Friday, January 23, 2009

Goldwater's Ghost

Arizona isn't the conservative bastion of Barry Goldwater's day, but it's heartening to see that residents there can still show a bit of "old West" orneriness if backed into a corner, as illustrated by the anti-traffic camera uprising that seems to be taking place there. The state went in big for Big Brother-style law enforcement, but seems poised to back off, amidst public suspicions that revenue-raising is the primary motivation, not public safety.

A bill to ban photo speed enforcement on state highways is advancing in the Statehouse. "This was done in the name of revenue," one member told The Arizona Republic, explaining his support for the measure. "It is a speed tax, and it is being done to fund social programs." And Pinal County Supervisors voted Wednesday to end the use of speed cameras, on the recommendation of a new sheriff who called it a "failed" experiment that decreased traffic safety. Opponents of a state cam ban say the devices improve roadway safety, but Pinal County's experience contradicts that. The sheriff told supervisors that accidents increased by 16 percent since the county's program began, with traffic fatalities doubling.

These bans would be a Christmas wish come true for the secret Santa's who staged an anti-traffic camera protest in Phoenix over the holidays, by covering a number of the devices in wrapping paper. The perpetrators videotaped the act of civil disobedience and posted it on YouTube, accompanied by the message, "lumps of coal to all of those who make it their business to watch and control.''

Maybe there's still a bit of Barry Goldwater grit left in Arizonans yet.

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