WATERLOO — The City Council has rejected a request from the Waterloo Human Rights Commission and NAACP for time to review a proposed traffic ticket program.
Council members voted 6-1 Monday to approve the second reading of an ordinance creating new municipal fines police officers can issue instead of state traffic tickets.
Councilman Pat Morrissey cast the lone vote against the ordinance after he and Councilman Jerome Amos were unable to convince other council members to postpone the matter until July. The final ordinance reading is set for next week.
Supporters of the proposal, drafted by Councilman Bruce Jacobs, said the local citations would be less costly to motorists nabbed for speeding and other traffic violations and would funnel the fine revenue currently going to the state into the city budget.
Others suggested the Human Rights Commission review the plan to ensure the new ticketing process wouldn’t unfairly penalize the city’s minority populations.
“The Human Rights Commission would just like an opportunity to review the effect of the proposals,” said Eric Donat, the commission chairman. “And we’d like to put it through our racial equity review process to see who it might effect.”
Resident Terry Stevens said the review was important given racial tensions across the country and perceived racial profiling by some law enforcement officials.
“I implore you to take a closer look at not only the potential of increased revenue for the city … but also the possible ramifications associated with this new ordinance and how quotas, racial profiling and the safety of citizens might be impacted by the number of tickets issued,” she said.
Police Chief Dan Trelka said the new tickets will improve public safety while lowering the fines for those who commit violations.
“We have a speeding problem in Waterloo,” Trelka said. “This gives us a tool to address not only that speeding problem but the issues that are causing our crashes — blowing red lights — and the issues that are causing our deaths.”
A state ticket for speeding at 11 mph over the limit costs a resident $222 in fines and court costs, adds a black mark to their driving record and nets no revenue for the city. The proposed officer traffic citation for the same offense will cost a motorist $75, not go on their driving record and will be paid to the city.
“This is a means to hold people accountable without crucifying them,” Trelka said.
Mayor Quentin Hart said he felt misinformation was generating concerns about the ordinance.
“We’re changing the way that we process the tickets that we do have, and it’s not a larger burden on the person that ends up getting the ticket,” he said.
Councilwoman Margaret Klein said she saw no reason to delay adopting the ordinance.
“This is immediate relief to the citizens of Waterloo, just so immediate,” she said. “I would rather pay a quick $75 fine for a simple little traffic mistake than a ($222) fine with the potential of it going on my record, plus messing with the insurance company wanting to raise my rates.”
Abraham Funchess Jr., executive director of the Human Rights Commission, said the request to review the ordinance wasn’t based on anything he viewed as overtly wrong with the idea.
“Well-intentioned individuals at times make decisions that on the face may look good,” Funchess said. “But in the end, it could have a potential deleterious impact on members of a community.”