Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Maryland Speed Camera Legislation

Three more speed camera bills have been submitted to the General Assembly in Annapolis. First, the statewide speed camera bill, similar to the one previously submitted to the state senate, has been submitted to the House of Delegates as HB0313. The sponsors of this legislation are:

MICHAEL ERIN BUSCH, Speaker of House of Delegates (Democrat, District 30, Anne Arundel County)
State House, H-101
Annapolis, MD 21401 - 1991

(410) 841-3800, (301) 858-3800 ,1-800-492-7122, ext. 3800 (toll free)
WILLIAM A. BRONROTT (Democrat, District 16, Montgomery County)
House Office Building, Room 411
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3642, (301) 858-3642,1-800-492-7122, ext. 3642 (toll free)
5500 Beech Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 896-0003; fax: (301) 656-0441

CHERYL D. GLENN (Democrat, District 45, Baltimore City)
House Office Building, Room 314
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3257, (301) 858-3257
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3257 (toll free) e-mail: 3301 Belair Road, Suite 2B, Baltimore, MD 21213 - 1228
(410) 563-0228

TOM HUCKER (Democrat, District 20, Montgomery County)
House Office Building, Room 220
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 841-3474, (301) 858-3474, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3474 (toll free)

ROGER MANNO (Democrat, District 19, Montgomery County)
House Office Building, Room 226
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3883, (301) 858-3883, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3883 (toll free)

MAGGIE McINTOSH (Democrat, District 43, Baltimore City)
House Office Building, Room 251
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3990, (301) 858-3990,1-800-492-7122, ext. 3990 (toll free)

In addition, local bills have been submitted to the House and Senate under the labels HB0396 and sb0388. That local bills would give Baltimore only the ability to set up speed cameras, however anyone who visits Baltimore is affected by this. The sponsors of these bills are:

CURTIS STOVALL (CURT) ANDERSON (Democrat, District 43, Baltimore City)
House Office Building, Room 314
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3291, (301) 858-3291, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3291 (toll free)

RUTH M. KIRK (Democrat, District 44, Baltimore City)
House Office Building, Room 426
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3802, (301) 858-3802, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3802 (toll free)
e-mail: 200 South Arlington Ave., Suite 211, Baltimore, MD 21223 - 2672
(410) 659-9914

MAGGIE McINTOSH (Democrat, District 43, Baltimore City)
(See HB0313)

BARBARA A. ROBINSON (Democrat, District 40, Baltimore City)
House Office Building, Room 315
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3520, (301) 858-3520, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3520 (toll free)

Senate Bill 0388:
NATHANIEL J. McFADDEN (Democrat, District 45, Baltimore City) Miller Senate Office Building, Room 422
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3165, (301) 858-3165, 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3165 (toll free)
3301 Belair Road, Suite 2A, Baltimore, MD 21213 - 1228
(410) 563-4500

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The new Darnestown speed cameras are not the only ones where citizens have complained about the extreme closeness of the cameras to the speed cameras to a significant drop in the speed limit. According to an article in the Potomac Almanac, defendants have gone to court to challenge citations issued by cameras on River Road in Potomac where the speed limit drops from 40 to 30, and the location of a speed camera van was just 100 yards (3-4 seconds driving time) past the 30mph sign.

According to that article, "the judge told everyone contesting their camera tickets that the only acceptable "not guilty" plea was if someone else had been driving their car at the time the ticket was issued, and to present that driver." This demonstrates that
  • the current law regarding speed camera has been interpreted by judges as placing the burden of proof on defendants
  • that the district court judges are NOT considering valid defenses about the fairness of speed camera locations or of the legality of the tactic being used by Montgomery County
  • that defendants are being considered guilty until proven innocent, that drivers are effectively being subjected to trial by machine,
  • that everything the county and state have told us about getting a fair, impartial hearing is a pack of lies
When confronted with the issue of placing cameras extremely close to a drop in the speed limit, the county defended the practice and indicated that there is no regulation in the law that specifies the distance between a posted speed limit sign and a speed camera. Therefore anyone driving in Montgomery county must assume that this will be done more and more in the future, and that we will be subjected to zero tolerance photo enforcement. Given the speed camera legislation which is before the General Assembly RIGHT NOW this may very soon apply to nearly every road in the state, not just Montgomery County.

If you do not find this acceptable and want to help us stop this FRAUD against local and visiting motorists, please CONTACT US.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Battle Stations! Statewide Speed Camera Bill Submitted to Maryland Senate

Senate Bill 277 was submitted to the Maryland Senate today at the request of Governor O'Malley. This is the first speed camera bill officially introduced in 2009. This bill is apparently based on the legislation which came withing a hair of passing in 2008. It would authorize every county in the state to use speed cameras on roads up to a 45mph speed limit, and also on highways in temporary "work zones".

