03/03/2011 11:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Missouri State Senator Fights To Ban Red Light Cameras For Reasons That Are Not Ironic At All [UPDATE]

Traffic light cameras: their proponents say that they are a powerful deterrent to red-light runners, fostering public safety and alleviating burdens on law enforcement officials. But these cameras are opposed just as fervently by those who complain that their public safety impact is negligible, and anyway, whatever happened to freedom? Well, in Missouri, at least one man is standing up to the threat these cameras pose.

That man is state Sen. Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis), who, with the backing of an organization called WrongOnRed, is working to get red light cameras banned in Missouri. Per the Columbia Daily Tribune:

On Feb. 10, 2010, Lembke sought an opinion from Attorney General Chris Koster on the legality of red-light cameras because of "an issue that has recently come to light." He wrote that the local ordinances conflict with state law requiring the reporting of moving violations and asked whether it was "the opinion of your office that these local ordinances should be challenged" and the state's right to assess points for moving violations be asserted.

"This is a battle I am taking on for the people of Missouri," said Lembke.

He sure is passionate about this issue! It makes you wonder what may have happened to precipitate this fervor. Oh, what's that, Columbia Daily Tribune?

St. Louis cameras caught one of the four cars registered to Lembke driving through a red light on Jan. 9, 2010. The notice of the violation was issued Jan. 20, 2010. He said he returned the notice with a statement that he wasn't driving the car. He said the video of the violation only shows the back of his car and the license plate.

"I received two more notices after that, and I responded in the same way," he said. "When you say that, they want you to rat out the person who was driving."

He will not reveal who was driving his car, he said.

Oh, so that's how this became "an issue that recently came to light." Well there you have it. Jim Lembke: passionate about banning red light cameras ever since about a month ago, when someone driving one of his cars was caught running a red light!

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I erred when I said "about a month ago," because I apparently forgot that it is not, in fact, 2010 anymore. My mistake, and I regret it.

Matthew Hay, from WrongOnRed, writes me to say:

As for Senator Lembke, this is what I know. I have been working with him since 2009, when he filed his first bill in the beginning of 2009 to ban Red Light Cameras, well over a year prior to the alleged violation. This is not a new crusade of his. When he refers to "new information coming to light," this most likely is the memo, which can be found on my site here: which was written to American Traffic Solutions CEO James Tuton, from Stephen Chinn from Stinson, Morrison, Hecker (ATS's legal counsel) advising Mr. Tuton that what they were proposing was illegal under Missouri law. It was on the specific question of assessment of points as requires by 302.225 RSMo, and if you look at the Senator's request, this is exactly what he asks. This memo only came to light as it was part of the discovery in the Hoekstra v. City of Arnold, Missouri Federal Case and was obtained around that same period.

The relevant excerpt from the memo on which this request was likely predicated can be found here. Unfortunately, the Columbia Tribune did not fact check, and the Author Rudi Keller refuses to issue a clarification.

All well and good. My take on the irony of Lembke's investment in the issue still stands.

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