Six out of nine city lawmakers voted Tuesday to get rid of Buffalo's school zone speed cameras by September, but it is not a done deal.
Their patience is running out.
The Common Council in December formally asked for a pause in the contract that operates school-zone cameras, but Mayor Byron W. Brown said he saw no reason to pause the program.
“Why should we wait when we can do this today?” asked University Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt, who introduced the legislation. “I don’t think we need to wait. I think we need to put this in place … so that the administration can begin gathering what they need to do to follow the ordinance.”
According to the City Charter, Mayor Byron W. Brown has 10 days to sign the legislation or veto it. If he vetoes it, the legislation goes back to the Council, which then has 30 days to vote to override the veto. If Brown does not act then, the legislation becomes law.
Another 6-to-3 vote would be enough to override a mayoral veto.
“We don’t care about where the money comes from," University Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt said. "We can still prioritize child safety, and it doesn’t have to attach a dollar figure to it.”
Brown has not wavered in his support for the speed cameras.
"The mayor will review this item when it's presented to him by the clerk," city spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said after the vote.
The amendment calls for replacing the cameras with radar speed signs and installing nonpunitive traffic calming measures in school zones, such as speed bumps. It also changes the school zone speed limit from 15 mph to 20 mph and requires the city to place "school" pavement markings and crosswalks by schools.
Also in favor of the amendment were Council President Darius G. Pridgen, Majority Leader David A. Rivera, Delaware Council Member Joel P. Feroleto, Lovejoy Council Member Bryan J. Bollman and Fillmore Council Member Mitchell P. Nowakowski.
Voting no were North Council Member Joseph Golombek, Masten Council Member Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. and South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon. They said the amendment should go directly to the Council's Legislation Committee for more discussion, considering the change won't take place until September. And, Scanlon added, disbanding the program would eliminate the $2.3 million revenue source that was approved in the city's budget.
Buffalo Public Schools has appealed to Common Council members to activate speed-zone cameras all day at its schools.
The School Zone Safety Program sets a 15 mph speed limit around 20 public, private and charter schools. Drivers captured on camera traveling at least 26 mph receive a citation mailed to the car's registered owner. The city gets $36 of each $50 citation. Sensys Gatso, the camera company that issues the citations, receives $14.
The program has drawn criticism that it was poorly rolled out and executed. Others have complained that the cameras target the city's most impoverished residents by placing many of the cameras in high-poverty, minority neighborhoods.
But the camera company and the Brown administration say the program is working and saving lives. About half of the citations were issued to people who live outside the city, and the cameras have increased compliance by Buffalo drivers to 82% since February 2020.