
In 2008, Californians narrowly approved a $10 billion bond issue to help build high-speed rail, with spur lines, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Costs have already risen 10 percent, even with spur lines eliminated, and the promised $55 ticket price has almost doubled to $105.
Cost overruns and inadequate ridership are all-too-predictable when it comes to passenger rail projects. A project of the Pew Charitable Trusts has estimated Amtrak is subsidized to the tune of $32 per passenger ticket. A study by the Reason Foundation in 2008 predicted much higher costs for the California rail project when it is finished and cited overly optimistic ridership estimates by proponents of the project.
Passenger rail seems to be especially vulnerable to the trifecta of special interest advocacy groups, politicians willing to bet federal taxpayer money, and hungry contractors ready to take that money. Meanwhile, our neglected road system continues to do the lion’s share of the transportation work. People demonstrate daily they are willing to pay for roads with tolls and taxes on fuel, tires, trucks, and autos. Passenger rail, on the other hand, needs subsidies in its every incarnation. Arizona would be wise to let this train pass.
Dr. Bryon Schlomach is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity.
The San Diego Union-Tribune: California high-speed rail: The next stop is bankruptcy
National Public Radio’s Marketplace: Taxes picking up tab for Amtrak losses
Arizona Department of Transportation: State Rail Plan March 2011
Cato Institute: High Speed Rail is Not “Interstate 2.0”
Got to give credit where credit is due. While the State, DPS and Redflex (a foreign corporation) will never acknowledge the guys at camerafraud.com nor Arizonans Citizens Against Photo Radar, the State of Arizona has ended their contract with Redflex and the 24×7 streaming video recorders (aka photo radar cameras) on the highways of Arizona are coming down.
Unfortunately, the video recorders on the highways only represent 10% of all photo radar on the streets in Arizona. Therefore, their ballot initiative is actively continuing to collect signatures in order to ensure that the remaining 90% of these streaming video surveillance devices and revenue generators (which actually increase accident rates) get taken down permanently.
In other words, by ending the contract, the state has effectively done next to nothing for Arizona citizens. A big THANK YOU to camerafraud.com and Arizona Citizens Against Photo Radar for continuing the fight to bring down the 90% of video recording cameras that will remain on Arizona’s streets after the Reflex cameras on the highways come down in July.
by Byron Schlomach, Ph.D.
Governor Jan Brewer recently sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Arizona’s congressional delegation asking for a change in federal law to allow private companies to operate rest stops on interstate highways. Federal law prevents “automotive service stations or other commercial establishments for serving motor vehicle users to be constructed or located on the rights-of-way of the Interstate System.” Right now, 13 of the state’s 18 roadside rest stops are closed as part of the state’s efforts to save money. They could be re-opened sooner if Governor Brewer’s recommendation were adopted.
In exchange for maintaining clean public restrooms, parking areas, and places for drivers to leave their refuse, companies could operate drink and snack concessions at roadside rest stops. This would be a source of revenue because private companies would have to bid for the privilege of operating within the confines of the rest stops. While federal law should be written to give states maximum flexibility, a state could restrict vendors to selling only food and beverages to minimize taxpayer-subsidized competition with other established businesses.
The federal government already allows for states to contract with private companies to provide vending machines and “motorist call boxes” at interstate rest stops. A change in federal law to allow private food-and-drink concessions would be a win for everybody. Well-written contracts would mean better-maintained facilities and more services for weary travelers.
One thing is for certain. Open roadside rest stops are better than closed roadside rest stops. If letting the private sector operate rest stops means they will stay open, then let the private sector prevail.
Dr. Byron Schlomach is an economist and the director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.
The voting broke down along party lines. The legislators in the Rules committee all voted in favor of HB2106 to ban speed cameras: Kirk Adams, Jack Brown, Martha Garcia, John McComish, Ben Miranda, Andrew Tobin, Steven Yarbrough, and Warde Nichols.
In the Appropriations committee, legislators Nancy McLain, Rick Murphy, Russ Jones, Vic Williams, Andy Biggs, and John Kavanagh voted in favor. Legislators Steve Court, Matt Heinz, David Schapira, and Kyrsten Sinema all voted against the ban.
In the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, legislators Judy Burges, Sam Crump, Nancy McLain, Frank Antenori and Andy Biggs voted in favor. Legislators Eric Meyer and Rae Waters voted against the ban.
Read more about the bill, sponsored by Sam Crump, here.
Judge Provides Photo Radar Update
Judge Gerald A. Williams
North Valley Justice of the Peace
For a significant period of time, people received tickets for going 66 or 67 in a 55 mph zone. The problem was that the temporary 55 mph sign was often after the camera. As such, we have had hundreds of hearing requests. Thus far, drivers in this category have almost always been found not responsible at their hearing.
It is no exaggeration to avow that highway photo enforcement tickets have hit my court with such a significant volume that our regular business operations are almost in danger of slowing to the pace of a federal government bureaucracy. Some basic questions deserve an answer. Who is getting theses tickets? Who is getting the money from the fines? Will the law be “fixed” in the current legislative session?
