Gray: I want speed, red-light cameras all over D.C.

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said Tuesday that he ultimately wants to blanket the entire city with traffic cameras, days after he proposed raising $30 million by installing more of the devices that churned out an estimated $63 million in tickets last year.

"Eventually, we'd like to be able to cover the entire city," Gray told the D.C. Council at a hearing about his budget proposal for 2013. "We need to do everything we can to protect people from the negligence or irresponsible behavior of others."

On Friday, Gray proposed an expansion of the program as part of his effort to close a $172 million budget gap in his proposed 2013 budget, an idea that drew criticism even before the mayor described his larger vision for the cameras.

'Mayor for life' v. actual mayor
Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry warned D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray that he might oppose Gray's $9.4 billion budget because of proposed cuts to social services. "I'm leaning against ... the budget," Barry said. "People who are less able to fend for themselves and work for themselves are going to be hard hit." But Barry told Gray that his four terms as mayor allowed him to sympathize with the incumbent chief executive. "I know how tough budgets are," Barry said.

"We've gone overboard with this," Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser said of Gray's immediate proposal. "When our residents see a $30 million expectation of fines, they become increasingly upset."

Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, though, backed additional cameras.

"If you don't run a red light or you don't speed, you don't have to worry about it," Alexander said. "I'm in full support of them."

A spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic said he thinks money is the motive for Gray's proposal.

"In Washington, it's about chasing the dollar," Lon Anderson said. "Motorists equal money in the District of Columbia."

But Gray, who wants to upgrade the cameras so they also photograph drivers who block intersections and break speed limits to beat stoplights, said his plan was about safeguarding people, not boosting the city's bottom line.

"The purpose of this really is to improve public safety," Gray said. "We need to do everything we can to promote safety." SClBAnderson said AAA doesn't buy Gray's rationale.

"When do we start calling it a commuter tax and stop pretending it has anything to do with safety?" Anderson said. "The welcome sign is out: Please come to Washington if you're a motorist, and bring your wallet."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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