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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