Non-police traffic camera bill passes Oregon Senate committee

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. (Not shown: Dallas Heard)

A high priority bill for the Portland Bureau of Transportation has taken another step forward in the Oregon Legislature. House Bill 4105 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday by a vote of 4 to 3. It passed the Oregon House last week.

The bill would give cities the authority to take oversight of automated red light and speed enforcement camera citations away from uniformed police officers and name a “duly authorized traffic enforcement agent” to review and process them. This agent would be similar to parking enforcement officers and backers say removing police from the equation would reduce administrative bottlenecks, improve traffic safety, and free up police to work on more important duties.

At Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee meeting, we got an opportunity to hear why some lawmakers oppose the bill. Similar to what happened in the House, the Senate committee passed the bill on a party-line vote with all three Republicans voting against it.

Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) said she couldn’t support the bill because of privacy concerns. “I just have a recalcitrant resistance to furthering along the surveillance state,” she said. Sen. Thatcher warned of a slippery slope and added, “We’re starting with this, but it’s going to expand to this… and in the name of safety we would all be safer if we just had cameras everywhere… but I just don’t think it’s right.”

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Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), who supports the bill, reminded Republicans that this bill doesn’t add any new traffic cameras and that they are already legal for use in Oregon. “Are we giving up our freedoms? The freedom to potentially evade you a police officer’s presence there? Maybe, but we trade-off liberties all the time. And this is one where the goal is to keep people safe and to avoid crashes.”

Eugene Democrat Senator James Manning echoed Dembrow. Sen. Manning said Oregon is just trying to catch up to other places where cameras have long been a big part of traffic enforcement:

“I really don’t understand why we’re going down a rabbit hole… We’ve been in a big brother overwatch for years, decades, so it’s nothing new. I want to make sure that law enforcement is able to concentrate on crime, preventing crime and capturing the perpetrators of crime.”

The most memorable testimony against the bill came from Senator Dallas Heard, a Republican from Roseburg. In a statement before his “no” vote he railed against what he sees as nothing more than a government power-grab:

“I am not one that trusts concentrated power… I would ask you to consider in the years ahead not trusting people who have concentrated power regardless of who they are, because history is just a trash field of people who have been crushed under such police states. The bodies are endless. And sadly, we have true equality in that everyone has been a victim of concentrated power. Making it more expedient and easier for the government to grow its power and get the ticket sent out is not helping us not repeat history.”

Sen Dembrow and Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin (D-Corvallis) could both be seen giggling after Heard’s comment, although it’s not clear if they were responding to him or something else.

Since the bill passed Tuesday did so with a minor amendment to clean up some language, it will need to go back to the House for a concurrence vote before it reaches the full Senate floor.

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Adam
Adam
9 months ago

I don’t understand Dallas Heard’s comment. The police are part of the centralized city government. This law simply allows other members of the same city government sit all day and watch videos.

cmh89
cmh89
9 months ago
Reply to  Adam

I don’t understand Dallas Heard’s comment. The police are part of the centralized city government.

You just have to put yourself in his shoes. These cameras don’t discriminate based on race or class and therefore directly threaten his ability to commit crimes and get away with it. Law and Order is good when it is hurting their enemies and Law and Order is bad when it means laws could be applied equally to them.

There is a good saying that summarizes that viewpoint

“Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

In my opinion its actually very important to understand that because it is also the reason hard safety infrastructure is so difficult to get. Hard infrastructure is indifferent to ingroups and outgroups. Police enforcement is statistically racially and economically biased. Most people who oppose road safety infrastructure will tell you that they support police officer law enforcement and the unsaid reason is that they believe that they are part of the ingroup who will not get punished for speeding and other people will be in the outgroup and will get punished.

I did appreciate that the republicans bothered to come up with reasons, even if they are logical fallacies that are incredibly meaningless.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Adam

Rather than use this as an excuse to make wild accusations about my tribal enemies, I’ll actually address your point. It seems clear that Heard is a small government conservative, and is uncomfortable with opening the doors to more potential surveillance, and probably also giving policing powers to general government employees, either fearing abuse from this particular change, or perhaps thinking it is a step on a slippery slope.

