Youngstown council changes city’s ordinance on speed cameras
YOUNGSTOWN — Even though unmanned speed cameras remain turned off in school zones, city council agreed in a 5-2 vote to modify the language establishing the policy.
At issue is a dispute between the municipal court and the administration over language in the camera ordinance. The court says the ordinance doesn’t provide enough clarity on hearing contested cases.
The municipal court won’t hear contested cases until these matters are resolved and has notscheduled a single case since the cameras first went live Feb. 21.
Council voted 5-2 Wednesday to changes with Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, and Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, voting no.
“It lacks clarity,” Turner said.
Before the vote, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said: “I’m not sure what happens if the legislative body says, ‘here’s what we want,’ and the judicial side says, ‘I don’t like it.’ I don’t know where we go from there.”
Law Director Jeff Limbian said it is not up to the judicial branch to make legislative policy though he wants to work with the court to implement the appeals process.
The primary changes approved Wednesday from the Nov. 15 legislation first adopted are: the court would be able to charge “the applicable court costs and fees for such a civil action to the party that does not prevail in the action” and require those with default judgments to enter a motion with the court rather than the police chief or designee within one year of the date of entry of the default judgment.
Of the 22,424 speeding citations issued in school zones since the program was launched Feb. 21, Limbian said about 300 are contested.
Court Administrator David Magura Jr. recently said nothing would change even if city council approves the legislation. Court officials want more time to review the changes and have other concerns not included in the ordinance, Magura said.
In a Sept. 11 email, Magura wrote:”Rushing this process without due diligence could lead to unintended consequences and complications in our operations,” and the administration’s proposal “does not offer a comprehensive analysis of the potential ramifications on our docket and operations.”
Carla Baldwin, the court’s administrative and presiding judge, in an April 4 letter to Brown, Limbian and police Chief Carl Davis listed what she sees as shortcomings in the legislation.
These include: no details on affidavits filed by those who had their vehicle or license plates stolen and received citations, no relief for companies that lease or rent vehicles, the lack of affidavits with corporate entities, court costs and “mechanical difficulties” such as default judgments when a person fails to appear but later is able to show good cause why that happened.
Limbian had previously said the traffic cameras would return as soon as the Youngstown school teachers strike ended and students returned to class. Monday was the first day back to class for students after the strike was settled.
But the cameras remain off.
Limbian said Brown is giving Baldwin “a few days to feel comfortable with the amendments so that she can work on a procedure to hear these cases.”
He added the camera suspension is “very temporary.”
Cameras were in use on school days from the time kids headed to class until 6 p.m. They weren’t used on weekends, during the summer and on days when class is not in session.
During the two hours in the morning that kids go to school, and the two hours when they leave, the speed limit in those zones are 20 mph. In between and after school ends, the speed limit is between 25 and 35 mph depending on the location.
With there being no apparent penalty for not paying the citations, the collection rate is low. Less than 20 percent have paid the citations.
Motorists caught going at least 11 mph over the speed limit and up to 14 mph over it face a civil penalty of $100. Those going 15 to 20 mph over the limit face a $125 penalty and those traveling faster than 20 mph over the limit face a $150 penalty. They do not get points on their driving record for the citations.
The city gets 65 percent of the money collected and has received $284,912 in paid speed citations.
Blue Line Solutions, a Chattanooga, Tenn., company, has a deal with the city for unmanned speed cameras in the school zones.With Blue Line’s 35 percent equaling $153,414, a total of $438,326 has been paid in citations.