When Mats Järlström's wife got snagged by one of Oregon's red light cameras in 2013, he challenged the ticket by questioning the timing of the yellow lights at intersections where cameras had been installed.Are you familiar with the term PE, or Professional Engineer? In some disciplines of engineering, notably civil engineering, state governments started regulating who may design or sign documents accepting responsibility for designs. Wyoming appears to have been the first, in 1907. As an electrical engineer designing products for a few military and commercial suppliers, I've never needed to apply for a PE, so I never went through the process, but it's required in certain areas. For example, if someone is going to design a house, a PE must sign off on the drawings for the building inspectors. I like to think of it this way:
Since then, his research into red light cameras has earned him attention in local and national media—in 2014, he presented his evidence on an episode of "60 Minutes"—and an invitation to present at last year's annual meeting of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
It also got him a $500 fine from the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying.
According to the board, Järlström's research into red light cameras and their effectiveness amounts to practicing engineering without a license. No, really. Järlström had sent a letter to the board in 2014 asking for the opportunity to present his research on how too-short yellow lights were making money for the state by putting the public's safety at risk. "I would like to present these fact for your review and comment," he wrote.
- Teams that designed NASA's Saturn V or the SpaceX Falcon 9 - PE not required
- Team that designed the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkway - PE required
In this case, the Oregon State Board is saying that because Järlström doesn't have their blessing, he not only isn't allowed to look at their designs, it's illegal for him to do so. Järlström has sued the state, as you might expect, and is being aided by the Institute for Justice.
"Criticizing the government's engineering isn't a crime; it's a constitutional right," said Sam Gedge, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, in a statement. "Under the First Amendment, you don't need to be a licensed lawyer to write an article critical of a Supreme Court decision, you don't need to be a licensed landscape architect to create a gardening blog, and you don't need to be a licensed engineer to talk about traffic lights."It turns out the reliably leftist utopia of Oregon guards their authority over engineering quite jealously. The board
investigated a Republican gubernatorial candidate for using the phrase "I'm an engineer and a problem-solver" in a campaign ad. The candidate in question, Allen Alley, had a degree in engineering from Purdue University and worked as an engineer for Boeing (and, of course, wasn't trying to lie about his lack of an Oregon-issued licensed but merely was making a freaking campaign ad), butIn Järlström's case, what he did was what thousands of other engineers or techno geeks have done. He looked at the design for how long lights remained yellow, found it was outdated so he figured out how to make it work better. In stories like this, someone finds a better way, starts a company and sometimes even becomes the next Gates, or Woz or Musk. But not in Glorious Peoples' Republic of Portlandia. In Portlandia, it got him fined.
It doesn't stop there. In 2010, the state board issued a $1,000 fine for illegally practicing engineering to a local activist who told the La Pine, Oregon, city council that a proposed new power plant would be too loud for nearby residents.
The board once investigated Portland Monthly magazine for running a story that described a young immigrant woman as "an engineer behind Portland's newest bridge." The woman in the story did not describe herself as an engineer, but the magazine's editors included that description in the headline, the board concluded.
He did a little Googling and found the formula used to set traffic-light times. The length of time a traffic light stays yellow is based on a relatively straightforward mathematical formula, originally drafted in 1959. Mats realized that the formula is incomplete, because it fails to capture the behavior of drivers making right turns. After developing a modified formula and even corresponding with one of the formula’s original creators, Mats started to reach out to others in the scientific community, government officials, and the media.
It may be ridiculous, but it's classic leftist elitism. Much like how blessings from the wise and wonderful state magically grant "The Only Ones" in law enforcement the ability to always handle firearms with near-infinite wisdom and safety, the board is saying only their blessings in the form of their PE license magically allow thinking.