Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gazette: City budget problems over! Oops, not really

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Chacon: Bringing you all the latest news he dreamed up last night.
  • Chacon: Bringing you all the latest news he dreamed up last night.

Break out the beer and cheese balls. According to Gazette sage Daniel Chacón, the city's money problems are over.

That's right, the story spread across our local daily's front page today was headlined, "4 intersections likely will have an eye in the sky." But once you actually read the story, it's clear the headline should have read, "City to be saved by wealth of crummy drivers."

According to Chacón, whose math skills have long been the envy of Indy staffers, the city expects to hand out about 5,000 tickets each month to red-light-running drivers at each of the four intersections where new public safety traffic cameras will be posted. That would mean about 166 tickets at each intersection every day. Which means, by the way, that Springs residents must be nuttier drivers than Parisians.

It also means that the city will soon be rolling in it, because at $75 each, all those tickets would add up to $18 million a year. Sure, the city would have to pay the contractor that provides the cameras some of the windfall — but even so, we'd still have enough cash to water the parks, pay for community centers, restore bus routes and hire more cops and firefighters.

It all sounds so awesome. Too bad city spokesman John Leavitt is such a party pooper.

“That’s obviously not accurate," he says of Chacón's predictions of great fortune. “I don’t know where he gets his stuff from.”

In fact, Leavitt says, Police Chief Richard Myers has said that he doesn't expect the new program to bring in any money for the city. Myers would be happy if it brought in enough cash to pay the camera contractor, while making some of the city's most dangerous intersections a little safer.

Says police spokesman Sgt. Steve Noblitt: "You shouldn't believe all that stuff you read in papers."

He says it's possible that Chacón attempted to use his math skills to manipulate data from a small traffic study done in the Springs. If that's the case, Noblitt says, Chacón must not have much of a grasp of how statistics work. (And his editors certainly didn't bail him out, either.)

Otherwise, Noblitt says, it's impossible to tell where Chacón got his number of 5,000 citations a month at each intersection. It certainly wouldn't have come from the police department.

“As far as predicting how many people will run the red light ... I’m not sure how we would be able to predict it,” Noblitt says. Sounding more than a little like Leavitt, he adds, “I have no idea where [Chacón] got that [number].”

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