Under the Dome

Lawsuit doesn’t stop red-light cameras; maybe legislation will

From staff reportsJune 24, 2012 

Brian Ceccarelli and his lawyers advanced a big step toward victory over Cary and its red-light camera program last week when a Wake Superior Court judge certified the lawsuit as a class action, adding thousands of drivers as candidates for refunds of their $50 red-light-running tickets if Cary eventually loses the case. The class-action designation may give Cary a new incentive to settle out of court.

Also last week, the House of Representatives breathed life into legislation that would outlaw red-light cameras in the only four remaining cities that use them: Raleigh, Cary, Knightdale and Wilmington. The Senate approved it in April 2011, but the House shelved it.

The bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Don East of Pilot Mountain, is a former Winston-Salem police officer who argues that drivers should be able to cross-examine the officer who gives them a traffic ticket.

“You ought to be able to say, ‘Officer, are you right sure that light was red?’ ” East said last year during floor debate.

His legislation would not merely bar towns from using red-light cameras - it would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to use them. The House revived his bill and sent it to the Appropriations Committee. Ceccarelli’s lawyer, Republican Paul Stam of Apex, serves as the House majority leader.

East’s argument could carry new weight this year, as Cary deals with a separate problem involving a camera that cranked out 31 undeserved tickets at one intersection before the malfunction was discovered.

Dalton dinner in works

Members of the Democratic establishment and Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration are rallying behind Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton at a fundraising reception at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Todd and Elisabeth McGowan will host the dinner at their home on Anderson Drive in Raleigh. The minimum contribution is $50, and contributions up to $4,000 are being solicited. Former Gov. Jim Hunt, Erskine Bowles and former Democratic primary rival Bob Etheridge are on the host committee.

Hunt courts District 15 voters

Republican State Sen. Neal Hunt is courting District 15 voters with a mailer touting his ties to Wake County, his private sector success and his readiness to “clean up the mess caused by Gov. Perdue’s failed leadership.”

Hunt, seeking his fifth term to his Raleigh district, used familiar lines from state and national campaigns this election cycle: he’ll help balance the budget, end wasteful spending and improve schools, the mailer says.

The Republican faces Democrat Sig Hutchinson in the November election.

The early mail drop - which targeted some unaffiliated voters - reflects heightened tensions this election year and emulates the gubernatorial and presidential races, which seem to be moving on a much faster schedule compared to other election years. And it appears that Hunt has enough money to play ball.

‘Mean-spirited’ Assembly

A rally of about 45 people representing 25 organizations gathered Thursday afternoon as state NAACP President William Barber protested GOP policies on the Bicentennial Mall in front of the General Assembly.

Barber was joined by the Rev. Curtis Gatewood and other NAACP officials.

“If you can take the General Assembly and put it under a political MRI, and study the systematic impact, you would find the General Assembly is mean-spirited toward the poor, minorities, African Americans, and women ... intentionally,” Barber said.

Barber described 10 examples of legislation that he believes exacerbates racial and class disparities.

The list included proposed changes to the Racial Justice Act, the fracking bill, and the lack of funding for education and the federal Help America Vote Act.

He called the policies a calculated attack on “vulnerable groups.”

Staff writers Bruce Siceloff, John Frank, Austin Baird and Rosella Age

Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service