Saturday, February 28, 2009
It is true that there is a legal requirement that money from speed cameras be spent ONLY on public safety,with the wording of HB443 which authorized the cameras stating “Montgomery County shall use the revenues generated from the enforcement of speed limit laws as authorized under this Act solely to increase local expenditures for related public safety purposes, including pedestrian safety programs”. As such this is a requirement which cannot be violated without breaking the law, and is not merely not a casual promise. Legislators have used this requirement to sell the program to the public and assert that it is not a "cash cow". But the reality is that this restriction is meaningless and that money is NOT being spent according to the letter or spirit of the law, and is instead being used for various pet project.
Chevy Chase village decided that purchasing a new Segway, a locker room, and an office for their police chief constituted “public safety improvements”. Minutes from Chevy Chase village show those items were purchased directly from the safe speed fund. These items were described in the minutes of board meetings from November 10, September 8, and July 14, 2008. Other items such as “underground utility conduits” designed to hold electrical and cable TV lines have also been authorized under the fund, which are general operating expenses unrelated to safety. In one Chevy Chase Village meeting, it was shown that the Chevy Chase Village and the Montgomery County governments considered the speed camera funds to be usable for almost any expense when: "Task Force Chair Robert Jones and Mr. Podolsky advised that the County's Senior Financial Officer had opined that portions of most of the Village's potential capital projects could possibly be funded from revenue derived from the Safe Speed program under the parameters of the speed camera legislation." The fact that this might violate the law is apparently irrelevant because the Village government believes they will never be held accountable for that.
This practice was not limited to Chevy Chase Village. The City of Rockville apparently budgeted $1,010,000 out of their speed camera fund on an item labeled "RECREATION AND PARKS PROGRAM AREA". At the county level, the situation is actually worse because there is currently no tracking of speed camera funds at all. In a recent Montgomery County council session, Council President Andrews stated: "There's not a way to specifically account for how the money is being spent. It goes into the General Fund."
Moreover, little if any of the money has been specifically designated for traffic calming devices. For example, Chevy Chase Village has not installed new traffic calming devices on Connecticut Avenue since the installation of the cameras. The failure to reinvest this money in this particular road should be galling to citizens who live outside Chevy Chase Village. Connecticut Avenue is officially designated a “State Highway”, meaning it is maintained by the Maryland State Highway Administration with funds coming from ALL Maryland taxpayers. All of the revenue from the Connecticut Avenue cameras is currently going to the Chevy Chase Village government, not to the benefit of residents in the rest of the county or state whose tax dollars pay for the maintenance of that road. There are only 2000 residents in Chevy Chase Village, and the median income is the median household income is in excess of $200,000, compared with $87,624 for Montgomery County and $68,080 for the state of Maryland (information from Wikipedia). In early 2008 the Connecticut Avenue cameras were bringing in $250,000 per month to the Chevy Chase Village government, whose entire annual operating budget was about $4.5 million.
In other locations where speed cameras are present, EXISTING traffic calming devices have been allowed to fall into disrepair. There are two “your speed” radar indicator signs directly in front of Wooton High School near the two speed cameras at that location, which had been there before the speed cameras were installed, but as of Feb 26, 2009 both of those speed indicator signs were apparently non-functional. Studies have shown speed indicator signs to be highly effective at reducing both speeding and accidents. However when combined with speed cameras they would also tend to reduce camera revenue by reducing the number of inadvertent speeding violations.(ADDENDUM: On 03/05/2009 both of the referenced speed indicator signs were replaced with new ones of a different model. The signs were still non-functional on 3/04. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank our visitors from the "Montgomery County Government" domain for their frequent readership of our website.)
Local governments continue to treat legal requirements as mere guidelines which can be used for PR purposes but ignored whenever desired. Other important restrictions in the law have also been ignored by Montgomery County. Right now many promises are being made as new legislation is being pushed to authorize statewide speed cameras. Given the history of these cameras, a little healthy skepticism by the public might just be in order.
Update 03/11/2010: For Chevy Chase, add $9.722 for a copy machine, as a "public safety improvement".
Monday, February 16, 2009
If nothing else, hundreds of drivers were able to release their pent-up frustrations by "honking against scameras". For those who would like to do more than that, there are many things that you can do.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Date: Sunday, 2/15/2009
Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm (max)
Place: Chevy Chase Village in Montgomery County, MD at the Connecticut Avenue speed cameras
Take the beltway to Exit 33, Connecticut Avenue/hwy 185 South towards Chevy Chase and drive 2.1 miles south. The cameras are between Oxford Street and Melrose St, at the Chevy Chase Country club.
