Previous writers have criticized Mayor Byron Brown’s school speed camera system for financing city government on the backs of its low-income and African American citizens. But in addition, the history of the program, as described in several Buffalo News stories, shows the arrogance and incompetence of Brown’s administration.
An enterprising lawyer, Karina Tefft, discovered that New York State has standards that such a program must meet in order for the tickets it issues to be valid. In particular, the cameras have to be checked regularly to ensure their accuracy, and the checks have to be documented.
It turns out that our city government – by its own admission – was not making the required checks or documentation. Were the officials in charge of the program so incompetent, lazy or heedless that they never read the state rules? Or were they aware of the rules but decided they didn’t need to follow them? Perhaps they thought they were of a higher order of humanity than the drivers who would be ticketed for not following speed rules?
The consequence, paradoxically, is that the whole program could turn out to be a big money-loser for the city, rather than a source of revenue. The city may have to refund the $50 paid by each supposed violator … but Sensys Gatso, the company that provided the system, and kept $14 out of each $50, will probably not have to refund its share. Therefore that $14 on each ticket will be a dead loss for the city. It appears that about $1.84 million in fines have been collected. So the city will likely have to pay out not just the $1.32 million it pocketed, but also the $515,000 vendor’s share. One could think of this as punishment for the city’s misdeeds, but the penalty will be paid by you and me, citizens and taxpayers.