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Councilmembers vote on new hours plan for school zone speed cameras

Mike Desmond, WBFO

Buffalo Common Councilmembers have approved a modified schedule for cameras that enforce the speed limit outside 20 schools - public, charter and parochial - within the City of Buffalo.

Under the agreement passed Tuesday morning by a 7-to-2 vote, hours for camera use in school zones will be during a two-hour period at the start of a school day and a two-hour period at the end of a school day, with recognition that not every school starts the same hour. Beacons will be activated, warning motorists when they're approaching the 15-mile-per-hour speed zones.

The compromise also allows schools to contact their council district's representative to obtain special permission to run the cameras and beacons during other hours for sanctioned activities.

Councilmember Ulysses Wingo, who represents the Masten District, says he'll gladly sign off any and all requests. During a special Council meeting held Tuesday morning, Wingo expressed his concerns over cars getting faster when the cameras go off.

"What we've seen from the data is that if we keep the cameras on, people drive the speed limit. If we turn the cameras off, people then speed," he said. "The data, it's right here. Forty-eight notices, 69 people, 70 people speeding after nine o'clock, between nine and 10. One-hundred seven speeding between 10 and 11."

Allowing individual lawmakers to permit additional hours district by district will create more problems, said Councilmembers Joseph Golombek and Christopher Scanlon, who voted no for that reason.

"Not having a uniform program throughout the city will leave the city of Buffalo and in particular, the council as Councilmember Golombek mentioned, open to a great deal of criticism," Scanlon said. "Allowing for individual council members to determine when the cameras will be in operation in their district, I think, is problematic."

Critics of conducting enforcement during longer hours say it served as a cash grab for the city, at a time when the COVID pandemic has caused further financial strains for individuals. Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt told his peers that was not the intention of the original legislation.

"We're trying to balance out the fact that we want children to be safe with the fact that we want enforcement, but not to the extent that it's for entire school day, when for the most part, children aren't taking trips to the zoo and those things during this pandemic," Wyatt said. "For the most part, they're in their building, they're not out being remote."

Previously, councilmembers voted to amend the policy to set enforcement hours between 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. That was vetoed by Mayor Byron Brown. He has already signed his approval of the compromise, averting a council vote attempting to override that veto.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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