The surveillance angle makes me uneasy (and would be easy to address, as I’ve described elsewhere), but I don’t agree with Heard’s position. I’m guessing you don’t either. But having spent a fair bit of time with relatives who do, I think this is a fairly common aspect of the libertarian small government anti-surveillance world view.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

To clarify, even though the bill does not add more cameras, making it easier/cheaper for cities to run them will likely open the door to more (this isn’t paranoia: it’s exactly what backers are hoping for).

Flash
Flash
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

I believe the current law on the books in Oregon require cameras only be used in areas of higher incident rate or areas of safety concern. The cities that operate these cameras are responsible to the legislative branch to make reports every two years on the state of these areas and devices.

cmh89
cmh89
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There is no such thing as a ‘small government conservative’. Take a look at what ‘ol Dallas has proposed

https://www.billtrack50.com/legislatordetail/20091

Eight bills, six of which call on the government to restrict the ability of private individuals or force private individuals to take actions they otherwise wouldn’t take. Super small government huh?

The truth is that Dallas is playing a ‘small government conservative’ because republicans always play ‘small government conservative’ when they they oppose what is being proposed, but when they are in power all of that goes away. They are only ‘fiscally conservative’ when the question is how to help poor people. republicans are never worried about fiscal conservatism when the question is how much corporate welfare to give or what kind of tax breaks they can deliver to their wealthy patrons.

Look at states where they have power. The republicans in Texas tried to make it a literal crime to encourage mail in voting. The republicans in Texas are plotting to abduct Trans children and take them away from their parents. republicans in Florida want to forcefully out LGBTQ youth to their parents, even (and probably especially) when it will lead to abuse or other danger. The head of Dallas’s party literally tried to overthrow the US government and install a one-party system yet he doesn’t ‘trust concentrated power’. Spare me.

It adds an extra layer of gross to his comments that he wants to complain about the ‘police ‘state’. Black and brown people have been over-policed for 400 years. Where is Dallas advocating for them? Amir Locke is a victim of the police state. Dallas Heard getting a ticket for going too fast in his truck ins’t If anything this bill reduces the police state by taking individual officer bias out of the equation. There is more fairness and more oversight to automated cameras than there could ever be with the good ‘ol boy PPB, which is of course Dallas’ opposition to the bill.

He’s against it because it hurts the wrong people.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
9 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I would love to have an actual conversation on the issues with someone who didn’t try to broadbrush & silence every R as an evil person not worthy of being heard (pun intended). The intolerance from the so-called party of tolerance is getting old & I think the results of recent school board & gubernatorial elections across the country bear that out.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
9 months ago

As someone who replied in a way that somehow violated this guidance, I don’t understand why it’s okay to assert, “there is no such thing as a ‘small government conservative’” but not okay for me to silently (and quite charitably) concede good will and reply that cmh89 must live in a bubble.

cmh89
cmh89
9 months ago

I would love to have an actual conversation on the issues with someone who didn’t try to broadbrush & silence every R as an evil person not worthy of being heard (pun intended

I’ll point out that the conservatives are free to try and rationalize their opposition to this law & order bill. Dallas had the opportunity and he fumbled his way through a logical fallacy and ended at pretending speed ticketings were the same as mass executions. Every republican who wanted to could have provided a written explanation of why they oppose this law and order bill, none of them did.

I’m not saying what I’m saying to try and hurt the feelings of conservatives. I’m saying it because its the actual explanation of why Dallas and the rest of the republicans oppose this law and order bill. I’ve been watching them for decades. I have a degree in Political Science. I’ve spent considerable amounts of time thinking and reading about this world. Its not my job to come up with excuses for them. It’s not my job to sugar coat the bad things they do. Dallas is, as I type, wasting over an hour right now of the Peoples time throwing a temper tantrum on the Senate floor because he doesn’t want to wear a mask. He and the rest of the republicans are using their time in their elected position to lie about COVID-19, lie about safety measures, and lie about childrens health.

The associations we choose tell others who we are. If someone told you they were a member of ‘Bikers Against Child Abuse’, that tells a different story than if someone told you they were part of the ‘Gypsy Jokers’. Every member of the republican party, by their continued association, is supportive of the coup attempt as well as all the heinous policies that republicans push both in Oregon and nationally.

The intolerance from the so-called party of tolerance is getting old

Interstingly this is a meme that was brought to prominance by the fascist Rush Limbaugh in the 90s. I’ve never heard anyone other than conservatives call the Democratic party the ‘part of tolerance’.

