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Traffic Cameras Bring Tiny Ohio Village To A Stop

Ohio courts have upheld camera enforcement in some of the state's biggest cities as a legitimate exercise of local government power; the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments in 2008 on the city of Akron's speeding cameras and approved them.

Akron began its program in 2005 after a 5-year-old child was killed. Some 3,000 citations in the first few weeks elicited public outcry, and then a lawsuit filed by attorney Warner Mendenhall after his wife Kelly was ticketed. Mendenhall said he found in his research that camera enforcement is often inconsistently carried out, the cameras aren't always accurate, and that in many places, they are clearly used as a revenue booster.

Steve Fallis, the city's assistant law director, said Akron uses the cameras only in school zones, and motorists have visual warnings they are in use. Any net income from the $100 citations goes into a city safety fund, not for the general budget. And there is no fee for an administrative hearing to challenge a citation. Elmwood Place charged $25

Mendenhall, whose wife's ticket was tossed out by the city when she appealed a lack of signage at the time, isn't convinced the legality has been settled. Maybe, he said, Elmwood Place will be the launching pad for the challenge that gets the matter to a higher authority.

"To have this patchwork quilt of laws ... I really would hope that someone would take this on up to (U.S). Supreme Court," Mendenhall said.

Recently, passions in Elmwood Place have cooled a bit. At a June council meeting, fewer than a dozen people turned out.

Taking a cigarette break out back, Mayor Stephanie Morgan talked briefly and reluctantly about the controversy, which she described as "challenging."

She defended the cameras. "The speeding was just horrible," Morgan said. But asked whether her constituents agree that cameras were the best solution, the 39-year-old lifelong resident repeated the question aloud and said: "You'll have to ask them."

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