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September 6, 2012

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This week the Red Bank City Commission will vote on a proposal from Mayor Monty Millard to take down traffic light cameras at several intersections in order to encourage more visitors to the tiny little town no one really has a reason to visit in the first place (unless, of course, they live there).

Red Bank currently has cameras at three of its major intersections that snap pictures of the license plates of drivers who either cross the big white line as the light turns red, or don’t come to a full stop before turning right on red. Then, as I understand it, a third party vendor figures out the offender’s name and address and sends them a ticket for $50 in the mail. I should know, as I was caught one time when the light turned “orange.”

For a while there, Red Bank was making a tidy sum from this system. However, new state laws have been enacted that prohibit the collection of fines for not fully stopping at a red light before turning right if a traffic camera photo is the only evidence of such an infraction. Therefore, revenue generated by these cameras has drastically reduced, rendering already highly unpopular police work essentially unprofitable as well.  

By the time this article is published the city commission’s vote will likely have taken place. Regardless of the outcome, I’m sure we all have our own opinion about these cyber ticket-takers, as well as Red Bank in general.

Over the course of my adult years, I’ve owned two homes in Red Bank. Both were purchased due to the “good deals” the city’s older, charming homes have to offer, in addition to their superb convenience to downtown. And, growing up I spent a lot of time at church and friend’s homes in that area. But I must say that I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Dayton Boulevard.

Regardless of the more recent traffic light cameras, the “boulevard” for many unfortunate souls is a necessary evil for getting from point A to point B, and the town knows it. That’s why the shotgun-straight, four-lane thoroughfare maintains ridiculously low speed limits and police who are camped out ready to pounce on anyone who exemplifies an inkling of lawless behavior.

Taught to new drivers turning 16 since the dawn of time, Red Bank isn’t where you drive five miles over the speed limit, attempt to navigate even after just a rinse of alcohol-based mouthwash, or turn right on red—ever. But now the mayor wants to change all of that to entice more visitors to town.

The city has already spent a good portion of their traffic camera ticket proceeds and other tax revenue to fund new sidewalks and streetlights along the boulevard in order to make the quaint town a little more inviting. However, I’m having a hard time understanding where a visitor might visit if they do decide to show up.   

Red Bank does have its coups for sure. They have the now-rare Radio Shack, the area’s best Ace Hardware, and great restaurants like Amigo’s, Crust and Mojo Burrito. All of those places, however, are in a little cluster at the very south end of town—a stone’s throw from the Chattanooga city limits sign. In fact, the only reasons I can think of to keep going north up Dayton Boulevard would be to pick up my daughter (who now drives, so that’s out) or maybe to grab a bite at Typhoon of Tokyo. What else is there to do in Red Bank?

Nothing. That’s why Red Bank chose to adopt the traffic light cameras in the first place. They needed revenue and since many use Dayton Boulevard as the gateway between places that actually do have something going on, they decided to make it a little easier to run up a toll for doing so. But that’s like tripping over dollars to pick up dimes, and apparently the dimes just didn’t add up.   

Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.

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September 6, 2012

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