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Herald staff | needtoknow@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 5:15 p.m.

Meet reader 'W Howard,' undercover traffic cam exec

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 Facebook, Twitter or Youtube pages.

"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.

Here are some of his other greatest hits. Click on the links to go back to the original stories and comments.

Monroe, beware those Mukilteo rednecks:

Stick to your guns Council

This is not a backwoods city to be manipulated by a bunch of radicals manipulated by Slick Timmy Eyman. He may have buffaloed his home city, but don't let it happen here.

Jan 27, 2011 12:25 pm | 2 replies | Request removal

W Howard

Oh, he lives in Lynnwood:

Half cup empty

It is easy to get negative press by focusing on the money. The fact is that the traffic in Lynnwood is terrible. This is a transition city where people use our roads to get to and from other locations or bypass the freeway. My guess is that the vast major of violations come from people who don't live here - and have little motivation to care about the safety of the local residents. If these people don't mind breaking the law and are willing to donate to the city's budget need. That's our win and their loss...of course a positive headline of that nature would get the same press!

May 3, 2011 8:52 am | 0 replies | Request removal

W Howard

Or was it Everett? He just wants to prevent pedestrian deaths:

cameras

Like them or not, we need some traffic cameras in Everett. I thought they were suppose to be installed a year ago! Seattle has pointed out the cameras are for pedestrians as well as violating drivers. The data there says they have been successful on both counts.

Jan 2, 2011 6:41 am | 1 replies | Request removal

W Howard

And he's gotten a ticket:

A dose of reality

Well written, Sgt. Davis. I contributed once... paid my fine and learned a lesson. Now every time I see that flash go off I say to myself, "yup, another lesson learned" - at least I hope so.

May 4, 2011 10:42 am | 0 replies | Request removal

W Howard

But it's all about the kids, anyways:

Safety and Kids should be the focus

When technology is developed that makes us safer, we need to get our paranoia out the way and take advantage of it. The cameras have produced dramatic results in reducing people speeding through school zones; and the new school bus law (passed by one of highest margins in history) will allow cameras to catch people passing buses with the stop sign out while loading or unloading children. So suck it up Eyman and explain it to the parents and educators in your home town why they will not be able to make it safer for their children.

May 15, 2011 11:40 am | 2 replies | Request removal

W Howard

You can find the complete "W Howard" collection by searching Google for "site:heraldnet.com "W Howard""


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