Aurora City Council will skip November ballot, ask about photo red light ban in spring 2017


AURORA | Fearing a crowded November ballot, Aurora City Council members agreed at their Monday, June 20 study session to pursue a special election next spring to ask voters whether to continue the city’s photo red-light ticketing system.

The decision makes Aurora one of the first municipalities to take a step toward possibly reining in an existing photo-red system since Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed legislation earlier this month that would have created a statewide ban on red-light traffic camera. He said individual municipalities should decide for themselves whether to use the often unpopular devices.

Ward I Councilwoman Sally Mounier said she would not like her measure to get piled on top of numerous other initiatives slated for the November general election ballot. She instead advocated for a special election next spring with only “Aurora” issues, that she said could include another attempt to lift a ban on economic incentives for racetracks in the city and a question about whether Aurora voters want a city auditor.

Mounier is behind a measure that would ask voters for a “yes” or “no” on a measure to prohibit the city from issuing photo-red light traffic tickets.

Ward II Councilwoman Renie Peterson said she would prefer for a photo red-light measure to be on the November ballot rather than a special election.

“Voters don’t show up for them,” Peterson said of spring votes.

Aurora Ward V Councilman Bob Roth said he would be OK with a special election if it didn’t cost so much. Aurora Deputy City Clerk Karen Goldman said a special election in April would cost anywhere from  $300,000 to $350,000, based on a $2 to $2.50 cost per voter in Arapahoe County and based on voter registration numbers.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said he wouldn’t support the special election for a single issue, but would if the ballot contained numerous Aurora-specific issues. He also noted any issue would likely fail in November with limited time to campaign and explain the measures.

Aurora City Council is set to discuss the three ballot measures at a study session in August.

At-Large Councilman Bob LeGare’s measure would ask voters if they want to continue to allow the city to use photo red-light enforcement to issue traffic tickets to drivers that enter an intersection after a light turns red. Voting “yes” would allow the cameras to remain in place at Aurora’s intersections.

Ward IV Councilman Charlie Richardson’s measure would ask Aurora voters whether they want to continue the city’s photo-red light program if all of the money goes to nonprofits that aid Aurora law enforcement. Voting “yes” would allow the cameras to remain at the intersections.

The photo red-light program brings in approximately $3.3 million annually, according to Aurora police. But not all of that goes to nonprofits. In 2015, about $1.1 million of photo red-light revenues went to a  “nexus” program that supports nonprofits who provide a substantial service to law enforcement.

Later in the evening, city council members approved renewing a contract with photo red-light system provider Xerox, extending the company’s services to July 2017. The new contract cuts short the initial length of service from 2018 to 2017, and it no longer includes a provision for a $24,000 intersection study to look at where else cameras could be placed in the city.

The measure was approved 7-3 with council members Mounier, Peterson and Marsha Berzins voting against it. Francoise Bergan was absent from the vote.

The city has 14 photo red-light cameras at 10 intersections, and Aurora Police have in the past discussed expanding the program, stating the cameras work and make the city safer.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.