Last month, a group calling itself the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) obtained a great deal of exposure for red light cameras through the “National Stop on Red Week” publicity campaign. Several police departments around the country participated, with most news reports treating the issue as a public service announcement. Documents show the group coordinating this effort, NCSR, is controlled exclusively by the photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS).
As previously reported, NCSR is the creation of David Kelly, the head of the public relations firm Storm King Strategies, and ATS is just one of Kelly’s many clients. According to congressional records, Kelly has received at least $580,000 since 2009 to lobby in favor of ticketing for the National Safety Council; for legislation mandating ignition interlocks on behalf of interlock manufacturers; and for reduced CAFE standards on behalf of Jaguar-Land Rover.
Documents incorporating NCSR Inc as a nonprofit entity in the state of Missouri confirm that NCSR is anything but the independent campaign of “victims, parents, medical professionals and first responders” as the group’s publicity material suggests. NCSR’s board of directors instead consists of three individuals: James D. Tuton, ATS president; George J. Hittner, ATS General Counsel; and Charles Territo, ATS spokesman.
While NCSR’s website does mention that it is “supported by American Traffic Solutions,” it fails to disclose the complete control ATS has over the entity’s operations. Matt Hay, former city councilman for the city of Arnold, Missouri and creator of the WrongOnRed website, suggests NCSR is, in effect, misusing public funds.
“In Missouri, we had public officials on the public payroll filming commercials and participating in other advertising for the National Coalition for Safer Roads,” Hay told TheNewspaper. “With the revelation that these two entities, American Traffic Solutions and National Coalition for Safer Roads, are the same, it raises real concerns over the legitimacy of what amounts to propaganda they produce as well as the ethical issue of public employees advertising for a private firm on taxpayer time.”
For Stop on Red Week, NCSR released a glossy, 18-page manual for elected officials and police chiefs to use to celebrate the benefits of red light cameras. It included sample letters to the editor, press releases talking points and city council resolutions. Those playing ball with the effort have been rewarded with highly lucrative jobs. John Wintersteen, the former chief for photo radar pioneer Paradise Valley, and Ron Reagan, the former state representative responsible for legalizing cameras in Florida, both are now part of NCSR-ATS.
Each new city that signs up for a photo ticketing contract represents millions in revenue for ATS. In 2005, the firm attempted to trademark the phrase “Safety Pays.” A copy of NCSR’s incorporation filing is available in a 550k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Certificate of Authority, Foreign Non-profit (State of Missouri, 2/23/2011)