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Councilman says speed camera investigation will be “independent”

Kraft asks Mayor for hundreds of pages of documents

The City Council moved ahead last night with plans to investigate Baltimore’s trouble-plagued speed camera program, calling on city agencies to appear before them, introducing legislation to give them the power to administer oaths and issue subpoenas and delivering a letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asking for hundreds of pages of documents.

Councilman James B. Kraft, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which will be conducting the investigation, asserted at the Council’s regular Monday meeting, that his committee’s efforts to probe on speed cameras will be unimpeachable.

“We’re clearly moving forward with an independent investigation here,” Kraft said. He noted that he will be meeting with City Solicitor George Nilson to discuss his request that the City Law Department provide counsel to the committee.

“Permanent counsel has not been assigned yet,” Kraft noted in his two-page letter to the mayor requesting documents. “”I will recommend the hiring of someone outside of his office.”

Speaking from the floor, Councilman Carl Stokes offered a sharp comment on that subject.

“There should be quite the arm’s length between this investigation and the Law Department,” Stokes said. “It, frankly, is the Law Department that is at the center of this.”

Stokes had sought unsuccessfully to have his Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee conduct the investigation. An attempt to do so again last night failed on a voice vote.

“I am disappointed, as well as many outside this room, with the gamesmanship that is pervasive on this particular bill,” he said, echoing previous critical comments on the process.

Tickets Issued to Dead Motorists

City officials had said that the speed camera program, shut down in April amid reported errors, that the system had a low error rate.

Khalil Zaied, then director of the Department of Transportation, told The Baltimore Sun the rate was “less than a quarter of 1%.” A subsequent audit obtained by the newspaper found error rates higher than 10%.

Ragina Cooper-Averella, of AAA Mid-Atlantic, described some of the reported problems with the program in a recent op-ed.

“We know that speed camera citations have been issued to deceased motorists and ‘signed’ and authorized by a deceased police officer,” Cooper-Averella write. “Motorists have been cited for speeding in school zones when they were not moving at all — including a AAA Mid-Atlantic roadside assistance truck, which was cited for going 57 miles per hour in a school zone, despite being stopped at a red light. Others have been cited in a ‘school zone’ where there was not even a school.”

Kraft’s letter seeks 31 sets of documents pertaining to the former speed camera contractors Xerox State and Local Solutions and Brekford Corp., as well as URS Corporation and Century Engineering, two consultant groups.

Expense reports, fiscal documents presented to the Finance Department, canceled checks and many other kinds of documents are specifically sought.

Kraft said he hopes, via Bill 14-0325, “Oaths and Subpoenas,” to clarify his committee’s powers, which he said should include being able to petition the Circuit Court to issue contempt of court orders against individuals who fail to comply with committee requests.

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  • davethesuave

    Let the maneuvering begin. When’s the next mayoral election? Don’t matter; it’s never too late to start. Krafty. Jacko. Strokes. It’s gonna be bad. Mary Pat’s the only one worth a damn; and she’s too smart to run.

  • wellbrad

    The mayor asserted on Midday today that refunds were issued for faulty speed camera tickets. Any idea if that’s accurate? Rodricks had not heard that before, nor have I.

  • baltimorebrew

    ((Usha Nellore asked us to post this poem & “semi-true story” for her. -fs))

    THE STORY OF SANCHEZ AND THE SPEED CAMERA
    Sanchez told me he drove a truck for Sears,
    He has two kids and a pregnant wife,

    she works for a pittance in the county,
    between the two of them they could afford little–
    in the way of luxuries they have none

    but they were happy they had jobs,
    they paid their bills, they were not in debt,
    and they controlled themselves-
    when it came to spending
    they were conservative.

    But the speed cameras of Baltimore

    swooped on him–

    took his pictures while he drove–
    past the same red light–
    on the same street
    the camera, surely wouldn’t lie–
    clicked him, he was told–
    speeding– he was slammed

    with three consecutive tickets

    issued in Baltimore–he was speechless
    when his boss called him to tell him
    he would be let go–

    He was a careless driver,
    one ticket tolerable,
    two tickets already way over the limit,
    but three tickets?

    No, No, No!
    Now, that is a safety issue,
    if they let him keep on driving,
    he would drive them into lawsuits,
    he would teeter them on the edge,
    he would bring them grief,
    he would sink them deep.

    They did once love him to death,

    but the corporation has strict rules
    and they can’t let him make fools

    of those who hired him,
    and trusted him.

    What’s the matter,

    aren’t things cool at home,

    does he have marital problems?

