From the October 2002 Idaho Observer:


D.C. Mayor says cameras will make money for the city

Within the context of this particular edition of The IO, where we are finding adequate fuel to question the intentions of every person in America holding a position in government, we find the story below refreshing in a rather perverse way. At least D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams is honest about his desire for cameras in traffic: His city needs the money. The other aspects of corruption, mismanagement of public funds, the unconstitutionality of surveillance and traffic violations aside, at least Williams admitted that he needed a new, more invasive mechanism through which he can transfer what remains in people's wallets and purses into the coffers of government where it belongs.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he wants to expand the use of traffic cameras because the city needs the money.

“The cameras are about safety and revenue, and the way not to pay that tax is to not be speeding,” Mr. Williams said.

The mayor's comments were a change from earlier this year, when Mr. Williams told a radio audience in February that the purpose of the traffic cameras was to “calm” dangerous streets -- not generate revenue for the city.

The latest comments also contradict months of disavowals by Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who has steadfastly contended that the cameras are about safety, not revenue.

But on yesterday's “Ask the Mayor” program on WTOP Radio, Mr. Williams said looming fiscal problems forced the city to get creative in closing a potential $323 million budget deficit.

“The only reason we're looking at the enforcement with revenue figures is because we're in such a bind now,” Mr. Williams said.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, who has been skeptical of the city's electronic law-enforcement programs, said the latest expansion is a clear indication that the city is starting to see the cameras as revenue sources.

Mr. Williams also discussed on the program his ongoing budget negotiations with the council. He said he is still hoping to gain support for a surcharge tax for the wealthy.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, said there is no support in the legislative body for income-tax increases.

Williams appeared to back off the initiative, saying, “I'm turning to my own counsel and the people to determine whether I should continue to put up this fight.”

He said he turned over his final proposal to the council yesterday. The council will hold hearings on the revised budget today and vote on the new fiscal package Tuesday.

The budget plan includes significant cuts in new spending, and several more cuts for city agencies.

The mayor and the council also have put in several revenue generators, such as an increase in the cigarette tax, and fees for 911 service and fire-code violations, as well as the expanded traffic-camera program.

The new budget must be in the hands of Congress by Oct. 2.

The expanded camera program was part of the mayor's budget proposal submitted to the D.C. Council this week. The plan calls for five additional speed cameras, bringing the city's total to 10, and exercising the speed-camera function in the District's existing 39 red-light cameras.

The “Speed on Green” program will use New DSL Internet Access from SBC & Yahoo!