If you reach the traffic circle, you have gone too far, turn around and go back up Connecticut. Find street parking on Melrose/Newlands/Oxford or other streets to the left (east), but look for no-parking signs signs.
Newlands Street forms a small “island” along Connecticut avenue which is between the two cameras. This will be our meetup point and main staging area. Please try to arrive no later than 1:00.
What we will be doing:
We will have a 12′ anti-speed camera banner, and some posterboard signs ready to go. We will be holding up the banner and signs. We’ll have some fliers and take pictures and video.
Contact StopBigBrotherMD@gmail.com if you have any questions or need more information.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
According to Maryland state lobbying disclosures, the company which runs Montgomery County's speed camera program, Texas based ACS State and Local Solutions, currently retains a team of at least 8 lobbyists at one of the state's most successful lobbying firms, Alexander & Cleaver. The State Ethics Commission releases an annual report on companies spending over 50,000 on lobbying activities, and ACS has been on that list each year from 2006-2008.
In 2007, prior to the nearly successful statewide speed camera bill, they spent $144,346.74 on lobbying activities. ACS spent an additional $81,460.13 in 2008 through October 31, 2008 on this effort. ACS's lobbying activities during the 2008 general Assembly included $6286.13 on two banquets at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on January 29 and February 6, 2008 for members of the House Environmental Matters Senate Judicial Proceedings, House Appropriations, and Senate Budget and Taxation Committees.
It will not be known how much they are spending during the 2009 legislative session until after the General Assembly ends in April.
Texas Based ACS (under the names Affiliated Computer Services and ACS Government Committee) made campaign contributions in 2007-2008 to the following Maryland officials:
• Governor O'Malley (who is pushing the statewide speed camera bills)
• Senate President Mike Miller (who sponsored the 2008 and 2009 legislation)
• Comptroller Peter Franchot (who oversees state contracts).
• John L. Bohanan Jr, ( District 29B, St Mary's County Delegate and Deputy Majority Whip )
The company which provides camera hardware to ACS, Traffipax (which is the US subsidiary of Robot Visual Systems based in Monheim, Germany), paid $50,000.00 on lobbying activities in 2007. Insurance companies are also weighing in heavily, with State Farm Insurance Companies, Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, Nationwide Insurance Company, and the Maryland Insurance Council all making the list of big lobbying spenders in 2007 and 2008.
Meanwhile, local governments hoping to cash in on the revenue have used public funds to hire lobbyists. Prince George's County hired the firm "Darryl A. Kelley & Associates, LLC", listed "speed monitoring systems" as one of 4 subjects, and reported spending $47,500.00 in taxpayer dollars on the effort in 2008. The City of Bowie made a similar disclosure, listing speed cameras as one of 6 topics which they paid the firm "O'Malley, Miles, Nylen, & Gilmore, P.A." a total $37,000 in taxpayer dollars to lobby for in 2008.
The Montgomery County government did not specifically disclose any lobbying spending for more speed cameras. However they do use taxpayer funded resources as part of a PR campaign for the Safe Speed program. The County Council and County Executive (all of whom belong to the same political party) control the content broadcast over Cable County Montgomery, which receives approximately $2million in taxpayer dollars annually, and which frequently broadcasts PR pieces for the Safe Speed program without inviting critics to present opposing viewpoints. Montgomery County also uses taxpayer funded police resources to respond to letters and emails sent to the County Executive. StopBigBrotherMD.org has confirmed that using police resources to respond to letters on this POLITICAL subject is a standard practice for the county executive, and we wonder whether he ever reads any of the many letters which are critical of the county’s position.
The scales are somewhat imbalanced. For anti-speed camera efforts, StopBigBrotherMD.org pays $10/year to register its website plus a trivial amount for sign-making materials for DC.CameraFRAUD’s upcoming demonstrations. But then again, we're not trying to get your money.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 – 7:30 p.m.
Board of Education, Board Rooms A & B
10910 Route 108, Ellicott City, Maryland 21043 See public announcement at: http://www.columbiaassociation.com/pdfs/Public_Notice_Hearing_Statewi...
Also, DC.CameraFraud is planning a public demonstration on February 15th in Montgomery County. If you wish to participate please Email Us for details.
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- Woman Gets 3 Tickets from DC Without Going There
- Legislature Raises Gas Tax
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- PG County Court Presumes All Defendants Guilty
- Town Releases Documents Proving Errors With Optotraffic Cameras
- Man arrested for asserting innocence in speed camera hearing
- Optotraffic Representative Caught Speeding
- Driver Uses Carchip to Challenge Optotraffic Camera
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