in Houston, Texas
American Traffic Solutions -- red-light camera vendor for Houston, Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving and Amarillo --- suspends exec for posting pro-camera comments under fake identity
Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 03:14PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
red-light camera sign

As far as anyone can tell, American Traffic Solutions Inc. has resorted only to the conventional lobbying method of throwing money around to grow its red-light camera business in Texas.

Until last week, at least one business development executive was making inroads in Washington state by cheerleading for the company and personally attacking opponents under an assumed name in dozens of comments left on the website of a local newspaper, according to a story in Seattle Weekly.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., company suspended Bill Kroske -- or W. Howard, as he signed his posts -- after a tech zen master with The Herald of Everett, Wash., traced W. Howard’s Internet protocol address back to American Traffic Solutions.

Company president and CEO James Tuton told The Herald in a statement that Kroske had been suspended.

“We appreciate this issue being brought to our attention and want to be clear: we do not encourage or condone the kind of behavior your investigation seems to have uncovered,” Tuton wrote. “ATS is disappointed and embarrassed by these actions. Such a lack of disclosure violates not only ATS company policy, but also our core values. While we share in the commenter's passion for red light safety cameras, we also recognize the importance of honest engagement. The employee in question has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation.”

After Kroske’s exposure, a local red-light opponent Kroske had referred to in posts as “Slick Timmy Eyman” sent a congratulatory e-mail saying The Herald "has done the public a great service: They've exposed American Traffic Solutions for the total sleazeballs that they are."

However, other red-light commentators on the Herald’s website have suggested that American Traffic Solutions has implemented this novel anonymous public relations blitz on lots of other newspaper websites around the country. As yet, no other paper has investigated.

By less anonymous measures, red-light cameras are big business and American Traffic Solutions a significant player. Through this month, 538 American communities paid companies to install and operate red-light cameras, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Sixty-one of those communities, including Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, are in Texas.

Houston voters in November rejected the cameras, and the city filed suit to end its ATS contract.

American Traffic Solutions boasts on its website of having 230 customers and installing 2,100 systems nationwide. Of those 61 Texas cities, ATS represents 26, including Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving and Amarillo, according to a map provided to Texas Watchdog by the company.

The company apparently isn’t done in Texas. Two legislative sessions ago American Traffic Solutions hired no lobbyists under that corporate name, according to legally required lobbying reports kept with the Texas Ethics Commission. For the 2009 session, the company hired two lobbyists at contracts of less than $10,000 each.

For this session, however, ATS has retained five lobbyists, one with a contract valued at between $100,000 and $149,999; two with $25,000 to $49,999 contracts; one with a contract of from $10,000 to $24,999; and one for less than $10,000, according to Ethics Commission records.

We assume that these five lobbyists have registered with the state under their real names.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of red-light camera sign by flickr user fringehog, used via a Creative Commons license.
Comments
mm
Tuesday, 05/24/2011 - 11:57PM

They don't even try to sync up the timing on the lights, so you often don't have time to stop between the yellow and the red. And since you can't LEGALLY stop in the intersection while driving, I always stay behind the line (at a green) until I see I have room to pull out. Then others in front of you slam on their breaks, leaving your hind end out there to get red light tagged. Stacking the deck so the house always wins may be good elsewhere, but I hope Texas stays out of this style business.

Highwaymen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highwayman A highwayman was a thief and brigand who preyed on travelers.

Henry
Wednesday, 05/25/2011 - 03:50AM

It doesn't stop with "W Howard" (Kroske). He was just one of ATS' spokesmen. There's at least one other, and he is potentially much more dangerous. He is Mark Rosenker, former chair of the NTSB. Having retired from the NTSB he now is Senior Advisor to an ATS-supported pro-camera group based in Texas. Taking advantage of his ('til now) top notch credentials, Rosenker has been granted numerous pro-camera "guest columns" in newspapers around the country in which he mentioned his current position as Senior Advisor to the National Coalition for Safer Roads but never disclosed that the NCSR is supported by ATS.

ATS is also behind "citizen supported" pro-camera websites you'll find in towns where the company is entrenched. The best article about the concocted sites is at bancams dot com. To find the article, put "stupid" in their search box.

Henry
Wednesday, 05/25/2011 - 02:35PM

ATS' sneaking around doesn't stop with Kroske. He was just one of ATS' spokesmen. There's at least one other, and he is potentially much more dangerous. He is Mark Rosenker, former chair of the NTSB. Having retired from the NTSB he now is Senior Advisor to an ATS-supported pro-camera group. Taking advantage of his NTSB ties, Rosenker has been granted numerous pro-camera "guest columns" in newspapers around the country. In all of the columns he mentioned his current position as Senior Advisor to the National Coalition for Safer Roads but never disclosed that the NCSR is supported by ATS. Nor did he or anyone else mention that early in his career, he did electronic monitoring for CRP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President (Nixon).

And it doesn't stop with Rosenker. Bancams dot com has shown that ATS is behind many of the "citizen supported" pro-camera websites you'll find in towns where the company is entrenched. To find the bancams article, put "stupid" in their search box.

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