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City Hall Notebook: Speed Camera Subpoenas Will Go Out…Eventually

P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

The Baltimore City Council has agreed to launch a probe into a secret audit of the city’s problem plagued speed and red light cameras. But council members couldn’t agree on exactly how to conduct that probe at first.

Councilman Carl Stokes introduced a resolution Monday Night that would have his committee---Taxation, Finance and Economic Development—lead the investigation and given it subpoena power. But the resolution didn’t get the super-majority of votes necessary for immediate passage.

Instead, the resolution went to another committee-- Judiciary and Legislative Investigations—where members are expected to approve amendments to put themselves in charge before sending it back to the full council in two weeks.

Stokes said the investigation could have started right away if the council had adopted his resolution.

“Instead were going to be delayed another two, four, six weeks on this matter if it goes forward at all,” Stokes said.

Council members who voted against Stokes’ resolution said it was unnecessary because the judiciary committee already has subpoena power.

Jim Kraft, who chairs that committee, said it would “be meeting to put together the subpoenas and issue them shortly thereafter.”

The audit, by consultant URS Corp. and obtained by The Sun, showed error rates for the cameras 40 times higher than city officials claimed.  Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told WJZ-TV (Channel 13) that to hold up the audit published by the paper as evidence that her administration is doing something differently is irresponsible.

City Council President Jack Young called for a hearing to take place quickly; vowing to make sure Kraft’s committee would have the power to issue subpoenas.

Fees for Paper and Plastic Bagged

The council also rejected a proposal to mandate a 10 cent fee for paper and plastic bags. It was the third time in the last four years that a bag fee went down to defeat.  

Councilman Brandon Scott introduced the measure in June as a way to reduce trash in the city. 

"We have to do better with our trash,” said Scott, who argued that bag fees have worked in jurisdictions such as Washington, D.C., Boulder, Colo. and Montgomery County in Maryland.

“Despite what the lobbyists and other folks think, these things are effective and they don’t affect people’s pockets,” Scott said.

Opponents said a bag fee would unfairly affect small business and the city’s poor.  Supporters said the point of the fee is to change behavior and discourage the use of paper and plastic bags.