- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

The District, as usual, is only in the ticket-writing business to save lives, although mostly the lives of those who live in Maryland.

If Virginia is for lovers, Maryland is for speeders, and the District is there to help with a camera hidden up its sleeve. There is not a dry eye in the District.

Saving lives is a noble endeavor, no doubt, and the District is refining the practice with gusto. The District has a camera in one hand and a collection agency in the other. As it turns out, your welfare is good business.

The city has earned more than $10 million in fines since installing the see-all-evil speed cameras last August. This is the unintended benefit that goes with saving so many hurried lives.

The city's motto: Save a life and feed the family of a city official.

Welcome to Washington, where no life goes unsaved and unrecorded by mail.

Remember to mail your check or money order payable to the D.C. Treasurer. If you have questions regarding the ticket, please call the Automated Traffic Enforcement Office at (202) 756-5884. The city dares you.

City officials insist they do not want your money. They only want to see you grow old and gray. They don't mean to be all-knowing snoops. They only mean to make their small corner of the universe a better, safer place.

If they can save just one life, then the bother of rotating and servicing the cameras is all worth it.

This is a philosophy that has no limits, if only because humans have a tendency to commit all kinds of thoughtless acts that are potentially harmful to themselves and others.

They eat too much, they drink too much, and they make whoopee with multiple partners, with the desire to spread joy instead of a sexually transmitted disease.

There is a camera on the street corner, and maybe one day, to save lives, there will be a camera in your bedroom. It is 11 at night. Do you know where your spouse is?

At least a speed camera beats having a commuter tax, the city's politically desperate idea to fleece those it has driven away to the suburbs.

Here's a novel concept: Pick up the trash on the appointed days. Answer the 911 phone. Provide clean water. Remove the snow. Fill in the potholes. Fire the do-nothing types at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Ease the tax burden on small-business owners.

Fix the public schools. Try to contain the rodent population. Clean up the alleys and raze the abandoned buildings. Ask the parking-enforcement brigade not to be such sticklers, starting with measuring how many inches your vehicle is parked from the curb.

And please, do something about D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few, who is becoming a symbol of an inert leadership. He runs from reporters better than he runs the fire department.

Of course, you would be running, too, if you had a bad resume, a bad contract with a friend and a department with bad equipment, bad buildings and bad morale. Otherwise, Chief Few has been doing a great job.

If the city ever gets around to improving the quality of life of its taxpayers instead of trying to save lives, it just might increase revenue in a way that does not beg questions.

Alas, two members of Congress are wondering why the city is seemingly picking on their constituents from the Maryland suburbs. Is it Maryland's body odor, or is it just bad luck?

Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Republican, is looking to study the thinking that goes into the placing of the cameras. Like God, the city works in mysterious ways. Now you see the cameras, now you don't.

Wherever the cameras are, they are inevitably where the volume of traffic is highest, on those arteries favored by commuters from the suburbs. You can take that however you like.

Chief Few's fire department may be falling apart, but the city's automated traffic-enforcement program is a model of efficiency.

The city may be 50-50 on finding a fire hose that functions properly, but if your vehicle is photographed going 36 mph in a 25 mph zone, you can count on receiving a love letter from Metropolitan Police Department.

That goes double for those vehicles with Maryland license plates.

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