We are still in the process of analyzing it, but we immediately noticed that this bill still included the following change from existing law:
(6) “Speed monitoring system operator” means [an individual who] A
monitoring system.

This is the same change referred to on the legislative wrap-up of the 2008 bill, which was designed to grandfather in Montgomery County's alleged contract loophole, and deny the accused the right to request the REAL operator to appear in court, by allowing the counties to specify any person they want as the operator, rather than someone who has anything to do with the PHYSICAL operation and maintenance of the device.

The sponsors of this Big Brother legislation are:
Senate President Mike Miller (Democrat, District 27, Calvert & Prince George's Counties)
State House, H-107
Annapolis, MD 21401 - 1991
(410) 841-3700, (301) 858-3700
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3700 (toll free)

Senator Jennie M. Forehand (Democrat, District 17, Montgomery County)
James Senate Office Building, Room 223
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3134, (301) 858-3134
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3134 (toll free)

Senator Katherine Klausmeier (Democrat, District 8, Baltimore County)
James Senate Office Building, Room 103
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3620, (301) 858-3620
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3620 (toll free)

Senator Douglas J. J. Peters (Democrat, District 23, Prince George's County)
James Senate Office Building, Room 121
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3631, (301) 858-3631
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3631 (toll free)

Senator James Robey (Democrat, District 13, Howard County)
James Senate Office Building, Room 120
11 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3572, (301) 858-3572
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3572 (toll free)

Two other speed camera bills which would authorize cameras in only Prince George's County (PG 309-09) and Howard County (Ho.Co. 06-09) have been drafted and will be submitted soon.

The battle lines are drawn. Anyone willing to join the fight to Stop Big Brother please Contact Us.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Anti-Speed Camera Victory in Arizona, Red Alert for Maryland

Pinal County Arizona has officially thrown out its speed cameras. Newly elected Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, whose platform included a pledge to eliminate photo radar, followed through with his campaign promise and canceled the county’s contract with Redflex Inc, and the county board of supervisors voted 3-0 of support the decision and cancel the contract . "I'm against photo speed enforcement completely," Babeu said, "Here in Pinal, it's failed miserably."

Arizona has the most extensive photo radar deployment in the US , but a growing tide of public resentment against the cameras has resulted. The group has led the charge against the speed cameras and has been collecting signatures for an initiative that would give Arizona voters a chance to ban all forms of photo enforcement on both the state and local level.

Meanwhile, Maryland is on red alert, with the 2009 General Assembly now in session. This is the month window of time when state legislators are able to pass new laws to limit personal freedom and increase the power of government. Legislators from PG County and Howard County have introduced legislation to extend cameras to those counties. And Governor O’Malley has pledged to reintroduce the legislation which nearly passed in 2008 which would have allowed speed cameras on almost every road in the state. And Montgomery County is attempting to introduce legislation which would allow photo enforcement of railroad crossings (which can cause confusion for motorists since they do not have "amber lights" and the amount of time they have to react before the camera fires is unknown), and another which would give each local city and town the ability to have speed cameras without oversight by the county. Now would be a very good time to take action to let state and local officials know you do not want this expansion of surveillance against ordinary drivers.

Montgomery County is proceeding to rapidly install new cameras, including some which were obvious traps. As a result, acts of quiet protest and civil disobedience like the one in this photo have become commonplace (this one was spotted by a reader near a new speed camera location being added on Quince Orchard just east of the intersection with rt 28, scheduled to go online around 1/29). To help give speed camera opponents a voice, CameraFRAUD is setting up a branch in the DC metro area. However, they can only light a candle in the room, and they need your help to stop big brother!

The next Montgomery County town hall meeting is scheduled for January 28th at 7:30 at Kingsview Middle School, which is one opportunity for Montgomery County residents to express their views to the county council on the subject. You can also write or email them.

Photo Citation Images Used To Embarrass Drivers has discovered a marketing presentation created by ACS State and Local Solutions – the contractor for Montgomery County’s Speed Camera Program -- which included photos of drivers apparently taken from photo enforcement tickets which showed drivers engaged in embarrassing activities. These images clearly showed the drivers’ faces and engaging in “driving distractions” such as talking on cell phones, driving with “no hands” and one driver who was, yes, picking his nose. We have censored the image for the sake of our more sensitive readers and the privacy of this unsuspecting motorist.

