- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2012

The fight over traffic cameras in the District took center stage last week, after a trio of D.C. Council members introduced a bill to cap fines at $50 for certain violations that currently put motorists on the hook for $100 or more.

The legislation is an attempt to convince the city that its government is interested in public safety and not just revenue, after Mayor Vincent C. Gray decided to expand automated traffic enforcement as a revenue initiative in his fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

Earlier this year, Mr. Gray told reporters the budgetary measure, which is projected to raise $25 million, was part of his administration’s emphasis on public safety.

When WTOP Radio reporter Mark Segraves asked the mayor on Wednesday if he would veto the council’s bill, should it pass, the mayor said he had some misgivings because the council would have to demonstrate “how it will be paid for.”

“That’s the first question,” he said.

Oh really? We thought this was about public safety.

But Mr. Gray quickly got back on message in singing the program’s praises.

“I support what will maximize and optimize public safety in the District of Columbia,” he said.

When Mr. Segraves challenged the mayor on his initial response, Mr. Gray told him the blunt truth.

“We have a balanced budget at this stage, and we’ll have to retain a balance budget,” he said. “Someone will have to demonstrate how the budget will continue to be balanced.”

All in on gambling

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is going all in on the effort to expand gambling in his state.

The Democratic leader appeared in a new 30-second TV ad last week urging voters to support Question 7, a ballot initiative that would legalize table games at the state’s slots casinos and allow a new gambling facility to be built in Prince George’s County.

In the ad, which you’ve probably seen more than a few times if you live in Maryland or the D.C. suburbs, Mr. O’Malley touts gambling expansion as a way to double down on education funding, despite assertions from critics that any extra school money from gambling is usually canceled out by reductions in school funding from other sources.

“As governor, I can promise you that money will go to education,” he says. “That’s the law, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Mr. O’Malley has undergone an interesting transformation in recent months from a man who was long lukewarm on gambling.

This spring, he told The Washington Post it was a “piss-poor way to advance the common good” and also blamed Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s pursuit of a gambling expansion bill for the General Assembly’s failure to pass a revenue package during its regular session.

But with urging from Mr. Miller, Prince George’s Democrat, and others, the governor called a special session in August to pass legislation allowing the referendum and has turned into a cheerleader for expanded gambling.

Tom Howell Jr. and David Hill contributed to this report.

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