Thursday Reads — Red Light, Green Light

First, the red lights.

Drivers around these parts will be smiling for red light traffic enforcement cameras by June, according to Rick Smith’s story topping The Gazette’s front page this morning. It’s all about keeping drivers safe by snapping pictures of red-light-running vehicles and slapping owners with a civil fine. It can’t be a criminal infraction because you can’t prove who exactly is driving.

But what was that other reason they’re being installed? Oh yeah, the City Council has already penciled in $750,000 in revenue from the cameras in its upcoming 2010 budget.

In West Des Moines, police have turned off the red light. Those days are over. You don’t have to sell your body to the night.

Actually, it was over abruptly for 13 guys busted in a prostitution sting that’s got the state chattering. The Des Moines Register has the goods on a police sting that caught the men at an apartment complex. Some of the names are familiar:

– Armando Villareal, 61, of Des Moines, director of the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs from Dec. 2005 to Sept. 2008. Villareal called the charges “totally false” Wednesday.

“It’s just going to devastate all of the good work that I ever did in the state, and it’s all based on allegations right now,” he said.

– David Vestal, 51, of Clive, a lawyer for the Iowa State Association of Counties. Vestal could not be reached for comment, but Bill Peterson, executive director of the association, said Vestal has been on a leave of absence since his arrest.

“Frankly, we’re not ready to make any comment on this situation,” Peterson said. “It’s a personnel and human resources matter.”

 So how about those green lights?

Several papers carry The Gazette’s story on locals and state officials who are optimistic that the time is finally near for passenger rail service from Iowa City to Chicago to become a reality. Iowa Department of Economic Development Director Mike Tramontina is even willing to bet us lunch that passenger trains will be running from Des Moines to Iowa City and beyond in five years.

He and others see hope in a big pot of rail funds included in economic stimulus legislation.

Speaking of pots of dough, Democrats in the Legislature unveiled a $100 million flood recovery package that includes money for flood prevention, buyouts, housing, cultural/historic projects and much, much more.  Republicans, however, were wondering why they weren’t invited to help craft the proposal, which would be paid for with bucks from Gov. Culver’s big bonding package and reserve dollars.

The Senate also approved a $175 million chunk of bonding yesterday, that includes money for corrections upgrades, lake restoration and improvements at the Iowa Veterans Home.

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