City Issues Hiring Freeze After Red Light Cameras Put On Hold - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/27/07

City Issues Hiring Freeze After Red Light Cameras Put On Hold

The city projected future revenue for red light cameras. Now, one Lubbock city council member claims it's a gamble that isn't paying off.

Councilman John Leonard says, "I hope that we don't do things like this in the future. I think it's bad management practice to be honest with you."

Leonard is calling a $1.5 million city council decision a mistake. That is the amount the council expected red light cameras to generate. But last week, the council voted to put those cameras on hold. That vote came after a NewsChannel 11 investigation into the timing of yellow lights in Lubbock. Now the city manager is citing the loss of that revenue as a reason for a new hiring freeze.

Signs advertising hiring for the Lubbock Police Department are posted across Lubbock.  But now it looks like the goal to have two police officers for every 1,000 Lubbockites may be delayed.

Leonard says, "If we can give upper management big raises like we just did and I voted against that, if we can give TX-Dot an additional $81,000 so we can have red light cameras, then we can afford to pay these types of expenses. Why do we need to cut back on police and fire?"

Leonard believes the city has put itself in a bind and thinks it all started back in September. That's when council unanimously passed the city budget which included an anticipated $1.5 million in revenue from red light camera tickets.

A NewsChannel 11 investigation into the timing of yellow lights in Lubbock found discrepancies in light times compared to the national safety standard. Last week, the city council voted to halt the installation and go back and check yellow light times.  That decision that will apparently delay the installation of those cameras and the projected revenue of $1.5 million dollars.

Leonard says, "It is all about money. From the first week in office between the new mayor and myself discussions were initiated on how much revenue would red light cams bring. It wasn't until we tried to sell the idea to the public that we started talking about public safety."

The city hiring freeze means the city can't hire new police officers. Leonard says, "Public safety in my opinion is the number one rule of government, and that's an area we don't need to touch. The rest of city hall hiring freeze is okay. If we need to do that. then fine, but not our public safety."

Leonard tells NewsChannel 11 there are exceptions to the freeze and hiring could be done on a case by case basis. For now,  the Lubbock police are using other staffing arrangements like offering overtime to keep a safe number of officers on the street at all times.

NewsChannel 11 spoke with Mayor David Miller who says he does not think projecting revenue is a mistake. He says it's not the end of the fiscal year and the city could still see savings from cuts made to the budget throughout the year.

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