College Station residents haven't found them in the mailbox yet, but a mailer about the city's red-light cameras is already stirring controversy.
The city contends the brochure about the red-light camera programs and upcoming vote, states the facts. However, a red-light camera opponent says the city is misleading voters, and has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Jim Ash filed the complaint Wednesday against City Manager Glenn Brown. His complaint stems from documents he received through public information requests. Earlier this year, Ash solicited enough signatures to get the red-light cameras on the November ballot.
According to the mailer, the cameras have decreased red-light related crashes by 54%. Ash disagrees and points to an e-mail he obtained through his public records request. The e-mail was sent from Troy Rother, College Station Traffic Engineer, to city council member Dave Ruesink. In the e-mail, Rother tells Ruesink there were three red-light related crashes in 2007, the year before the cameras were installed. According to Rother, in 2008, the year the cameras were activated, the number of red-light crashes jumped to seven.
Comparing the 2007 to 2008 numbers does not show a 54% decrease, but more than a 200% increase. The city's statement is only correct comparing the 2006 data to 2008 data, and skipping 2007.
"Really the statistics related to red-light cameras they know to be different than what they've put in here and they put them in here with the intent of misleading the citizens of College Station," said Ash.
Included in the public records requests are e-mails detailing the costs of what the city calls it's voter education campaign. According to one e-mail the cost to print and mail the brochures is $20,000; more than enough to pay for the cell-phone-ban signs the city is considering buying to post throughout it's school district.
Ash said he addressed his concerns with Brown, before filing an official complaint. The complaint falls under the Texas Election Code that prevents city employees from authorizing public funds to be spent on communication describing a measure if the employee knows the communication to be false.
Brown said he would comment after reviewing the complaint.
Ash is also the subject of an ethics complaint. It was made by political action committee Keep College Station Safe and alleges Ash did not report or take political funds properly.
Ash's group, Take Back Your City, plans to use television and radio advertising before the election.
The red-light camera vote is Saturday, November 3rd.