Last month, the reckless mayor of the District of Columbia hurtled down East Capitol Street in North East Washington at the breakneck speed of 43 MPH — a full 13 miles per hour in excess of the speed limit. Fortunately, scofflaw Adrian M. Fenty’s vehicular rampage was stopped dead in its tracks two weeks and four days later when a ticket was finally dropped in the U.S. mail.
American Traffic Systems (ATS) had issued the demand for the immediate payment of $50 to the “DC DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS,” the registered owner of the tiny taxpayer-funded Smart car. As one can see from the photographs taken by the ATS machine, Mayor Fenty was driving without due care and attention by straddling a second lane without any apparent use of a turn signal — just the sort of thing for which ATS plans to begin issuing tickets as part of the public-private partnership to boost revenue with “secondary violations.”
Now, we don’t actually think Fenty’s driving in this case endangered anyone. Driving 43 MPH on a six-lane boulevard on a clear day in light traffic is what the safe and reasonable majority of drivers do. By underposting speed limits and criminalizing ordinary conduct, the District has been able to profit from more than 3,732,234 photo tickets issued since 1999 worth about $280 million. The difference in this particular case is that Fenty is a hypocrite. The photographic money machine can only keep flashing if mayors like Fenty demonize motorists who are not endangering anyone. The other difference is that when we do that, we get the ticket and we have to pay it.
In Fenty’s case, the cost of the car, the gas, and the tickets are all paid by the taxpayer. In fact, you would never have known about this incident had the Washington City Paper not known that the mayor and his personal assistant frequently drive the black and gray Smart car with license plate CV-6154. Reporter Mike DeBonis ran that plate through the online database and caught the May 11 incident before it was erased from the system.
Now that Fenty has been caught, a city spokesman told the City Paper, “He’ll pay the ticket.”
What do you want to bet that would be the first time he’s ever paid with his own money? Next time, he’ll probably just take the motorcade.