- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2004

RICHMOND — The governors of Virginia and Maryland yesterday dodged a question about the District’s speed-camera program, which has cited thousands of their residents and collected millions of dollars in fines for the city’s general fund.

Asked whether the speed cameras amount to a commuter tax on their residents, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. made light of the question during a press conference yesterday with D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

“I’ve gotta go, Mark,” Mr. Ehrlich said jokingly, feigning a move toward the door.

“I’d like to hear what the mayor thinks,” said Mr. Warner, who hosted yesterday’s quarterly meeting among the three regional leaders.

The Washington Times reported yesterday that the District has collected more than $2 million in speed-camera citations for the third consecutive month, bringing to more than $51 million the total revenue produced by the program since its inception in 2001.

Of the more than 950,000 speeding citations that the program has logged since 2001, about 50 percent have been against Maryland drivers and 13 percent against Virginia drivers, according to Metropolitan Police Department statistics.

Mr. Williams yesterday reiterated his position that the program’s aim is safety, not revenue.

“My first order of business has never been a commuter tax,” the mayor, a Democrat, said. “My first order of business has always been to go to the federal government because they created the regime that results in this mess.”

The governors supported him.

“We’re of the same view — that it’s a unique regime,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican. “The mayor has issues. He has revenue needs, obviously. He’s never advocated a commuter tax, and obviously, neither have we. But does he have a case to be made to the federal government for dollars? The answer is yes.”

“There are certain things we talked about today that could happen in the future that I think we could both be supportive of,” Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said without elaborating.

The chief executives met yesterday as part of a regional collaboration that rotates among Annapolis, Richmond and the District. It was the third in a series of meetings since April 2003.

During the meeting, the officials were briefed by the FBI on youth gang activity, a talk Mr. Ehrlich described as “very frank.”

Mr. Warner said coordinated efforts must be made to fight gangs statewide in both Virginia and Maryland and said they will be taking a regional approach to the growing problem.

The officials pointed to the regional cooperation among law-enforcement agencies during the 2002 sniper attacks and by health care agencies during the anthrax scare.

They said this same regional teamwork and information-sharing can be used to fight gangs and terrorism.

“We saved lives through cooperation,” Mr. Williams said.

In addition, the men spoke about preserving and restoring the Chesapeake Bay, which they called a “national treasure,” and affordable housing.

Soon, tourism promotion commercials will be airing in all three areas featuring Mr. Warner, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Williams relaxing in shirtsleeves.

The three officials also are coordinating efforts to promote the 2007 Jamestown celebration in Virginia and the September opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in the District.

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