Most of the Impact is on Four Courts: For reasons that are not completely clear, while some justice courts have a relatively few number of photo enforcement tickets, four courts received an avalanche. Those justice courts and the number of photo enforcement tickets they received in February 2009 alone are: Arcadia Biltmore (10,880), North Valley (9,062), Downtown (8,104) and South Mountain (6,791).
At North Valley, part of the problem was due to highway signs, or the lack thereof. For a significant period of time, people received tickets for going 66 or 67 in a 55 mph zone. The problem was that the temporary 55 mph sign was often after the camera. As such, we have had hundreds of hearing requests. Thus far, drivers in this category have almost always been found not responsible at their hearing.
Where Does the Money Go? It is worth repeating that former Governor Janet Napolitano’s budget materials, dated January 18, 2008, listed highway photo radar as creating $90 million in “Non-Tax Increase Revenue Generation.” It has brought in nowhere near that amount; but the money is still substantial, perhaps around $20 million in the first six months. Each ticket has a base fine of $165 and a surcharge for Clean Elections of $16.50.
Money from each photo enforcement ticket breaks down as follows: $16.50 to statewide public campaign financing, $13.48 to the Department of Public Safety, $25.17 to the Supreme Court of Arizona’s Administrative Office of the Courts, $29.70 to Red-Flex (the private photo enforcement company) and $96.65 to the State of Arizona’s general fund. Please note that neither the justice courts nor Maricopa County get anything from these tickets, other than perhaps a headache.
Will Someone Please Change This Law? The simplest and easiest fix would be to repeal sections B, C and D of A.R.S. § 41-1722. Doing so would essentially require highway photo enforcement tickets to be treated just like any other civil traffic ticket. Many of our problems result from the obvious unfairness of having substantially different penalties for otherwise identical speeding violations. A close second would be to repeal the highway photo enforcement law completely. Whether either of these things will get done, I have literally no idea.
The bottom line is that using photo enforcement tickets as a way to generate revenue has proven to be an extraordinarily bad idea. We now have a two tiered speeding ticket system on state highways.
If you are pulled over by a DPS officer, for going five miles over the posted speed limit, the presumed fine is $155; but, if found responsible, you also get two points recorded against your license and your vehicle insurance will likely increase as a result. If you receive a highway photo enforcement ticket, and you are found responsible, the fine is $181.50, whether you were going 76 mph or 106 mph, and nothing is reported to MVD. Hopefully, the state legislature will adopt a better system. I, for one, hope they do so soon.
Judge Williams is the presiding justice of the peace for the Northwest Regional Court Center. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus
The unfairness of the speed cameras plastered all around this state has reached an unprecedented, oppressive level. I received a speeding ticket for going 67mph on the 101 in an area that hadn’t been under construction much, and so the speed limit had been 65 for much of the past year. I pulled onto the freeway a couple hundred feet before the speed camera van, which I couldn’t see at night, and never saw the itty-bitty sign that had temporarily been put up in February saying the speed limit was now 55. The photo speed camera van was placed there to essentially trick people who thought the speed limit was 65, in order to collect money.
I went to court yesterday to appeal the ticket. The Justice of the Peace who handled the case also handled similar cases before mine, who had received tickets in that same location, all for going 1, 2, or 3 miles over 65mph. Clearly proving that 40% of us getting these ridiculous kinds of tickets are appealing them. Not surprisingly, I’ve never seen the van in that location again – it obviously generated so many ridiculous tickets like mine that they realized the court appeals were well above 40% and costing more than the cameras were bringing in revenue-wise. The van wasn’t in a location known for accidents, it was temporarily placed in that location because it was hidden behind bushes where drivers wouldn’t see it. A Redflex employee represented the state; there was no police officer or DPS representative there to prosecute the hearing, only this private employee guy.
The Justice of the Peace, who was obviously happy to be slamming down the law around his little fiefdom – unlike the outstanding Justice of the Peace in the West Valley, John Keegan, who throws out all photo speed camera tickets – didn’t care that the speed limit on the 101 has been constantly changing in places over the past year due to construction of a new HOV lane. He also didn’t care about any of my other arguments, which included there was a guy speeding up behind me and so I sped up slightly to get over into the other lane to let him speed on by. It was a very offensive, humiliating proceeding, those of us who had received tickets felt like we were treated like criminals, and the justice of the peace made it clear with some of us that he thought we were lying! Since I wasn’t, it was doubly insulting. This is the kind of unfair experience that spurs people to go to law school and become criminal defense attorneys.
