The city manager and staff presented “How I Spent My Speed Camera Funds” to the council Oct. 25. Those happy, snapping speed cams have earned a chunk of change for the city over the last fiscal year. They grossed over 2 million dollars! That’s before the camera vendor payment and other expenses. Still, the city was left with almost a million bucks! That’s a nice sum in these days of budget-bludgeoning.
Not that making money is the purpose of the speed cameras. No, no! Safety! The purpose is safety!
Still, the council likes having a revenue stream that doesn’t flow through the state and county’s constricting locks and channels. The fees will pay for three police positions in 2011, among other things.
The city is restricted to spending the revenue on traffic safety measures, but that covers a lot of things – and frees up tax revenues that otherwise would have been spent on them. In 2010, the camera fees paid for a police officer, traffic calming installations, speed bumps, ADA compliance work, and sidewalks.
Hanging On The Corner
As a result of all the traffic safety projects the speed cams fund, the Public Works Department spends a lot of time hanging out on street corners. That’s the impression Your Gilbert got as we watched Public Works director Daryl Braithwaite’s “before” and “after” slide show of each 2010 curb and sidewalk improvement project.
There were a LOT of them. Tons of wet concrete have been glomped, scores of straight-angled curbs have been made curvy, and scads of sidewalks and ADA compliant ramps have been molded — all paid for by those evil little speeders on New Hampshire and Ethan Allen Avenues.
Some days the council gathers at the roadside and dreamily watches the traffic, like steel barons gazing at their profitable domain of factories, mills, and forges. Or maybe they don’t, but we like the mental image.
Drivers take note, two more cameras are coming soon, possibly as soon as November, one on University Blvd., and another on East-West Highway. That’s pending state approval.
By the way, it came out that rental cars, by state law, are exempt from speed camera fines. So, Dear Readers, if you want zoom around at 90 miles an hour and never get a ticket – get a car-rental! We could start a rent-a-car drag race league out on New Hampshire Avenue, and nobody could touch us!!
Looks like we got a little free-speech problem here in Takoma Park.
The Supreme Court says money is free speech under the Constitution – a finding that has been a big boon for corporate interests. Isn’t it nice to know, then, that the Constitution is also looking out for the indigent? Lack of money is also free speech!
That’s what the city staff concluded when, as part of an update of the city code, it reviewed the law that forbids begging on the street. Forbidding any kind of speech would be unconstitutional, they feared. The best they can do, they said, is replace it with a law against aggressive behavior.
Rumors had it that the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) wanted to purchase an apartment on Flower Avenue in Ward 4 for a homeless center. They said the city council was set to approve it in a vote at their October 25th meeting. Erroneous wording on the city’s agenda contributed to (or probably started) the rumors.
But, the rumors had it wrong! The property is already owned by the MCCH – for a year now. The city council was voting whether to support a funding request for renovations.
Another thing rumors got wrong was that it won’t be a homeless shelter, it will be permanent rental housing for senior disabled people – mentally disabled, that is. But, they will have been judged capable of living independently and will be in a “continuum of care program,” a MCCH representative told the council.
Councilmember Reuben Snipper diligently posed all the questions he had been asked by alarmed constituents, though he made it clear he supported the housing project. The council voted unanimously to support the MCCH’s bid for funding.