Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baltimore County Citizens Speak Out on Speed Cameras

This past Wednesday August 19 Baltimore County held a public hearing in Towson to discuss a plan to introduce speed cameras into “school zones” throughout the county, which by the definition allowed in the law includes all roads coming within 1/2 mile of any school. The recently passed Senate Bill 277 authorizes such cameras in every county in the state starting October 1, 2009, but requires local legislation to authorize it in each county before they can be used. Many residents expressed their views for and against the cameras. A participant in the meeting gave the following account:

Delegate Lafferty set the tone by "chastising" the attendees for voicing their complaints now instead of before the State vote, and how "we the people" care more about protecting our unsafe driving than about "the children". This bill is about safety not money. Later, it was mentioned that a generous estimate is that the county could see 100 Million/yr in revenue if a full scale camera deployment is carried out.

Chief Johnson reinforced that tone by citing various national and state accident statistics. When asked about how many accidents could be specifically tied to schools zones, he did not know. When asked how many injuries involved school children, he did not know. The chief repeatedly pushed that the cameras would only be used during a 7AM to 8PM timeframe, and "only" within a half of a mile in schools. Later, an attendee presented a large scale map graphically showing the roughly two hundred public and private schools in the county, and that the potential coverage would encompass nearly a third of BaCo, including a nearly 100% ring around Balto City.

When there was some discussion about how the machines would be operated and paid for, “Many were shocked later in the meeting, when it was told that 50% of the take was to go to the private contractor. “ implying that Baltimore county is contemplating a contract arrangement similar to the one in Montgomery County.

The Baltimore County Council will vote on Council Bill 61-09 authorizing the use of the speed cameras locally on September 8, 2009. The plan calls for an initial deployment of 7-12 cameras -- however like Montgomery County’s program this number is likely to grow substantially every year. This bill will be discussed by the council in a hearing on September 1 at 2pm. Members of the Maryland chapter of "Americans for Prosperity" are planning a rally in Baltimore County to express their opposition to the cameras.

Baltimore County Speed Camera Resources:
Baltimore County Council Bill 61-09,
Baltimore County "Safe Speed" program,
Maryland Senate Bill 277