This presentation was located on the website (which is partially funded by ACS) under the file name “Burke ACS.pdf” (ACS apparently deleted this after several months when they discovered that people were viewing it from our site, but there is a copy HERE, see pg 59-60. Sorry ACS, but once its out there, its out there). The images were apparently used for marketing presentations to local governments, and since they were on the internet, were publicly viewable, exposed to search engines, and could have been reproduced anywhere without limits. The preceding slide showing the same driver included a “Gatsometer” reading, and was clearly taken from a photo-enforcement image. Apparently ACS feels that it is acceptable to sift through red light and speed camera violations looking for the most embarrassing images they can find, and then post them to the internet for marketing purposes.

In Montgomery County, currently images are taken from the rear of the vehicle, with tickets issued to the vehicle owner regardless of who is driving, but in many other locations images are taken from the front. Even from behind, it is possible to inadvertently capture things not related to the violation itself. For example, when some Montgomery County Police refused to pay speed camera citations in 2008, a member of the Montgomery County government apparently leaked to the press that speed camera images allegedly showed an officer defiantly extending their middle finger at a camera, and also the name of the officer involved, apparently with the goal of embarrassing the police union into compliance.

ACS, whose business units deal with a variety of personal data, has a history of data breaches as well. In 2007, ACS had a data breach involving 2.9 million health care records including names dates of birth, and social security numbers. In 2006 another ACS breach put the personal data of 21,000 student loan borrowers were at risk. Since ACS processes the violations from the Montgomery County's speed cameras, they necessarily are given access to personal data for hundreds of thousands of drivers.

We wonder what other things Montgomery County's speed camera contractor might find it acceptable to selectively reveal for non-violation-related purposes, or whether ACS has any plans to begin photo-enforcement against nose-pickers for “safety”.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Montgomery County Unable To Cover Up SCAM

Three months after vigilantes painted warning signs saying "SCAM" on roads near several Montgomery County speed cameras, the large stenciled letters are still visible. Though the county apparently tried to obliterate the writing, these photos show that an alert individual can see that the SCAM is still present. This is strangely symbolic of the Montgomery County Government's illegal speed camera contract. On March 15th 2008, County Executive Ike Leggett stated in response to a question about why the county was paying its contractor a 40% cut of the speed camera revenues by stating "Under the contract, we pay a flat fee". About 2 weeks later, the Washington Times broke a story showing that the county's contract with ACS State and Local Services paid the contractor a $16.25 per-ticket fee, in contempt for a provision of article 21-809 of the Maryland transportation code forbidding paying contractors on a per-ticket basis.

In response to later questions, the county executive stated on March 15th that the county was renegotiating it's contract to avoid the "appearance of impropriety". Then on September 22, the city of Takoma Park was allowed to join the contract under the same per-ticket-payment terms, showing that the county was still perfectly willing to extend the existing illegal contract terms.

NOW, the Montgomery County delegation to the general assembly is attempting to push another deception. First, by passing a minor change to the wording of the law which authorizes speed cameras and the terms of the contract, maryland voters are supposed to believe that the cameras will no longer be used as cash cows. At the same time, the county has started installing more cameras in Montgomery County specifically placed to trap motorists who do not react very quickly. Also, we are expected to now trust our lawmakers to pass legislation which expands speed cameras to the rest of Maryland, even though in 2008 they demonstrated bad faith by voting for statewide speed cameras AFTER the county's contract terms were known to members of the delegation, and by trying in 2008 to pass a subtle change to the legal definition of a "speed monitoring system operator" which might have grandfathered in the county's contract terms and stripped defendants of any right to request a physical operator to appear in court. Fortunately they failed in that "cover-up" as well.

The next Maryland General Assembly is about to begin on January 14th, 2009. Legislation authorizing the expansion of speed cameras to the rest of Maryland will be voted on. Those who see through the deception by local and state officials need to take action now and write to their state representatives.

Friday, January 9, 2009 Comes to DC, Maryland, Virginia

The Scottsdale Arizona based activist group was started in 2008 to oppose photo enforcement in that state. They have met with considerable success, growing to over 700 members, holding regular protests, and creating significant headaches for local photo enforcement contractors. Recently, newly elected Sheriff Babeu of Pinal County Arizona, who had run on the platform of eliminating photo-radar in that county, started a new branch

CameraFRAUD is now opening new branch in the DC metro area, This site will serve to protect drivers' rights in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. StopBigBrotherMD is looking forward to supporting this effort. We invite other freedom minded citizens to visit that site and join the fun.

Life is about to become much more interesting in Maryland and the District. The cameras are coming down!