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D.C. Council Tackles Education Issues And Camera Fines

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The D.C. Council is back in session Wednesday, and already a number of community-focused issues are on the agenda.
Mallory Noe-Payne
The D.C. Council is back in session Wednesday, and already a number of community-focused issues are on the agenda.

One issue that will likely grab the attention of both D.C. residents and anyone who has to drive in the city is traffic camera fines. Police and pedestrian safety groups say the fines from red light cameras and speed cameras deter dangerous driving.

But with some fines ballooning as high $300, some council members are now asking whether the new technology is being used for safety purposes or to boost city revenue.

This summer council members Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh organized a task force to look at whether the fines could be lowered without sacrificing public safety.

Wells told WAMU 88.5 in late July that he hoped to introduce a bill lowering the fines when the council meets this week.

"We get back Sept. 15, and I am planning on the first meeting of the council to introduce a leg that that will adjust fines to match the policy encouraging safety, not just to raise revenue for the District."

If the council acts and the fines are reduced, lawmakers will have to figure out how to replace any lost traffic camera revenue that was penciled into this year's budget.

Another issue that the council will likely tackle right away involves the schools. Council Member Jack Evans says he will introduce a bill requiring each public school to have a full time librarian, art teacher and music teacher on staff.

"Those are subjects if they don't have them in the schools, they never get," says Evans. "We have the money, it's not an issue of the money."

Dozens of D.C. schools were forced to open this year without a full-time librarian because of budget cuts, according to the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parents Organizations.

And Evans says he also will push to keep the city's public libraries open seven days a week.

"Right now we have one library — the main one — opened on the weekends. It's ridiculous. Libraries are really the center of many of these communities, and I want them [all] open on the weekends. So hopefully we are going to pass a law so its says they have to be funded, so there is no hanky-panky by the mayor or the council."

The first council legislative session is scheduled for Wednesday.

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