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Sunday, October 26, 2014

I thought it was all about safety....

And if you believe that one....

I'm not naive enough to believe the push to install red light cameras had anything to do with other than making money. A rule that is as chilled in stone as The Ten Commandments, if a politician says "Well, it's not about the money...", it is first, foremost and always about, the money.

On the subject of money, a few years ago I was readying about a city with a bit of an issue. It was either Dallas or a suburb of Dallas that had installed red light cameras "to decrease the running of red lights" and increase safety. Well, guess what, it worked. People stopped running those red lights and fewer tickets were issues....wait, fewer tickets. That's less money!

The city said the problem was the program was costing more than it took in with ticket revenue. But I thought the point was safety, not to mention the fact you won't be using emergency crews for the accidents. Gee, who would have thunk it!

Now from the other 3rd World nation in our nation's capital, the District of Columbia. Seems like they have a "revenue problem".
Declining traffic-camera revenue threatens to unbalance D.C.’s budget

Revenue from tickets issued by the District’s network of traffic cameras has declined dramatically over the past year, potentially throwing the city budget out of balance, the chief financial officer warned Monday.

With less than two days left in the city’s fiscal year, CFO Jeffrey S. DeWitt said in a letter to District officials that revenue from fines and forfeitures may end up more than $70 million under projections if the trends hold — a significant chunk of a $6.3 billion local budget. The bulk of the shortfall comes from fines issued through red-light and speeding cameras, which have been the subject of rancorous public debate as their use has proliferated in recent years.

The city expected to collect $93.7 million through automated traffic enforcement in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but as of the end of August, the cameras had generated only $26.1 million, according to preliminary cash reports issued by DeWitt’s office. That is a drop-off of 62 percent from the nearly $70 million the city had collected by that point in 2013.

DeWitt didn’t pinpoint a reason for the lagging revenue, noting only that fine revenue had been “projected to increase because of the rollout of new automated enforcement equipment.”

Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), said in an e-mail that fewer tickets have been issued this year for a variety of reasons, including delays in deploying some new devices, higher speed limits on some streets and more motorists obeying the law.

“And we don’t view any of this as a bad thing,” McCoy said. “As we’ve said all along: the purpose of automated traffic enforcement is to improve public safety and save lives, not to raise money.”

But the implications for the District’s budget are considerable: The city had projected it would collect $156 million in camera revenue in the coming fiscal year. Should final tallies expected in December confirm a precipitous decline this year, officials may have to cut $50 million to $70 million in spending from next year’s budget.

The news prompted D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) to take his fellow city leaders to task for being too dependent on ticket revenue in balancing the District’s budget.

In a statement, Mendelson said the revenue projections “add to the black eye” around the camera program delivered by a recent D.C. inspector general’s report that suggested it was more about filling city coffers than maintaining public safety. He noted that the council tried to lower camera fines in 2012 but “couldn’t reduce the fines as much as we wanted because of the revenues that would be lost.”

“The District’s budget should not be dependent on the fines of speeders,” he said.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, an outspoken defender of camera enforcement, said in a statement that she saw in the new figures proof that the cameras are working: “As I have said many times, we usually see significant reductions in citations issued in the first few months of deployment. This demonstrates that drivers are changing their behavior.”

“Our goal is traffic safety,” she continued. “The fact that infractions are going down is a good thing in my view. Automated traffic enforcement is and always has been about safety. We deploy technology as needed.”...

No surprise that politicians are counting their chickens before they hatch with the red light revenue. But two things struck the hell out of me. Washington DC has a population of 646,000, is physically 68.3 square miles, fields a police force of 3800 and with a budget of 6.3 freaking billion dollars they are running a deficit because of "red light camera revenue"! Compare that with my town of Houston, which has a population of almost 2.2 million spread over 627 miles, fielding a police force of around 5300, and this city does it on a budget of 4.5 billion. And D.C.'s problem is not enough money?! What a crock of S$%^.

Well, I may have another thing to check out. I checked the D. C. city government website and it shows for a relatively small city, the city council ain't small. Eight council members from the wards and five at large positions, plus a Chair Pro Tempore. Again, compare that to the Houston City Council, which, for a city four times as large in population and ten times as large in land, has a city council of five at large members and eleven district representatives.

Maybe the District of Columbia should look at trimming the fat before they look at choking the golden goose anymore. Naa. Like their big brother on Capital Hill, the only "cut" is a reduction in the rate of growth. The last time I visited D.C. was in 1992, playing tourist at the Smithsonian Museum. And it is disgusting that in our nation's capital we cannot walk safety. And the mismanagement shown by this article shows why.

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