    The corporation cannot afford

    troubled employees,
    he should know to leave
    his personal problems behind,

    he should know to get a counselor

    on his own–when he comes to work
    the corporation expects–

    professionalism, hard work, smart driving,

    good ethics–No, No, No–

    it’s not pleasant for them to give him a pink slip,
    but it’s the best thing they can do for now…

    He told them his wife was pregnant,

    he told them one of his two girls was disabled,

    he told them his wife’s salary
    was too meager to pay the rent,

    he told them he can’t understand the tickets–

    he’s never driven over the speed limit–

    in Baltimore or anywhere he’s a careful driver,

    they can see he has had a clean record

    for years he has driven without mishaps

    from different corporations,

    he’s received commendations,
    he is a natural born driver

    who can navigate carefully

    through any treacherous city street,

    he can hold his own and flow

    with the traffic rules……

    But they wanted none of it–

    they wouldn’t be moved by his pleadings

    and his cries for help
    fell on their tone deaf ears–he was fired

    and that was that– they walked out

    and warned him if he didn’t get out

    without making a scene

    the guards will escort him out–

    take it or leave it….

    Crestfallen he went home

    and ever since he has been applying
    ever since he’s been turned down,
    numerous times–
    the answer has been an emphatic “No,”

    from every potential employer–
    because he was fired for incompetence–

    he had no unemployment benefits.

    That speed cameras would not lie

    was well known– even his wife disbelieved him
    and harangued him, “What’s the matter with you,

    You’re not the same person you used to be,

    you’re out of it,

    I thought you were responsible,
    I thought you’re a good father

    and you wouldn’t do something

    like speeding your truck down the city streets

    and get stuck with three tickets,

    now look who’s gotta bring home the bacon–

    pregnant me,

    look who’s gotta scrape the pot for food,

    who’s gotta pay the rent
    and keep the heat going for the girls–

    pregnant me!”

    A year after he was fired,
    the truth was out–

    the speed cameras of Baltimore did lie,

    they were inaccurate–

    they issued tickets to worthy citizens

    who never broke the rules of the road–
    damn–they issued tickets to the innocent,

    they were a massive waste–
    a royal headache–

    the speed cameras of Baltimore

    click clicked away–

    some cars idling,

    were accused of speeding,

    drivers with feet mostly on brakes–
    were told they were accelerating–

    They paid for their gas–these drivers–

    an exorbitant amount–
    they were told the oil futures determined
    the amounts they would shell out
    at the pumps– they felt fleeced, these drivers,
    every step of the way–
    threatened with a gas tax they knew

    that WORK couldn’t pay them enough to get to WORK
    and to top it all off–

    the icing on the cake–

    the speed cameras of Baltimore–

    told apocryphal tales and tattled

    about some drivers to their masters

    who summarily fired them

    putting their faith in the speed cameras
    of the city that Reads–
    and Believes–

    Madame Mayor of Baltimore,

    disabled and dismantled the errant cameras–

    but declared they’ll never be given up as a bad idea.

    Truth be told–the revenue stream
    at the expense of the average citizen

    is easy money, too smooth to let go–
    but the eyewash is–

    “We love you Baltimore!

    We want to keep you safe!”

    Too late for Sanchez!

    Usha Nellore

  • ushanellore

    THE STORY OF SANCHEZ AND THE SPEED CAMERA
    Sanchez told me he drove a truck for Sears,
    He has two kids and a pregnant wife,

    she works for a pittance in the county,
    between the two of them they could afford little–
    in the way of luxuries they have none

    but they were happy they had jobs,
    they paid their bills, they were not in debt,
    and they controlled themselves-
    when it came to spending
    they were conservative.

    But the speed cameras of Baltimore

    swooped on him–

    took his pictures while he drove–
    past the same red light–
    on the same street
    the camera, surely wouldn’t lie–
    clicked him, he was told–
    speeding– he was slammed

    with three consecutive tickets

    issued in Baltimore–he was speechless
    when his boss called him to tell him
    he would be let go–

    He was a careless driver,
    one ticket tolerable,
    two tickets already way over the limit,
    but three tickets?

    No, No, No!
    Now, that is a safety issue,
    if they let him keep on driving,
    he would drive them into lawsuits,
    he would teeter them on the edge,
    he would bring them grief,
    he would sink them deep.

    They did once love him to death,

    but the corporation has strict rules
    and they can’t let him make fools

    of those who hired him,
    and trusted him.

    What’s the matter,

    aren’t things cool at home,

    does he have marital problems?

