Loose Lips

Santa-Impersonating Congressman Doesn’t Like District’s Traffic Cams

A Michigan congressman is working on a bill that would outlaw the District's speed and red light cameras. But it's not because he has a lead foot, his spokesman insists.

Freshman Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who moonlights as a Santa Claus impersonator and reindeer rancher, doesn't even have a car in Washington, according to spokesman Matt Chisholm. Instead, his motivations are a little more nebulous.

"Congressman Bentivolio was sent to Washington to protect the people's rights, not take them away," Chisholm writes in a cryptic email to LL. "The final version of this bill will do just that."

The legislation's potential to stomp on the District's autonomy earned tough press releases today from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and DC Vote, with Norton urging Bentivolio to return to Michigan and run for local office if he's such a fan of traffic laws.

Norton's office later sent out a draft of Bentivolio's bill after concerns that Bentivolio's staff was being cagey about what was in the bill (see: above).  The draft language in Bentivolio's "Safer Streets Act" is clear, forbidding the mayor from using "automated traffic enforcement system" to detect traffic violations.

Councilmember Tommy Wells, whose judiciary and public safety committee has oversight of traffic cameras, hadn't heard about the bill yet when LL reached him. He reacted like his worst nightmare was coming true. "This is exactly the kind of thing I was afraid of when the mayor started running the tickets so high," Wells says.

Those high ticket fines, of course, are why the cameras made the District $95 million last year. Legislation outlawing them would leave the District with a hefty revenue hole. Still, LL's skeptical about the political chances of a bill backed by a man who has said he has trouble separating himself mentally from his Old Saint Nick persona.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • joan

    Tommy Wells blames victim - "Don't do anything that might rile a wacko rightwing member of Congress"

    Jerk

  • Typical DC BS

    Good - stuff these cameras up Gray's and the council's asses.

  • Will

    No Joan, Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh crafted a much more thoughtful policy on Automated Traffic Enforcement that they were ushering through the legislative process when the Mayor decided he was going to run roughshod over the legislature by changing the fine amounts using his emergency powers. Ask yourself, what was the emergency that required a $30 adjustment in the most common 11-20 mph fine rate? The mayor simply didn't want his political enemies to have a winning policy, so he did everything he could to screw with them.

    Should you want to know what was in the Cheh/Wells bill, essentially the really high speed (30+ mph over limit), fines would have been hundreds of dollars, while the more common 11-20 mph and 20 - 30 mph fines would have settled at $50 and $75, lower than what they are today. The caveat was that there would be nearly double the number of cameras. The policy goal was to establish that if a driver speeds in the District, they will get a ticket, and the amount of the ticket should not be structured to be ruinously expensive, but rather just high enough to get most people to comply with the law, and thus improve traffic safety.

    The mayor is not all that far off from most of that policy, he just didn't want to see the revenue decline, and he didn't want to double the cameras. So now we have the same irrational hatred of the cameras by those who get the high dollar tickets, and we've not expanded the number of them substantially, meaning the safety benefits are still only spotty, and most scofflaw drivers will know exactly where they need to slow down to avoid tickets. Not the result that I would want. The Cheh/Wells bill was much better.

    fin

  • JimA

    Tommy Wells opposes cars.

    The Congressman is a weirdo. He should be spending his time on the federal deficit and on the US's significant problems.

    HIs constituents did not send him to Congress to micro-mange the District's traffic system.

  • noodlez

    FUCK THE WACKO SANTA AND HIS BILL!
    NO COMMUTER TAX? THEN UP THE FINES AND TAX THAT ASS.

    ESPECIALLY THE VIRGINIA NON-DRIVERS!
    YO VA DRIVERS F.Y.I. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE IN OPERATING VEHICLES AND DRIVING!

    DONT LIKE IT? GET A BIKE!
    WE GOT PLENTY OF LANES FOR YA.
    JUST STAY OUT THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

    ONE CITY FULL OF SPEED CAMERAS.

  • Ward-8

    I would say to this Congressman,There is a simple solution to these camera thingy, don't speed, don't run red lights and just like magic no tickets.

  • NE John

    Get him on a bike and I will meet him on the MBT with the Apple Dumpling Gang.

  • truth hurts

    What noodlez said.

  • http://twitter.com/tomselliott Tom Elliott

    Really sad to see how many people on this site fall victim to groupthink and simply support the author's bias. The reporter mocks a Republican for getting involved in a D.C. issue (as he constitutionally obligated to do), and the sheep reading this website dutifully mock him as well (despite doing so at the expensive of actual D.C. residents who likewise loathe these cameras).

  • blkwrestl

    As a District resident, and a Dem, I want the red light cameras to go. Whoever can make it happen is fine with me. If we want to have Home rule and be respected then maybe there needs to be an end to corrupt council members shady buisness persons fueling campaigns, false rationale for safety, i.e. red light cameras and more hiring of city residents for city jobs. Our current leadership form the Mayor on down suck.

