MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After nearly a month of delays, Miami commissioners voted Thursday to move forward with a plan that expands their red light camera program.

Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, considered to be the swing vote on the issue called it the, “Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.” She concluded, “The good that comes out of this totally outweighs the bad.”

July 1st a statewide law went into effect that demanded cities to create their own appeals process for red light camera violators. Mayoral hopeful Francis Suarez wanted to use the new law as an opportunity to eliminate the cameras entirely.

“We have more cameras in the city of Miami than the next six cities in the state of Florida combined. And I think we have more cameras in the city than in the City of New York which is twenty more times larger than the city of Miami,” Suarez said.

On the other side, the argument was the safety aspects the cameras have provided. The Miami Police Department provided statistics in support of the program. Eighty-eight percent of those ticketed do not re-offend, accidents were reduced by almost 11 percent when cameras were used, and two thirds of those ticketed do not live in Miami were just a few of the insights.

Also at stake was a lot of money.

The University of Miami, Jackson’s Trauma Unit and Miami Project to Cure Paralysis had a lot of money riding on the vote.

A portion of every ticket goes to their programs. Marc Buoniconti, founder of the Miami Project said the money will fund research that will save lives or perhaps help someone walk again.

“It’s about saving lives. It’s about making a difference and making people safe in our community,” Buoniconti said.

The program approved Thursday will allow drivers 60 days to appeal their red light ticket. If they lose their appeal the $158 dollar ticket becomes $243. For the poor, the city will have the right to waive the $85 fee or create a payment plan.

When asked if the red light cameras were here to say Suarez responded, “I hope not.”

Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff disagreed, “Here to stay and I think they should be increased and I want to look at every viable red light in district two to make it more walk-able, more pedestrian friendly, and more bike able.”

Sarnoff continued saying that he intends to take the cameras throughout Downtown and the Grove.

“Isn’t it a self-controlled act of your own. Doesn’t that pedal work off your own brain. Doesn’t that steering wheel work with your own brain. You determine whether you go through that red light,” Sarnoff said.

If you think Miami’s $243 dollar ticket appeal is steep, take a look across the road in Coral Gables. A lost appeal there will run you over $400.

The changes will happen pretty much immediately. Miami’s red light cameras will start issuing tickets Friday, after a 25-day stoppage.


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