    The corporation cannot afford

    troubled employees,
    he should know to leave
    his personal problems behind,

    he should know to get a counselor

    on his own–when he comes to work
    the corporation expects–

    professionalism, hard work, smart driving,

    good ethics–No, No, No–

    it’s not pleasant for them to give him a pink slip,
    but it’s the best thing they can do for now…

    He told them his wife was pregnant,

    he told them one of his two girls was disabled,

    he told them his wife’s salary
    was too meager to pay the rent,

    he told them he can’t understand the tickets–

    he’s never driven over the speed limit–

    in Baltimore or anywhere he’s a careful driver,

    they can see he has had a clean record

    for years he has driven without mishaps

    from different corporations,

    he’s received commendations,
    he is a natural born driver

    who can navigate carefully

    through any treacherous city street,

    he can hold his own and flow

    with the traffic rules……

    But they wanted none of it–

    they wouldn’t be moved by his pleadings

    and his cries for help
    fell on their tone deaf ears–he was fired

    and that was that– they walked out

    and warned him if he didn’t get out

    without making a scene

    the guards will escort him out–

    take it or leave it….

    Crestfallen he went home

    and ever since he has been applying
    ever since he’s been turned down,
    numerous times–
    the answer has been an emphatic “No,”

    from every potential employer–
    because he was fired for incompetence–

    he had no unemployment benefits.

    That speed cameras would not lie

    was well known– even his wife disbelieved him
    and harangued him, “What’s the matter with you,

    You’re not the same person you used to be,

    you’re out of it,

    I thought you were responsible,
    I thought you’re a good father

    and you wouldn’t do something

    like speeding your truck down the city streets

    and get stuck with three tickets,

    now look who’s gotta bring home the bacon–

    pregnant me,

    look who’s gotta scrape the pot for food,

    who’s gotta pay the rent
    and keep the heat going for the girls–

    pregnant me!”

    A year after he was fired,
    the truth was out–

    the speed cameras of Baltimore did lie,

    they were inaccurate–

    they issued tickets to worthy citizens

    who never broke the rules of the road–
    damn–they issued tickets to the innocent,

    they were a massive waste–
    a royal headache–

    the speed cameras of Baltimore

    click clicked away–

    some cars idling,

    were accused of speeding,

    drivers with feet mostly on brakes–
    were told they were accelerating–

    They paid for their gas–these drivers–

    an exorbitant amount–
    they were told the oil futures determined
    the amounts they would shell out
    at the pumps– they felt fleeced, these drivers,
    every step of the way–
    threatened with a gas tax they knew

    that WORK couldn’t pay them enough to get to WORK
    and to top it all off–

    the icing on the cake–

    the speed cameras of Baltimore–

    told apocryphal tales and tattled

    about some drivers to their masters

    who summarily fired them

    putting their faith in the speed cameras
    of the city that Reads–
    and Believes–

    Madame Mayor of Baltimore,

    disabled and dismantled the errant cameras–

    but declared they’ll never be given up as a bad idea.

    Truth be told–the revenue stream
    at the expense of the average citizen

    is easy money, too smooth to let go–
    but the eyewash is–

    “We love you Baltimore!

    We want to keep you safe!”

    Too late for Sanchez!

    Usha Nellore

    • KnowNothingParty

      Sanchez is probably sad he ever came to Maryland to get one of O’Malley’s undocumented alien drivers licenses.

      • ushanellore

        Dedicated to KnowNothing who hates boring long poems–I raise my glass to thee KnowNothing–here’s a short one. It’s called

        CATCH ME IF YOU CAN–I AM (IL)LEGAL

        KnowNothing, you are becoming predictable,
        should I say I was expecting this from you,
        much to your consternation, I am sure,
        Sanchez is of German origin,
        his parents named him Sanchez
        because they like all things Spanish,
        he’s as legal as you are legal–
        if you’re legal–
        (who knows, you could be illegal
        and filled with self loathing)

        Sanchez speaks Gerspanglish–
        English, German and Spanish,
        his wife is legal and English–
        his children are legal and Gernglish–
        German and English–
        and O’Malley, legal and Irish–
        a loss to the tainted Holy See–
        but even more to you and me–
        had nothing to do with my story–
        about Sanchez.

        Usha Nellore
        Just kidding Knownothing. I acknowledge your wry poke at the illegal ones and those who support them but the legal ones ain’t no better brother–they are running this country into the ground–O’Malley is one of them and ditto SRB.

  • KnowNothingParty

    Mayor Failings Blake, all I am asking for when it comes to red light camera offenses is the same consideration Baltimore gives to its violent criminals. Allow me to repeatedly break the law and never punish me.

    • ushanellore

      Amen! Thanks for a good laugh.

  • cwals99

    What we need in Maryland is a job stimulus that would hire tens of thousands of people to rebuild the city/county and state oversight apparatus and all of those positions would be paid for with the fraud recovered….no taxpayer money needed. So, Kraft should start this investigation with this goal. Why pull together a temporary task force for this one issue when the entire system operates under the same amount of corruption?

    Citizens of Baltimore need to fill these meetings and shout this. It is ridiculous to see these false attempts at getting to the bottom of corruption without making the effort across the board. Again, no money would be needed as Baltimore loses billions of dollars each year to fraud and corruption and recovering this would pay for all of the War on Fraud!

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