No Speed Racer No!

Dear Readers

The city’s speed cameras will “go live” on St. Patrick’s day, says Mayor Bruce Williams. There will be a 2 week period in which people will receive warnings, then around April Fools Day, fine-levying tickets will be issued. At the same March 9 city council meeting councilmember Josh Wright asserted that pedestrian safety, not income generation, was the motive for installing the cameras. The reverse has been claimed by a number of local cynics writing on community listserves and certain blogs. Wright said that the city’s share of the income (a percentage goes to the independent contractor who sets up and runs the cameras) will only be spent on pedestrian safety.

The Mayor pointed out that the county speed camera located in front of the Takoma Middle School has caused traffic to slow noticeably on that section of Piney Branch Road. He was implying that traffic would also inevitably slow to legal rates of speed on those sections of New Hampshire and Ethan Allen Avenues where the city has placed its cameras.

Of course, the city doesn’t want to quell speeding entirely. They want each camera to issue at least 185 tickets a month. Any fewer would mean that the contractor would be earning less than $2229 monthly from that camera. If that happens for two months out of six, a contract clause kicks in allowing the contractor to negotiate for a different rate.

So, while safety may be the city’s motive, profit is clearly the contractor’s, and neither party really wants a 100% decrease of unsafe driving on those roads.

Marc Elrich gave another one of his periodic reports on the county council to the city council. Elrich, a former Takoma Park city councilmember, was a bit wistful about his former colleagues’ lighter work load, but the smug council told him he was stuck with his current job.

Elrich was unhappy about the “losing public relations battle” over a proposed county ordinance concerning ambulance fees. The public perception is that the county council wants to charge the cost of an ambulance ride to every unfortunate person who gets one. The proposed bill, says Erlich, actually charges insurance companies, and waives the bill for uninsured people.

With that bill apparently doomed, one alternative is to raise taxes to cover the costs, he said.

Yes Men (and Woman)
Like the Easter Bunny on amphetamines, the council hopped through a bunch of ordinance readings, unanimously passing all of them. Here’s the list, Dear Readers, see if you can read them as fast as the council voted on them. Ready? Go!

The council authorized a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for a Maple Avenue apartment building purchased last year by the county for an affordable housing project, awarded a contract for Park Avenue Improvements, amended the city’s ethic’s code, authorized speed humps in the Pinecrest Area, and another speed hump on Ritchie Avenue, added a section on provisional voting to the city charter, and designated the deputy city manager as “Resident Agent for Service of Process.” That last one is to meet the requirement of recent state legislation that every “governing body” in Maryland have such a designated agent.

All in favor say “Let’s get home at a reasonable hour tonight!”

– Gilbert

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

4 Comments on "No Speed Racer No!"

  1. “Elrich was unhappy about the “losing public relations battle” over a proposed county ordinance concerning ambulance fees…With that bill apparently doomed, the only alternative is to raise taxes to cover the costs, he said.”?
    Well if that doesn’t sound like the old trick: plant a foil issue over there (while very softly saying “please don’t worry, it does not affect you, directly”, as if insurance companies would gleefully pick up the whole tab, for those who are insured that is) while preparing the real alternative, to raise taxes again! Somehow, I have a hunch that the revenues from ambulance fees would be dwarfed by the revenues from a tax increase. On the City Council, Elrich was already quite the master at that game, he is now in very good company! Raising taxes again! Now he has the excuse of the downturn, what was his excuse last in the last few years that he has been on the Council (hasn’t he voted in favor of a tax increase above the charter not too long ago, a decision that led to the success of the Ficker amendment last elections?)

  2. Tom Gagliardo | March 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm |

    Oy! I’m down to “Oy”.

  3. Hmmm, perhaps saying “only alternative” is imprecise. We were reporting the sense of what he was saying, not the exact words. Of course there are other alternatives, such as cutting county services. We have edited out “only” and replaced it with “one” in the above text.
    Your Gilbert’s impression of Elrich through his career as a city councilmember is that he was always fiscally conservative, often turning a fierce eye on proposed expenditures and tax increases.
    – Gilbert

  4. Steve Davies | March 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm |

    The speed cameras are a joke. I’d much rather see cameras placed at every entrance to (gateway) and exit from (go-away) Takoma Park. That way if someone commits a crime and drives to another jurisdiction, we can AT LEAST get a shot of the car and maybe the license plate. Or cameras in high-crime locations — Takoma Old Town, apartments, etc. That would probably get the civil libertarians up in arms, however.
    1. Ethan Allen Avenue: Is it really possible to get more than about 5 mph above 25 on that stretch? With the endless traffic (see Junction, Takoma, for example of traffic lights designed to maximize wait time and pollution), the stop signs, and ample sidewalk space, the placement of a camera there makes no sense to me whatsoever.
    2. NH Avenue: Unless people are jaywalking, I’m not sure of the efficacy of cameras in that location. In addition to which, the equipment — big box, tall pole for the all-seeing eye in the sky — is located ON THE SIDEWALK. So, the pedestrians we purportedly care so much about will have to walk around the equipment that is there for their benefit. (Wonder how much electricity it uses?) On one side of the structure, of course, is NH Avenue, so don’t trip folks!. Check it out next time you drive by; I hope the folks at the firm that is being paid to figure out where Takoma Park has, and does not have, sidewalks will not overlook that stretch.
    An aside–same deal with the Takoma Branch sign at the corner of Poplar and NH avenues. It’s blocking part of the sidewalk. So much for pedestrian safety and the ADA.
    3. Piney Branch: A bit better case for the cameras here, but it does not address the safety of people crossing from Lee Jordan field to the other side where they’ve parked their cars (technically not pedestrians). It’s still difficult to time your dash, what with cars appearing over the crest to the left and others coming down the hill from the right.
    4. DWBP: Driving while being photographed. Didn’t Chief Ricucci say you only get a ticket if you are 11 mph over the limit? So on NH Ave., you’d have to be going 46. Does that mean speed limits are, essentially, meaningless? Also, weren’t we all taught to drive with the flow of traffic, never mind those strict (and self-righteous) observers of the posted speed limit? Yet because of these new revenue-generating devices, I’ve had people slow down precipitously in front of me, causing me and others behind me to slam on the brakes. One example was when I was on NH going south, just past the light at Sligo Creek. The camera is there on the right.
    It’s positioned to catch the most people, naturally. But you really have to keep your foot on the brakes to keep from going above 35 along there.
    I don’t think a solid public safety argument has been advanced for any of these cameras.

Comments are closed.