It’s been documented much better than I could do on other sites like The Newspaper that speed cameras don’t work. Government officials admit they’re in place for revenue generation, not safety, and they actually increase accidents because there are more rear-end accidents. And most of the revenue generated doesn’t go to the state, the vast majority goes to the private speed camera company. The little money the government brings in goes to handle photo speed camera ticket appeals and non-necessary government functions like Clean Elections – not the highways. The cost to the courts is huge: Think of it this way – if police officers were giving out speeding tickets, you wouldn’t have all these marginal situations like mine and the others who were in court today. The camera catches all these kinds of incidents that a police officer wouldn’t ticket someone for, and that any normal person would appeal. The extra cost of addressing all of these kind of tickets is not sustainable. It was clear to me that my speeding ticket was not about safety – it won’t add any points to my record. Whereas if that same ticket had been given to me by a police officer, it would have. Where is the equal treatment under the law?
A lot of older people like the speed cameras, under the false impression that they make travel safer. Older people tend to drive slower, so they dislike speeders. Understandable. But if this is really about safety, then why don’t we ticket drivers who are driving too slow? Studies show that older people cause more accidents than the general population. Even though people over age 70 only make up 9% of the population, they cause 14% of all traffic fatalities and 17% of all pedestrian fatalities. And their percentage of the population is growing every year, as humans live longer and longer. “Road safety analysts predict that by 2030, when all baby boomers are at least 65, they will be responsible for 25% of all fatal crashes. In 2005, 11% of fatal crashes involved drivers that old…..Safety and health specialists are especially concerned about drivers 85 and older, who, federal crash statistics show, are involved in three fatal accidents a day.” So, if we’re really going to implement speed cameras for safety, they need to start ticketing drivers who drive too slow. Driving too slow is also dangerous.
The website stopcamerafraud.com is working on an initiative that would ban speed cameras in Arizona. But we hear their effort isn’t doing so well. Fortunately, there is another organization out there that is seriously looking into starting their own initiative. We wish them luck. Speed cameras have been banned in other states. Arizona now has more speed cameras than any other state thanks to Napolitano. What is freedom-loving Arizona doing with these revenue-generators that do nothing for safety and little for state coffers, sending most of the money to the private company operating the cameras?
I’d be interested in hearing from others who have had similar experiences, please leave comments. We will keep you updated on the progress of the new organization and its initiative.
Wonder why the Obama admnistration declared the swine flu epidemic an emergency after only one case had been reported in the U.S.? A few days ago, the Center for Disease Control declared the swine flu epidemic a “public health emergency” comparable to the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1917/18 that killed close to 5% of the population worldwide. It’s because if the government declared it a lesser threat in the U.S., we’d have to proactively take more steps to protect ourselves, like close the border to Mexico completely and put armed troops there. Napolitano and the Obama administration care more about looking politically correct on race than protecting the country from a security threat.
Mexico is reporting 1,995 cases of swine flu and 152 deaths. In contrast, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is only at 52, with no deaths. Virtually ever case so far can be traced to Mexico. Most likely, there are many more cases in Mexico that we are unaware of. Their death rate is 11.5% of those affected based on the numbers we have. This is frightening. It is appalling that Napolitano and the Obama administration are not shutting down the border.
We’re hearing nothing from the Mexico government about preventing the spread of swine flu. Europe has issued a travel advisory warning Europeans not to travel to Mexico OR THE U.S. The Europeans realize what’s happening with our politically correct policy – soon we’re going to be in the same boat as Mexico as the flu crosses the border into the U.S., bringing us to epidemic levels too.
How much is the Obama administration’s politically correct response to this epidemic costing the U.S. in tourist dollars? Apparently they’d rather have Mexicans possibly infected with swine flu illegally sneak across the border rather than legitimate business travelers from countries not affected by the outbreak.
According to yesterday’s Yellow Sheet, Napolitano dismissed closing the border –
She says identifying and isolating those who seem ill as they try to cross was an adequate strategy given the circumstances.
“We’re already doing passive surveillance at the border,” Napolitano said. “You would close the border if you thought you could contain the spread of disease, but the disease is already in a number of U.S. states.”
Those infected with swine flu might not show symptoms for a few days, prompting Napolitano to say border closure is “a very difficult judgment to make.”
The acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that American authorities were starting to undertake “passive screening” at its borders. Richard Besser declared anew the Obama administration’s call for people to stay calm and take precautions, and he said border officials would start “asking people about fever and illness, looking for people who are ill.”
At this time, the United States is not conducting enhanced entry screening of passengers arriving from Mexico, nor is the United States conducting exit screening of passengers departing for Mexico.
If this was taking place under the Bush administration, you’d be hearing cries of another mishandled Katrina.
We’re hoping that Congress gets some sense and closes the border. A few members of Congress need to take the lead, stand up and demand that the border be closed. The number of those affected keeps increasing every day, and contrary to Napolitano’s politically correct statements, it’s not too late to contain it within Mexico. We don’t need another one of Napolitano’s gaffes to cost thousands of Americans their lives.
Some excerpts from the KTAR article –
Arpaio weighed in on the issue while appearing on News/Talk 92-3 KTAR’s “Jay Lawrence Show” Sunday.
The sheriff said it’s up to attorneys to decide the legality of photo radar, but, “I like to stop people. You can’t spot a dead body in a truck or marijuana or anything else. I like my deputies to give warnings. I don’t like a stupid machine to give you a ticket.”