TRAVERSE CITY -- Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley took the call nearly a month ago.
On the other end of the line was Patrick Meyers, a well-connected political lobbyist from Lansing who wanted to speak with Bensley about traffic cameras at intersections, a tool, he said, to help catch red-light runners.
The cameras, Meyers said, might soon be allowed in Michigan under yet-to-be-introduced legislation.
“He wanted to know where we are on this,” Bensley said.
Bensley found the call curious. It seemed to him Meyers represented a camera technology company, yet he was talking about state legislation that had yet to be introduced.
Around the same time, Bensley said, his undersheriff, Nathan Alger, was in communication with a representative from the office of state Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, who apparently was going to introduce legislation to allow traffic cameras in Michigan.
“It made me ask, ‘Who’s driving this thing, anyways?’” Bensley said. “Is there a need for this in Michigan? Where are the statistics?”
Late last week, nearly four weeks after Bensley took Meyers' call, Schmidt co-introduced legislation that would give the green light for Michigan communities to install traffic cameras at intersections. Schmidt, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he introduced the legislation to give communities another option for improving public safety.
“This has been an issue Michigan has looked at for quite some time,” said Schmidt. “We’ve seen successes in other states.
“We think it could have an impact on public safety (but) it’s not a mandate,” Schmidt said. “It’s another tool to influence driving behavior and hopefully reduce accidents.”
Schmidt acknowledged that Meyers is a lobbyist who travels in Republican circles, but said Meyers hasn’t contributed a dollar to his political campaign. A Record-Eagle inquiry confirmed Meyers represented a national traffic intersection camera company, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions.