Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council agree that all money raised from the $189 school-zone traffic cameras should be used for road and pedestrian-safety projects near schools.
But according to a Times story on Sunday, the question dividing the council and mayor is how to ensure the money is only used for school-related projects. The Council may vote as early as today on a bill creating the School Zone Fixed Automated Cameras Fund. Ticket revenue would be kept in the fund and could be spent only on operating and maintaining the cameras or installing new ones; safety education; and capital-improvement projects in school zones, such as repainting crosswalks, new sidewalks and lighting.
Proponents, who include Sally Clark, Tim Burgess and Mike O’Brien, argue that a separate fund would offer transparency and assauge skepticism that the cameras are less about safety and more about new revenue. My editorial page colleague, Bruce Ramsey, makes similar arguments here. Bruce may be a bit biased, he recounts being on the receiving end of one of those tickets here.
The mayor’s office counters that keeping the money in the city’s general fund keeps it accessible and flexible for a variety of important needs. Targeted spending may ensure money gets to where it has been earmarked, but those same strings can doom more important needs in the case of, say, a recession. Councilman Nick Licata understands the mayor’s point, saying in the Times story, “You want to have flexibility so you can pay for what is most needed — there’s an attraction to that.”
But ultimately, Licata notes in the same story, a dedicated fund is the best way to provide transparency to a citzenry suspicious that the cameras are a revenue tool rather than a safety effort. That’s why he co-sponsored the bill before the council.
I support the traffic cameras. People too often zoom through school zones with no regard for the lives of children nearby. Less than a month after the cameras were installed, nearly 6,000 drivers were caught on camera breaking the law by speeding in school zones.
What do you think is the best way for the city to handle the funds? Weigh in through the poll below or offer your solution.