  • NE John

    I want more cameras. On every block. I am sick of people speeding through our streets. Most from out of town.

  • NE John

    Mr. Elliott, that goober junior congressman can eat shit!

  • Sam Wang

    I am a DC resident and I want more cameras too. Try living on a street where people drive way too fast, then reassess you incorrect position.

  • sticktoyourguns

    please draft it...this is only giving dc officials more money to steal

  • S.E.

    We don't need more cameras......It's all BullSh$%t!!!

    If the cameras are for safety, then put them out in the open where they can be seen....don't hide them behind trees, over/underpass supports etc..

    When I go to Georgetown on Friday/Saturday nights and SEE a MPD Officer on EVERY corner of Wisconsin & M Sts. I see the SAFETY measures in place.

  • DCBird

    As an actual DC resident, @Tom Elliot, I love the cameras. Ward-8 nails it. The people who hate the cameras are those who like to get away with limited enforcement of speeding and red light running. Their convenience above everyone else's safety.

  • noodlez

    @TYP AND TOM-THIS IS AN US V. THEM SCENARIO!
    IF U NOT WITH US THEN YOU ARE WITH THEM!

    HOW CAN YOU NOT BE DOWN WITH THE SLIGHT INCONVENIENCE OF SLOWING DOWN IN EXCHANGE FOR TAXING THOSE VIRGINIA NON DRIVERS WHO TEAR UP OUR STREETS THAT WE HAVE TO PAY FOR WITH MONEY ALONG WITH THE MAJOR INCONVENIENCE OF TRAFFIC JAMS BECAUSE OF STREET CLOSURES FIXING SAID STREETS?

  • 20011

    You tell 'em, Noodles! Fuck MD and VA and fuck the whiny drivers!

    I agree: One City...full of speed cameras!

  • maktoo

    Why are people from Michigan dictating what D.C. can and can't do?! Can we go up there and reorganize their laws?! PLEASE?!!

  • NE John

    I stand with the brothers on this one!

  • drez

    More speed and red light cameras, please.
    Put them at every intersection and on midblock too.

    It's only criminals who need worry about this. And eff them anyway.

  • James

    I love how law and order Republicans love law enforcement, unless it is enforcement of laws that they habitually break themselves.

    And next time Washingtonians are tooling around Milford, Michigan, just for fun speed back and forth on White Pine Trail, past Santa's home. See how he likes it when others flaunt common sense measures to protect pedestrian and traffic safety.

  • ceefer

    Speed cameras do NOTHING to catch REALLY dangerous drivers, especially where there are no speed cameras - like the residential areas and school zones that have been left "un-watched" in favor of lucrative revenue streams like freeways and commuter routes.

    And even if there is a speed camera in place, someone zooming down a residential street or school zone at 60 mph can't be stopped by any speed camera. And drunk drivers get away since nearly all drunk drivers drive BELOW the speed limit. Then we have reckless drivers - people who weave and tailgate. You can do a lot of that without actually speeding.

    And when was the last time a speed camera caught someone with drugs, weapons, or outstanding warrants? Or caught someone driving without insurance, in a stolen vehicle, or with a license that was suspended or revoked?

    MPD obviously doesn't care about the above-mentioned drivers; their focus is now on the REAL “lawbreakers" - people who get nailed by speed cameras for driving 55 mph on I-395 and 295, or 40 mph on NY Avenue east of Bladensburg Rd., or 35 mph on North Capitol Street above Michigan Ave.

    If it is true, as some here claim, that "nearly all DC residents support speed cameras", then the camera lovers are apparently oblivious to the fact that MPD has abandoned enforcement by live officers and left traffic enforcement up to the traffic cameras. Or perhaps they just don't care?

    Which is pretty damn sad, because the closest thing MPD now has to traffic enforcement by police officers are the dozing cops we now see in police cars "monitoring" speed cameras on the commuter routes like NY Ave east of Bladensburg Rd. From all appearances, the only cops actively enforcing the traffic laws in DC are the US Capitol Police and the National Park Police.

    MPD "justifies" this madness by putting up cherry-picked PR data claiming "increased safety" and "everyone loves cameras" while the camera fans get on the Comments and wax absolutely giddy about how "safe" DC has now become from all those "dangerous drivers from the suburbs in their SUVs", crow about how "lawbreakers" are "filling DC's coffers", recite stupid "don't speed" slogans, and insult anyone who disagrees.

    The really sad thing about all of this is that many DC residents are falling over themselves worshiping speed cameras when they should be outraged at being bamboozled.

    Are they really that gullible?

  • Typical DC BS

    Fine - then it's time to start damaging/destroying the cameras. Start slapping stickers on the camera lenses - spray paint them. Lots of targets in DC. Too bad DC fools don't see the problem with them. When DC sets speed limits too low and then does a modern day version of the southern sheriff hiding behind the billboard on the way into the sleepy town's speed trap/"extortion racket", then it's time to fight back.

  • Bob

    Typical DC BS:

    If you mess with speed and red light cameras, I will consider that to be an assault on the safety of my family and me and will STAND MY GROUND. Be forewarned.

  • ceefer

    Bob,

    What do you mean by "I will...STAND MY GROUND"?

  • noodlez

    @ceefer-YOUR COMMENT WELL-INTENTIONED IS PURE BULLSHIT!

    LOOK IM THE LAST PERSON TO GIVE DC POLICE PROPS BUT MPD PULL OVER FOLKS ROUTINELY FOR VIOLATING TRAFFIC LAWS (TALK ON YOUR PHONE WITHOUT HANDS FREE DEVICE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS) AMONG OTHER THINGS. THE US CAP PO-PO’S PROFILE BLACKS AND THE PARK POLICE CAN’T KEEP UP WITH THE GUNS THEY HAVE IN THEIR POSSESSION SO THEIR CREDIBILITY IS SHOT.

    IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT CRIME IS DOWN IN WDC AND ONE COULD ATTRIBUTE TRAFFIC CAMS TO THIS STAT BY ALLOWING THE POLICE TO DO POLICE WORK. THIS IS NOT NYC WHERE MPD CAN STOP AND FRISK BY PROFILING. IM SURE FOLK OF YOUR ILK WOULD RATHER HAVE THIS PRACTICE MUCH MORE PREVALENT. LOOK SPEED CAMS DO WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO AND THAT IS CATCH FOLK VIOLATING SPEED LIMITS IN THIS CITY AND IF IT RAISES THE CITY REVENUE THAN SO BE IT. YOU CAN SLOW THE FUCK DOWN, CATCH A CAB, RIDE METRO OR GET A BIKE!

    THE ONLY FOLK BEING BAMBOOZLED ARE BAMMAS DRIVING DISTRACTED THINKING THEY ARE ENTITLED TO OPERATE VEHICLES WITH IMPUNITY THRU MY CITY BECAUSE THEIR SORRY ASS JURISDICTION IS MEANDERING THRU LIFE LIKE ITS BEDROCK WHILE THE REST OF US ARE GETTING THRU LIFE LIKE THE JETSONS!

    ONE CITY,
    SEVERAL SPEED CAMS.
    MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN GOTCHA TICKETS.

  • Pingback: Perspective: Seeing Red About CM Orange’s Traffic Cams Plan | Forest Hills Connection | E-magazine - News and Life in our Neighborhood

  • Typical DC BS

    OOOOH Bob. I'm just so scared of you. I'll be sure to laugh each and every time it happens in your honor, moron.

  • ceefer

    Hey noodlez,

    What's with the ALL CAPS.

    You've got real smart mouth behind am alias over the Internet, girl-dog.

    5 bucks says if you ever called me a "BAMMA" to my face, you would picking yourself up off the ground with your teeth in your hand.

  • ceefer

    Well, noodle-head, for all your insults and braggadocio, at least one of your councilmembers knows the correct time.

    I've said it all along. If DC went too far with its "photo enforcement" money-making racket, Congress would step in.

    Your "government" has over-played its hand. It has made targets of its neighbors, acted in an abusive and predatory manner, and people are sick of it. And as you are seeing, all it takes take is ONE suffiently angered/badgered Member of Congress to put DC in check. At least Vincent Orange has the good sense to realize that and act accordingly.

    Enjoy your little speed cameras while they last because they ARE going way - at some of them - because once again, Congress is about to show you exactly who is actually running "your" city.

    Meanwhile, you can have a happy landing.

  • noodlez

    @CEEF- I LET THE FIRST ONE GO BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW NO BETTA.

    HOWEVER I DONT TAKE THREATS FROM BITCH ASS BAMMA MUTHA FUCKAS (GIVE ME TIME, DATE AND LOCALE AND I WILL SAY IT TO YOUR FACE) LIGHTLY. SLIM DONT GET ALL CAUGHT UP WITH YOURSELF ON THIS ONLINE WACKNESS YOU SPEAK OF BECAUSE IT WILL GET YOU YOU FUCKED UP!

    NO ALIAS THATS WHO I AM HOMEBOY!

  • ceefer

    noodledick,

    Your mother isn't proud of you. She told me so after I let her raise up.

  • noodlez

    @CEE-CEE-WOW SHE DIDN'T TELL ME YOU WERE LONG WINDED FROM TAKING THAT STRAP ON! YO SLIM MY MOM IS OLD AND TIRED SHE TOLD ME TO TELL YA THAT YOU MIGHT WANNA SWITCH UP TO TRANNY'S IN NEAR FUTURE.

    SHE ALSO TOLD ME YOU A REAL MAN AFTER TAKING IT LIKE A GOOD BOY SHOULD!

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