Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton is angry.
He's angry because he wants electronic traffic ticketing, and he wants it yesterday.
In late May, Eagleton pitched the idea to his fellow councilors as an idea for police to save time, money and lives, and said every day that passes in which such a system is not implemented amounts to "essentially sitting tacitly by while cars are crashing into each other."
Eagleton's frustration comes from having been told by all concerned that it's a good idea, but it's not an idea that's moving forward with any apparent resolve.
"I don't want kind words and a pat on the back--I want to see this happen," he said. "This was high and center, but then they just said, 'OK, we'll get around to it.'"
Officer Jason Willingham, spokesman for the Tulsa Police Department, said the idea of a paperless ticketing system has been tossed around for years within the department, and everyone agrees that it's something that needs to happen.
For those who haven't had any recent run-ins with Tulsa traffic police for speeding and other infractions (unlike a certain reporter), tickets are currently written by hand--sometimes legibly--with copies rendered through various layers of carbon paper.
The city's copies are then hand-carried to the court where they're scanned into a database.
With an electronic system, though, officers could type the information into a computer, with a copy printed on the spot for the offending driver while the information is transmitted instantaneously into the city's computers, thereby saving time and money by saving paper and writing time, and reducing the possibility of lost tickets.
Eagleton said the current carbon-copy system is "as antiquated as the horse and buggy," noting that the private sector stopped using it decades ago.
"Only in ticketing is carbon-paper still used for printing purposes," he said.
The councilor said the time and tedium of writing paper tickets is the biggest impediment to traffic enforcement, and an electronic system would be faster and more accurate, enabling officers to write more than twice as many citations.
The increased traffic enforcement, Eagleton said, would result in saved lives as well as a "synergistic effect" on reducing city expenditures.
With fewer traffic accidents, he said there would be fewer ambulance runs, less property damage and fewer impediments to the efficient flow of traffic on Tulsa streets.
Meanwhile, auto insurance premiums would go down, as well as private expenditures for property damage, he said.
"There's no good reason not to do this," Eagleton added.
While all concerned agree that it's a good idea and long overdue, Officer Will Dalsing of the Crime Analysis, Planning, Evaluation and Research section said the biggest obstacle is the estimated $300,000 in start-up costs for the system.
However, during Eagleton's latest pitch to the City Council, representatives from the Michigan-based ETC Technologies said they would cover the start-up and equipment costs in exchange for a cut of the traffic fine revenue.
With such an offer on the table, Eagleton is wondering why the city isn't taking bids for the project right now.
In mid-July, the anxious councilor sent a memo to Mayor Kathy Taylor, asking her to light a fire under the appropriate bureaucrats to get the ball rolling.
"I have been informed by an individual on the Electronic Tickets Team that it will take approximately one year to implement an electronic ticket system," he wrote. "I have reason to believe this could be done in a far more expedient time frame. It would be my pleasure to discuss this with you to explore alternative options."
Eagleton told UTW, "Within 36 hours, an RFI (request for information) went out," but he said such a move was "buying time to stall" on the project.
"We've already given these people two RFIs, and all they have to do is use some white-out to change the dates, and it could be turned into an RFP ('request for proposals' from private vendors to bid on the project) like that," he said.
Eagleton was reluctant to point out who the "key log" might be in this particular logjam.
"The Mayor has done everything she can do, short of lopping off heads, and I don't think she can do that--it might be a civil rights violation," he said, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
"I don't blame anyone in particular--I blame a system that does not move a smart policy forward," the councilor added.
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