Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will likely face hard questions about his city’s speed-camera ticketing program, after a Daily Caller investigation found that the city turned a $12.1 million profit in 2011 by fining lead-footed drivers.
And a noted celebrity chef, stung once too often by the mayor’s automated gotcha program, is fighting back.
Washington’s speeding-ticket windfall added to the whopping $240 million dollar budget surplus the nation’s capital city announced Tuesday. Flush with cash, Gray met Monday in New York with Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch, asking the three ratings agencies to upgrade the district’s bond rating.
Speaking exclusively to The Daily Caller, Gray indicated that the lucrative automated speeding ticket plan wasn’t part of a broader scheme to pad the D.C. government’s purse.
“I don’t even know how much revenue it’s likely to generate,” Gray said.
A Daily Caller inquiry into the program revealed a staggering $21 million price tag in 2011, with the installation of 28 cameras in a three-month span. After collecting $33.8 million overall, the city was left with a tidy $12.1 million profit, according documents TheDC obtained from Washington, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Ghandi.
Gray, however, insisted money isn’t a motivating factor behind the cameras. “It’s completely about safety,” he told TheDC. “It’s a traffic calming measure.”
Geoff “Chef Geoff” Tracy, a local culinary celebrity whose restaurant and home are near a new speed camera on D.C.’s Foxhall Road near Whitehaven Parkway, said he has already been ticketed three times at that location — at a cost of $425 — for exceeding the posted 25 mph speed limit.
“If you’re driving 25 miles per hour” on Foxhall Road,” Tracy said, “you are not keeping up with traffic.”
Tracy and other critics have questioned the Metropolitan Police Department’s decision to place a speeding camera there, in one of the district’s most affluent neighborhoods.
Unique among the nine locations where cameras were most recently installed, the Foxhall Road site saw no crashes or other auto accidents in 2010 or 2011.
Fighting back against what he called the mayor’s “way of generating a lot of revenue with a minor change in public safety,” Tracy hired a man to stand near the speed box, twirling a big “speed camera ahead” warning sign.
Tracy told TheDC that his one-chef crusade isn’t only about the tickets he has had to pay. He said it’s also for his cooks and busboys who would have to work “a day and a half to pay that off.”