Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cheverly Residents Confronted Council on Camera Accuracy

We previously reported that the town of Cheverly had apparently received complaints about the accuracy of its new speed cameras and felt compelled to publish a response to those complaints.  It turns out some town residents were sufficiently unconvinced by the town's response that they contronted the town council about it in an August 12th town meeting.

One resident's comments were recorded as follows:
"regarding a number of citizens who received tickets, but did not believe that they were going that fast.  Asking to look at the results of the data of the tickets issued to see if the four of us that got tickets did not speed excessively.  We have one elderly person who said she never ever speeds in Cheverly."

Council member Schachter's argumentative and defensive** response to this was:
"I have a question and I am going to ask it.  I understand not having a fight with a citizen presenting an issue, but why are you not satisfied with the Mayor’s response.  I find it incomprehensible that you are presenting these documents in light of the response.  It has been explained to you that the speed of the vehicle is measured prior to the photographs." (**CM Schachter was recorded in prior meeting minutes saying "it doesn’t bother him one bit to make money to be used for additional public good. Can we lower speed limits around the schools?" )

Another resident did not find Schachter and the Mayor's answer acceptable: " is a very small distance between the radar and the camera.  You can see in the picture that nobody has on their brakes.  I was riding a motorcycle for the 2 tickets I got.  As you can see in this picture the bike has not applied brakes.  The difference between the laser and the photo is so little that I can not be going the speed noted down to 32 miles per hour.  It is not possible to go that change in speed without the brake light on."

We note that the concerns about camera accuracy in Brentwood and Forest Heights actually were not reported until September, and as such the Cheverly residents' complaints were not prompted by those reports.

In that same meeting the council members expressed concern that they had not realized their expected revenue, since they had not yet received approval to use speed cameras on State Highway 202.  During that discussion it was demonstrated how the distinction between spending on 'public safety' and other items was utterly meaningless because money could simply be exchanged to other items:
"CM Schachter  given that the installation of speed cameras on Route 202 is still an open issue and if not installed it will be a significant reduction in revenue.[...]"

"Mr. Warrington the funding here is not out of proceeds for speed camera enforcement.  This is not a public safety item and we are not moving forward on any items related to speed camera revenues. During the budget process the Mayor and Council were given charts that indicated Administrative Costs related to the speed cameras, Public Safety expenditures related to the speed cameras and regular Capital Improvement Program items.  They were color coded and these three vehicles were part of the regular CIP items.

CM Schachter I haven’t come to grips yet with an accurate understanding of this.  If there is Zero speed camera money and we need to spend for public safety which is a higher priority.  If we need a new police car and it was to be funded by the cameras and that money goes away then that money is in competition with the dump trucks.

CM Watson we have a list of CIP items that we are not going to move on because of the lack of camera revenue

Disappointed by the revenue shortage, the town apparently would in a later meeting debate asking some state lawmakers to intervene and change the decisions of the traffic engineers who were taking too long to approve their new revenue source.  The Agenda for their September 23rd meeting stated the following:
"10. Speed Camera Letter
     Decision Required: Whether to send the letter.
Attached is the most recent correspondence with SHA regarding Speed Cameras on Route 202.  Also attached is a proposed letter to the Town’s Senator and Delegates along with background information."

If you are concerned about seeing potentially inaccurate cameras deployed on yet another state highway by a town which openly wants to use them as toll booths we suggest writing to :
The Maryland State Highway Administration:; 1-800-543-2515 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            1-800-543-2515      end_of_the_skype_highlighting; or by web
Ask them to reject this application for speed camera use, and to open up their process for such applications to the public comment and review,