Aurora frets over red-light camera contract as state lawmakers consider another attempt to ban them

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AURORA | As state lawmakers seek to ban red-light cameras again this year, city officials in Aurora, where there are 10 locations using pictures to nab scofflaws, are contemplating their next move with the traffic program.

Aurora City Council has until June 30 to decide whether to renew a contract with camera enforcement company Conduent to continue to operate the cameras across the city. In recent years the city has signed off on year-long contract extensions, but if a more concrete agreement isn’t met by summer, the city will have to find a new vendor.

City council members expressed reservations about signing a long-term contract at a study session on Monday. HB1072 seeks to rid the state of its traffic stop cameras.

The bill, sponsored by Republicans Sen. Tim Neville and Rep. Stephen Humphrey, would prohibit red light cameras and speed radar. Twice before, Gov. John Hickenlooper has vetoed similar, but less restrictive bills. In 2016, the bill would have allowed cameras in certain areas, such as school or construction zones.

The Colorado Municipal League has already taken a stance against HB1072, saying the use of technology in traffic safety should be a concern left to local government.

“I often hear that as an argument, but when it comes to oil and gas extraction the city has not said local control is important,” Councilwoman Nicole Johnston at the study session.

Law enforcement officials said if the state eventually decided to ban the cameras the city wouldn’t be out any additional money.

Council members agreed to direct city staff to negotiate a contract with Conduent before taking additional actions, such as adding cameras or moving them to other parts of the city.

A majority of council members also decided to oppose a “right to rest” bill, which establishes some rights for people experiencing homelessness, such as the “right to use and move freely in public spaces, to rest in public spaces, to eat or accept food in any public space where food is not prohibited, to occupy a legally parked vehicle, and to have a reasonable expectation of privacy of one’s property.”

“If adopted, House Bill 1067 will take away Aurora’s right to enact laws that regulate the use of its public spaces under the guise that such laws disproportionately impace persons experiencing homelessness,” a city memo about the bill said. “The decision of whether or not to enact such laws should belong solely to the Aurora City Council.”

Councilwomen Johnston, Allison Hiltz and Crystal Murillo voted against opposing the bill being carried by Aurora Rep. Jovan Melton.

Melton told the Aurora Sentinel that hasn’t spoken with the Aurora Police Department or the city attorney about the bill, but his aim is to “help, not hurt the city,” adding that Aurora has felt the brunt of the problem as Denver’s homelessness policies have caused “a migration” into Aurora.

“They (Aurora) hasn’t been a bad actor at all,” Melton said.