Council Approves Expansion of Speed Camera Program
Amendments allow use of mobile cameras.
UPDATED (9:11 p.m.) — A controversial bill to expand speed camera enforcement in school zones was approved by the County Council Monday night by a vote of 5-2.
The final vote fell along party lines as expected, with Republican Councilmen Todd Huff and David Marks voting against an amended version of the bill supported by five Democrats.
"I'm happy," said Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill. "I think it's an opportunity to slow down traffic for our kids."
"Law-abiding citizens need not worry," Quirk said. "If you're driving the speed limit, you've nothing to worry about."
Prior to the final vote, the council approved two amendments by identical 5-2 votes.
The first amendment, sponsored by Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, allows the county to install a nearly unlimited number of cameras in school zones around the county.
Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, sponsored an amendment that removed language requiring the county to notify individual council members of cameras that would be placed within their districts. The amendment also removed the ability of individual council members to veto the placement of those proposed cameras.
"I believe that's how (the bill) was originally intended," Olszewski said.
Don Mohler, a spokesman and chief of staff for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, praised the removal of the veto language.
"It ought to be the police department suggesting where the best use of these cameras should be," said Mohler.
Roll call on bill 1-.11 to expand the county's speed camera program:
|Tom Quirk, Democrat, sponsor||First||For|
|Vicki Almond, Democrat||Second||For|
|Todd Huff, Republican||Third||Against|
|Ken Oliver, Democrat, co-sponsor||Fourth||For|
|David Marks, Republican||Fifth||Against|
|Cathy Bevins, Democrat, co-sponsor||Sixth||For|
|John Olszewski Sr., Democrat, co-sponsor||Seventh||For|
Huff and Marks had supported both of the requirements stripped out by Almond's amendments.
"I'm really disappointed," Huff said of the amendments. "I thought I'd have something I could use to get them out of my district."
Huff said he believed aggressive lobbying efforts against Almond and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, an Oliver Beach Democrat, hurt chances of keeping the veto language in the bill.
Last week, a group called Campaign for Liberty sent e-mails to Republicans calling Almond and Bevins wicked witches and Almond a "nut" who terrorizes her district.
Patrick Hussey, who described himself as "one of the key leaders of the group," told Patch last week that the e-mail was political satire intended to rally Republicans to his organization's efforts to defeat the bill.
Campaign for Liberty is a conservative group that supports small government.
"I feel like if (Campaign for Liberty) didn't attack some of my colleagues, things would have turned out differently tonight," Huff said.
The bill will take effect on Feb. 20.
Mohler said it has not been decided how many additional cameras will be purchased by the county.
The final vote Monday comes days after county officials announced it would exercise a one-year option to extend the current contract with ACS State and Local Solutions.
The Dallas-based company was awarded the contract after the county piggybacked off an existing Montgomery County contract rather than bid it out. The company has been paid nearly $1 million — about 81 cents of every dollar in fines collected by the county.
The extension does not mean the county cannot bid the contract out for a year. The agreement can be terminated after a 30-day notice, Mohler said.
"We have every intention of bidding out this contract," Mohler said, adding that he could not provide a specific timeline for when that would occur.
"It's complicated to put out a bid of this magnitude," Mohler said.