Intolerance is neccessary and often times good. We should be intolerant of child abuse. We should be intolerant of murder. We should be intolerant of people who hate others for their skin color, gender expression, ability, or culture.

You should take a read through this wiki. It’s about the Paradox of Tolerance.

‘The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

***Sorry Watts but this reply is just so off topic and unrelated that I cannot let it stand. Please, both of you, remember that this space is for the entire community. If you want to have a personal back-and-forth that isn’t directly related to the topic at hand, perhaps you can share emails and have that conversation among yourselves. I’m happy to connect both of you if you’d like. I hope you understand. Thanks. – Jonathan***

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s your forum and I’ll respect your rules, but I tightly responded to points made in the post. I’m not one to call for censorship, but I do wish you’d address the sort of out-group attacks that some posters keep making. Condemning people based on party affiliation crosses the line between civil disagreement and bigotry.

I have no desire to connect with this member outside the forums.

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
9 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I’m not a Republican, but I think the most appropriate response to your doubling down on the moral bankruptcy of 42% of the country is to re-share the message to which you’re ostensibly replying in hopes you’ll contemplate it before again reaching for your keyboard:

I would love to have an actual conversation on the issues with someone who didn’t try to broadbrush & silence every R as an evil person not worthy of being heard (pun intended). The intolerance from the so-called party of tolerance is getting old & I think the results of recent school board & gubernatorial elections across the country bear that out.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

When accusations & broad brushed comments like “continued association is supportive of the coup…” and “doubling down on the moral bankruptcy of 42% of the country…” are allowed to stand on BP then Why bother? My feelings aren’t hurt one bit but I was hoping there were still news forums on the internet like BP that would refuse the temptation of becoming echo chambers for every single transportation issue involving safety and law enforcement. I was wrong and I stand corrected.

cmh89
cmh89
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

Only about 25% of the country is part of the GOP.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/24/only-a-quarter-of-the-country-identifies-as-republican-there-are-two-reasons-the-party-keeps-winning-anyway/

Of course, I’m all game for a conversation, but a conversation has got to be more than ‘ignore 5 decades of policy choices by a political party’.

cmh89
cmh89
9 months ago
Reply to  Mark in NoPo

JM – feel free not to post my last comment. I think I’m going to bounce for a while. If this isn’t the venue to call out white supremacy in our government, especially when that white supremacy is directly related to road safety, then there really isn’t a point to discussion.

It’s like trying to fix a leak but refusing to to acknowledge it because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person who installed the plumbing.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

That Heard is inconsistent doesn’t mean my explanation for his thinking is wrong, and what Republicans do in Texas doesn’t seem to offer any explanatory power here to anyone who doesn’t see the world through a simplistic “us vs. them” tribal lens. I believe the world is far more complex than that.

Leaping to “racism” as a first resort explanation for those you disagree with on a variety of issues is both unhelpful and uninteresting.

Steve
Steve
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The libertarian small government view that wants government to provide roads but doesn’t want government to regulate and enforce safe use of them?

Charley
Charley
9 months ago

The bill literally allows cities to rely on someone besides the police to accomplish a certain job, and Heard is voting NO because of concerns about the “police state.”

The irony is too rich. Or should I say “doublespeak”?

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Charley

It’s not ironic at all… By making it easier for the government to set up more cameras, it increases the potential for surveillance, which is a component of a police state. He is entirely consistent on this point.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

For those who are most worried about this – A very laid back (25degrees or less) carbon recumbent high-racer eludes most “Your Speed Is” radars, and on the infrequent occasions where it picks you up, it’s just as you get on top of it 🙂 I ghosted past one at 40+ once without it even noticing me.

I have the privacy discussion with my dad often.
I honestly don’t believe you have an expectation of privacy on a road built/maintained with public money for public use, especially if that “privacy” is about evading enforcement of rules meant to protect the public or (because the discussion was about funding road maintenance) maintain the infrastructure you’re benefitting from.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

I honestly don’t believe you have an expectation of privacy on a road

I agree with this, but I also believe that there is a qualitative difference between being observed and being monitored. Fortunately, the Supreme Court came to the same conclusion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Jones

The only difference I see between using a GPS tracker and using a system of cameras that accomplish the same goal is that cameras are even more intrusive because they cast a much wider net.

[I probably need to state that I do not believe that traffic cameras currently deployed constitute such a system. I also have no problem with monitoring/tracking under the supervision of a court (i.e. with a warrant).]