Dallas County Schools bus cameras = profiteering?

My feathers got rankled: I heard from a motorist who got two $300 citations for being safe, prudent, and reasonable, all thanks to unreasonable use of school bus flashing lights and automated ticketing machines installed on Dallas County Schools‘s buses.

I fired off the below letter to my Texas legislators. If you are also concerned, contact your legislators (find them here) and Dallas County Schools (info@dcschools.com).

My letter:

Senator Duell and Representative Sheets,

Dallas County Schools has installed automated ticketing machines on its school buses. These machines photograph motorists who pass a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing.

I am aware of motorists getting pointless $300 automated traffic citations, These are due to how Dallas County Schools bus drivers are using their flashing red lights.

In this case, school bus drivers are activating their red lights when departing or entering bus occupants are simply walking between a bus and a school. These pedestrians will not cross a road. Last I checked, cars don’t drive on sidewalks or across school lawns, so this use of red light flashers to stop cars on an adjacent road–where departing or entering school bus occupants won’t even go–is an abuse of power and disrespectful to Texas citizens.

This needs legislative attention for two reasons:

First, if the law requires bus drivers to use flashing red lights even when it’s pointless, the law should be revised. Drivers should only be permitted to use flashing red lights when students entering or departing the bus are actually going to cross the road that the bus is on.

Second, if this is due to Dallas County Schools policy, then this needs to be investigated by the legislature as an unprecedented cash grab. $300 per automated citation is egregious. This is 400% the cost of a statutorily-authorized red light camera ticket. And that begs the point: are automated ticketing machines on school buses even statutorily-authorized?

I realize we’re in tough economic times, but it’s egregious for Dallas County Schools to collude with area cities to set up unusually expensive traffic tickets enforced by a statutorily-unauthorized automated ticketing machines, apparently so that they can abuse motorists who, while being on the wrong side of the law, could not have possibly endangered a student: you can’t run over kids that won’t even be in the road!

Aren Cambre

Skepticism of the law

I’m not a Lawrence Lessig fan. He’s too radical, but he still had a great quote last year:

…I am a little surprised by the respect that non lawyers typically give the law. Because lawyers’ view is one of constant skepticism. We constantly ask and demand of the law that it explain to us: How does this make sense? And we never presume that we happen to have a body of regulation that makes sense. We always examine. Where it does make sense, we say good for the law, and we encourage people to follow it. But where it makes no sense, our perspective is that the law needs to be changed.

He only encourages obedience to laws that make sense. Later he wrote “Stop believing, stop listening, stop deferring. Feel entitled to question this system.

(Getting Our Values around Copyright Right, EDUCAUSE Review, March/April 2010)

This is refreshing. Usually, I see the paintywaist viewpoint, that all law deserves to be obeyed just because it exists.

No!

Law is just an approximation of right and wrong. It’s often off.

Americans were once required to return slaves, but it was never wrong to ignore this law and help slaves become free. Similarly, suppose 75 mph is safe on a road. 75 mph is illegal if the speed limit sign says 65, but it’s not wrong.

Left wing tripe

My church, First United Methodist Church of Dallas, has a Sunday school class afflicted with a radical left winger.

If you’re one of my Facebook buddies, you’ll remember this from January 9, 2011:

Wonderful, call a substantial portion of the electorate “stupid people”…

Now it gets more nerdy and nuanced. The same class now has this on its tackboard:

The point here is to get sympathetic liberals to hand-wring over military spending.

Except it’s a lie. It conveniently omits about 2/3 of federal spending!

Here’s a truer picture of federal spending:
(image source: Wikipedia image and article)

It’s more like 20% of federal spending!

Now, to be frank, while I believe in a strong defense, I am uncomfortable that the United States alone accounts for about 40% of worldwide defense spending. I’d like to scrutinize our defense spending, but I’m not going to lie about it with convenient numbers.

And I’m also not going to lie and slander in church.

Texas Senate Republicans violated own party platform

This is a great example of the stupidity of a lot of the Texas Republican Platform.

From page 9 of the 2010 platform:

We oppose any constitutional convention to rewrite the United States Constitution. We demand the Legislature rescind its 1977 call for such a convention. We call upon other states to rescind their votes for such a convention.

This is Eagle Forum-style, nut job paranoia. They fear that a 31 year old concurrent  resolution, calling for a balanced spending amendment, can somehow result in a runaway constitutional convention and rewrite the US Constitution.

No kidding. They really believe this.

Here’s the 31 year old resolutions: HCR 31, Regular Session, and HCR 13, 2nd Called Session.

Now here’s the irony: the current (82nd) Senate did almost they same thing: they called for a constitutional convention for a balanced budget amendment.

A balanced budget amendment is silly; it won’t fix anything because runaway spending is simply taken off budget. That’s what happened with Social Security and Medicare.

But it doesn’t matter. I doubt enough states will call for this convention. And while we’re waiting, the Texas Eagle Forum and Phyllis Schlafly disciples will have another dumb cause to rabble rouse over.