Something is rotten in Baltimore, and it isn't the fall leaves.
From the beginning of the city's speed camera program, there has always been something rather shady about how it has been operated and implemented.
From the closed door meetings between city officials and Xerox and then Brekford, to the placing of speed cameras a half-mile away from any school zone. Then there was the bounty system type of payment for each ticket issued that the city wrote into the contract with Brekford (even after it was deemed illegal by state officials). The defense for this was that the city was the primary operator of the speed camera system. (I would love to see that hold up in court.)
And then last but not least, there were all the problems with the cameras' calibration system, in which a percentage of motorists were being issued bogus tickets. This of course would never seen the light of day, if it weren't for the tenaciousness of The Baltimore Sun's reporters.
Now we find out that the city is not only going to give Brekford $600,000 to go away (with a non-disparagement clause written into the contract, no less) but is also going to buy 72 speed cameras for $2.2 million — cameras that seem to be of no use for catching speeders, but will be used to monitor traffic instead.
City officials would not comment on the split with Brekford or the test findings by URS Corp., an independent consultant brought in to study the faulty speed camera system. To quote the Baltimore City's Transportation Director William M. Johnson, "I can't really talk about those kinds of things. The chapter with Brekford and the past program is closed. We are moving forward now."
Isn't a public official like Mr. Johnson supposed to serve the public interests, and isn't this about public funds being used as well? Where is the transparency?
Now we have our Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pledging to move forward with a new but smaller speed camera system. I think that even if the city finds a good and reliable company to operate the new speed camera system, Baltimore has a very long way to go to prove that its intentions are just and fair in the operation of them.
So far the only thing that seems evident is that we cannot trust the intentions or the ability of city officials to do this, which leaves quite a stink in the air.
Christopher Winslow, Baltimore-
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