East Cleveland Fate Hinges on Red Light Camera Vote

East Cleveland Fate Hinges on Red Light Camera Vote


For East Cleveland, Election Day in Ohio will have a major impact on the city’s finances and its outlook on public safety.

On November 8, voters in the Cleveland suburb will decide whether they should keep the city’s traffic cameras in operation. As you’ve probably seen in a city near you, the devices are designed to catch people who run red lights at key intersections. Municipalities have a love affair with the machines – if they had a choice, one would be on every corner.  To most local governments, it’s the favored “creative” way to increase revenue during hard economic times.

However, East Cleveland residents aren’t having it.  Many charge that the cameras are intrusive and unnecessary.

The fate of city red-light cameras has a direct impact on an even tougher decision for East Cleveland — the impending layoff of 60 city employees.  It’s a case study of growing public resentment against a tidal wave of fees, charges and penalties state and local governments rely on to tide over strained budgets.

Still, Mayor Gary Norton Jr. is in a position where, no matter the outcome of the vote, tough decisions are on the way. Even if voters approve keeping the cameras in place and the over $1 million in annual revenue they bring, cuts to public safety are on the way. At most, Norton is aiming to cut 36 police officers, 14 firefighters, and about 10 other city workers from their positions.

“This is strictly as a result of the traffic cameras. If we lose the traffic cameras, this is the safety force scenario that we are looking at,” said Mayor Norton, according to WJW-TV in Cleveland.

However, in a subtle play of political chicken, Norton claims he can stave off projected layoffs if voters approve the measure keeping said traffic cameras in place.

One of the city’s councilmen cut to the chase about the fate of city workers – even with the camera revenue.

“If the people decide to keep the cameras, we still need to make the cuts, and I say this with all humility and all conviction, not to put the finger on anyone, we’re gonna have to do it,” said Councilman Nathaniel Martin.

East Cleveland faces a future similar to many cash-strapped cities across the country looking to make ends meet. However, this small inner-ring suburb is also dealing with a declining population, a past history of crime, and few major economic opportunities in the area. Foreclosures, unemployment, and recession have left a landscape of empty houses and falling property values.

Tying camera revenue directly to the salary of city officials shows how dire the problem is. The city doesn’t have a diverse tax base of businesses and residents that can absorb financial hardships like this. East Cleveland is one of regional areas that has always suffered from urban decay, even when it had more population. Now with foreclosures prevalent, it is even more crucial to keep the remaining citizens safer on streets that are home to far fewer families than before.

The sad part of the situation is that East Cleveland has been able to lower its crime by simply adding more police to the streets. However, the tax base has long been eroding in the small city as people move to other parts of the Greater Cleveland area with a better quality of life.

Earlier this year, the city took another hit when the Cleveland Clinic Health System announced the closing of Huron Hospital. The location was a major trauma and treatment area for East Cleveland and the surrounding communities. City leaders and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) spoke out boldly against the move.

Cleveland Clinic was in a position similar to the City of East Cleveland. A declining population meant less patients and revenue, hence the hospital closure. According to The Plain Dealer, the hospital system was projected to lose $25 million in 2011 if it kept the facility open.

As for the traffic cameras, East Cleveland is bracing itself for another almost-certain financial hit after Election Day. The question is whether or not voters will come through in the clutch and approve the desperately sought-after revenue needed to soften the blow.



  1. So let me get this straight, we have to ensure that people keep running red lights, or we won't have enough money to pay for police officers? That makes no sense whatsoever. How about recalling the Mayor at the next election.

  2. There’s just something sleazy about local officials who use law enforcement as a means of generating revenue. It’s especially foul when they delegate the heavy lifting to a private business. Evidence of their low character and absence of scruples is their brazen insistence on more camera cash in spite of ample proof that they’re ineffective and dangerous. Consequently, photo enforcement has never survived a public vote. If city bosses really believe cameras reduce accidents, they’d issue citations to drivers instead of owners. If safety is their main concern, they’d consider making red lights slightly longer for opposing traffic so if a driver does blow through, there’s a longer interval before other drivers proceed. And they’d lengthen yellow light intervals. They’d also ensure that all videos are reviewed instead of only those that are appealed or not paid. They’d insist on reviews by police officers instead of vendor employees who clearly have conflicts of interest. The people aren’t stupid and it looks like most already realize this is NOT the kind of world free humans want, a world in which our superiors and their police remotely monitor our actions to ensure approved behavior.

    • Thank you. This short note summs up the low character and mind set of the politicians i east cleveland. It would not surprise me that more of the elected persons will go to jail like others before them. I recently recieved a letter that the penalty for two tickets will soon escalde to over $600. within 30 days if I dont pay. I woulder how many of these politicians, city worker's ticket were waived or over turned by appeals. I dont even go near cities like east cleveland to purchase or to visit relatives because of the sleazy ticketing laws that we enacted. EVEN THE POOR RESIDENTS OF EAST CLEVELAND CANT AFFORD TO PAY? WHATS WRONG WITH THIS. WE GETS A RAISE OR EVEN HAVE A JOB AFTER GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE WITH FINANCIAL DEBT? I ONCED ASKED IF I COULD GIVE THE MONEY TO LOCAL CHARITIES WITHIN THE CITY TO HELP THE LESS FORTUNATE IN THAT CITY AND TOLD BY THE JUDGE, OH NO WE NEED THE MONEY IN CITY PURSE. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW MANY POCKETS DOES THIS FEED? THANK YOU

  3. The REALLY sad part is that if the cameras bring in any significant revenues, then it is certain that the yellow intervals are NOT timed for maximum safety. In almost every case, safer and longer yellow intervals will reduce red light violations by MORE than ticket cameras. Cities that use ticket cameras value revenue above safety and traffic enforcement should never be about revenue, only safety. This is why ticket cameras have never survived a public vote, because citizens see through the scam pretty quickly and vote them out if they can. See the science on our website. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

  4. it is really strange that the police dept has hired three wht officers in the past month and has over twenty officer persons on the pay roll. the chief is responsible for the police budget and his old I A internal affairs officers hired many officers who looked like him. I can not believe that the chief and mayor have allowed the city demographics to not match the police. I believe this has effected the way most of the citizens confront the police and deal with them. I do not believe that the officers there care about the city and its people. You will only see their faces when they need the community's help. Ask the chief about the three wht rankning officers who took TV's out of evidence. They took them home and then told the chief only after another officer told on them. They told the chief the took them home for storage because the entire city of east cleveland was tooo small and there was no room to store them. And it is funny now one of them is now the new I A internal affairs officer. The three officers are sergeants and above and they only received slaps on the hand. So when the mayor and chief get on TV it is only to act like they care. Just ask some of the officers if they are courageous enough to tell you the truth.

  5. Ask the4 police chief why they alledgedly gave his secretary a $10,000 raise earlier this year. And check into the background of some of the women on the payroll for the police, you will find that many are friends with benefits for the head guy or are sister's of the femaloe with benefits if you can read between the lines. so when these guys are on TV don't believe the hype. They will be getting the money in January from selling out the fight against Cleveland Clinic closing Huron. I guess norton thought he was a good guy and had their respect because he gave ccf the land on Euclid for free, so that they could build the Non 24 hour health center. Can you say third world. East Cleveland folks need to look knee deep into the police, finance and mayor's offices. Has norton given back the safety directors salary? or is he going to keep it. I find it funny again that he would not approve it for brewer but he did approve it when he was about to take over the office of mayor. How is the chiefs secretary allowed to go to tri c and work day shft in the city while she is in class? come on people know the thruth and fight them head on with the thruth