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Dismal Turnout for Public Hearings on Speed Cameras, Panhandling

Council heard presentations on newly drafted legislation on setting up speed cameras near school zones and setting fines for aggressive panhandling.

Monday night the Annapolis City Council held a public hearing on legislation that would allow speed cameras to be set up within a half-mile radius of school zones—an issue some council members said would be contentious among their constituents.

But those constituents were a no-show.

“I’m astounded that we don’t have anybody here,” Alderman Ross Arnett (D-8th Ward) said.

He said if the legislation is approved, he anticipates complaints from the public once the tickets are issued, saying they didn’t have the opportunity to comment.

Mayor Josh Cohen expressed similar sentiments.

He said he was suprised people didn’t come out to speak on the issue, saying he thinks the public was unaware the city is considering the legislation.

Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop spoke before the council, voicing his support for the cameras.

“The city of Annapolis would be well-served to have these automatic speed-enforcement technologies in Annapolis for the purpose of school-zone enforcement,” Pristoop said.

He said the maximum fine would be $40 and there would be a required 30-days notice about the cameras before any enforcement could take place.

Pristoop said the city has been increasing speed enforcement, saying "the intuition is that speed contributes to many of these accidents" in Annapolis, adding that there are statistics indicating that.

Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson (D-4th Ward), chair of the council’s Public Safety Comiittee, which has been examining the possibility of speed cameras near Annapolis schools, called it a public safety issue.

Finlayson brought up the recent incident where a student and emphasized the importance of such a legislation given that students in the city walk up to a mile to school.

“I couldn’t disagree with my collegue from Ward Four any more. I think that it’s a revenue-raising measure plain and simple,” said Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward).

He said he had an issue with the half-mile radius component of the legislation, referencing the small size of Annapolis and the number of schools in the city.

“This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m not voting in favor of this, I just think that there ought to be a little bit of honesty in our legislating, and basically it’s a revenue-raising issue,” he said, adding that “of course everybody’s for child safety.”

Pristoop acknowleged Paone's concerns.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to put any of these devices in areas that wouldn’t go to the purpose of the legislation,” Pristoop said.

Panhandling

In addition, the council also held a public hearing on legislation which aims to define aggressive panhandling, determine it unlawful and set fines for such acts.

While no one came to speak, the council received written testimony on the matter from the Annapolis Business Association. Pristoop said he has had a meeting with businesses on the issue.

Pristoop also spoke on the matter to council, saying that panhandling itself cannot be prohibited.

“Soliciting in most cases is free speech," Pristoop said. However he added that there are "laws that some municipalities have that outlaw aggressive panhandling which is behavior associated with the act of panhandling.”

That behavior, as noted in the drafted legislation includes “the conduct of begging which harasses, menaces, intimidates, impedes traffic or otherwise causes harm.”

Pristoop said city police have not had a large amount of calls regarding this type of panhandling, noting that city police receive roughly 100 solicitation calls each year.

“On the other hand, I’m finding out that a lot of the businesses aren’t calling us about panhandling activities because in meetings that I’ve had with them they’ve expressed many more cases of this type of panhandling than we knew about,” Pristoop said.

Editor's Note: These topics were covered because Patch readers expressed interest in them in our .

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