When it comes to red-light cameras, the difference between St. Pete and Tampa is Beth Leytham

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The Tampa Bay Times‘ Sue Carlton has a column in the newspaper today about how St. Petersburg and Tampa have approached differently the issue of red-light cameras.

“St. Petersburg is going through a messy breakup with those red light cameras the City Council voted in three years ago to make dangerous intersections safer,” Carlton writes. “Meanwhile in Tampa, sister city a bridge away, they’re talking of renewing their commitment and keeping those cameras through 2016.”

The reason for St. Pete’s messy breakup, according to Carlton, when questions were raised on issues like yellow-light times, and when “some said a program to stop risky drivers and even save lives surely could have been run better…”

As for Tampa’s love-affair with red-light cameras, “Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he does not pretend to know St. Petersburg politics, but for his money, the cameras are working in his town.”

There’s also one substantial difference between St. Pete and Tampa: The presence of consultant Beth Leytham. In St. Pete, Leytham’s influence ends at the bridge (although there have been some rumblings of late that Leytham is getting involved in the Greenlight Pinellas campaign), but in Tampa, Leytham is the Remy Danton in Bob Buckhorn’s house of cards.

One of Leytham’s clients is American Traffic Solutions, the ubiquitous mom-and-pop shop behind so many of the red-light cameras in Florida. 

Now, I am nowhere near the opponent of red-light cameras that my friends Sen. Jeff Brandes and pollster Matt Florell are. In fact, as long as you promise not to tell Brandes or Florell, I’ll tell you part of me secretly supports red-light cameras when they are used fairly.

I live in the Crescent Lake neighborhood of St. Pete, which is bordered by 22nd Avenue to the north and 4th Street and Dr. M.L.K. Street on the east and west. The intersection at 22nd and 4th has a red-light camera, the one at M.L.K. does not. For any number of reasons, including the presence of that red-light camera, the intersection at 4th Street seems safer, while the one at M.L.K. is a danger zone. 

But I digress.

The point here is that in one city, one of that city’s chief allies works for a purveyor of red-light cameras. In the city getting rid of red-light cameras, there is no such relationship between the mayor’s advisers and a red-light camera company.

So as long as Beth Leytham is playing match-maker, there is no doubt that Tampa’s love affair with red-light cameras will continue. Until ATS can find such a broker in St. Pete, the ‘burg’s relationship with red-light cameras will be on the rocks.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.