John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Stop the Speed Traps!

Posted on May 22, 2012

            Congress, especially when Republicans run it, has a way to injecting itself into the internal affairs of the Washington DC government.


For those who don’t know, the residents of our nation’s capitol have a peculiar relationship with the Federal government.  We don’t have federal representation in the House or the Senate, and while we do have a chance to vote in Presidential primaries and in the Presidential elections, those votes don’t have much of an impact in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.


When the House is run by Republicans, as it is now, they usually focus on three issues in the District:  Abortion, Education and Needle exchange.


Republicans usually want to make getting an abortion more difficult in the district. They usually want D.C.’s African American children to have a better chance to escape the crappy public schools that are here.  And they usually want to stop any kind of publicly financed needle exchange program.


These positions tend to run counter to the liberal Administration that runs the D.C. government and tend to annoy the overwhelmingly Democratic residents of the city.


To be clear, I am fine with the Republican positions on all three issues.


What I think the GOP should consider is taking up a cause that unites most D.C. residents, but not the D.C. government:  the proliferation of speed trap cameras.


These speed trap cameras are strategically placed to do one thing for the District of Columbia:  Raise a bunch of money for the politicians.  Coupled with the parking tickets Nazis that spread across the city raising the hackles and the blood pressure of most citizens, these speed trap cameras should be declared unconstitutional.


Sadly, our law and order Supreme Court will never go in that direction.


While many white residents of the District suspect that the cameras are strategically placed in areas that hit them the hardest, these cameras are now all over the city.  I heard one story of an African-American lady who unknowingly garnered 3000 dollars worth of fines driving down 295, not knowing that by cruising slightly 10 miles above the speed limit (she was going 61 in an area marked 50, although it ought be a 60), would put her in the poor house.  For many residents, a $3000 fine is the difference between making the mortgage payment for three months or getting foreclosed on.


Now, for the District politician, this works out perfectly.  It is a like tax increase without having to vote on a tax increase (something that D.C. politicians have little hesitation in doing anyway).


Some proponents of law and order think that the lesson here is that people shouldn’t speed.  And I suppose there is some truth to that.  But the fact is that sometimes people do, and they shouldn’t be punished for every offense.


I hate speed cameras.  I think they are a troubling sign of where we are going in our society.  I think they give way too much power to the state, and too big an incentive to the state from the revenue perspective.


Those libertarians in the House should take a bold step in favor of freedom and against the speed trap camera.  Most D.C. residents will appreciate the effort.