The controversy surrounding traffic enforcement cameras has been a big draw for people who post comments to Heraldnet.com. Some folks seem compelled to weigh in with opinions on nearly every story. Apparently that includes at least one vice president at an Arizona-based camera company.
A poster using the screen name "W Howard" has commented 43 times on our site since June. The unifying themes in these posts are that the cameras are good, that they are making the world safer and that anyone who says otherwise -- particularly Mukilteo initiative
activist Tim Eyman -- needs their head examined.
Some readers have suggested "W Howard" has been posting comments as part of a marketing campaign run by
American Traffic Solutions, Inc. The Scottsdale-based company contracts to provide enforcement camera services in Lynnwood and Seattle. It had
inked a similar deal in Mukilteo last year, then Eyman pushed for a public vote. Upshot: no cameras in Mukilteo, and a spreading movement around
Washington that has growing numbers of people asking questions about enforcement camera technology.
Heraldnet.com requires that people who wish to post comments supply us with a live email address at the time they create their user account. "W Howard" gave an address at American Traffic Solutions. It is one used by
Bill Kroske, vice president of business development at ATS. Somebody techie here ran down the internet protocol address that's being used for "W
Howard's" posts. The electronic trail led straight back to Kroske's company in Scottsdale.
Kroske pitched Mukilteo on the cameras. He recently was in Bellingham, suggesting a similar arrangement. He's been the public face of American Traffic Solutions in arranging camera contracts in Washington.
We wrote him Tuesday asking about the posts. Why not simply stand behind your product, out in the open?
That got a quick response from Charles Territo, vice president of communications at American Traffic Solutions. He didn't address whether Kroske is behind the "W Howard" posts. He did offer this statement:
"There is no coordinated effort at ATS to engage in commenting. However, it is not surprising that our employees like many other advocates feel strongly about the
benefits red light safety cameras provide. The views expressed by our employees are strictly theirs." He said any comments offered by ATS can be found on their
"ATS is not now and has not ever been shy about our support for the use of red-light safety cameras," Territo added.
"However, the only official positions from ATS come from our communications department."
Eyman chuckled when told about the Kroske connection.
"It shows a level of sophistication and manipulation," he said. " ... If you've got a product that everybody loves it is going to be self evident. You don't need to manipulate web sites, sounding boards and impersonate local folks to get the message out."
In a strange sort of poetic justice, other readers already have taken "W Howard" to task. You can read those comment threads
here, where he gets called out, and
here, where he confuses us with Canada -- and gets caught.
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