Nassau County lawmakers Monday repealed the controversial school-zone speed camera program four months into its first school year and six months since its botched debut this summer–blowing an estimated $30-million budget hole.
Legislators unanimously repealed–same as they had passed–the program following public outcry over the $80 tickets generated by automated cameras, one each at most of the county’s 56 school districts. Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano is expected to sign the repeal, which is effective immediately, his spokesman said.
“A program that has no public supper cannot continue,” Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said after the vote, calling the idea “a well-intentioned peice of legislation that turned sour.”
The GOP-controlled Nassau legislature reversed their position after critics flooded lawmakers with complaints, Mangano cut the hours of operation and the Democratic minority sought to put the brakes on the speed cameras. Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat, announced the legislature there will nix their speed cameras before they debut next year–a plan that county’s GOP legislative minority likewise took credit for.
Nassau’s vote to repeal the camera program followed hours of comments of members of the public who mostly favored the repeal, although a couple urged the legislators to reconsider.
“They are violating the constitutional rights of people,” Samuel Levine, a former Nassau County District Court judge, told the legislature, arguing that the Sixth Amendment right for an offender to face their accuser in court is violated when drivers are charged by an automated camera. “And that comes first.”
Allison Blanchette, a fellow Long Beach resident, was one of the few who urged the legislature to drop the repeal and instead suspend the program until it can be rolled out fairly with proper notification from flashing lights and signage in all camera locations.
“These can work,” she said, echoing the administration’s argument that the cameras did make drivers slow down in school zones, as evident by a 70-percent drop in tickets in the first four months. “The fact is we have a speeding epidemic here.”
Legislators will debate plans on how to close the estimated $30-million gap in next year’s budget caused by cutting off the speed camera ticket revenue. Existing tickets will not be dismissed.
The cameras garnered more than 400,000 tickets earning about $32 million, with the vendor, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions, expected to get a $7.6-million cut, plus termination fees, Newsday reported.