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John Flanagan

Marty Golden’s Word on Speed Cams Has Been Good for Nothing

11:28 AM EDT on July 20, 2018

State Senator Marty Golden

So much for Marty Golden using his pull to get a vote on the speed camera bill in the State Senate.

With less than a week until the city's 140 speed cameras go dark, there's been no movement from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to convene a special session and vote on the Every School Speed Camera Act, which would extend the program until 2022 and expand it to 290 school zones.

Flanagan himself didn't respond yesterday after Governor Cuomo and members of Families for Safe Streets called for a vote on the bill in the Senate. That fell to Senate GOP spokesperson Candice Giove, who told reporters a few howlers about noble Senate Republicans crusading for safe streets, buffeted by the cynical campaign of advocates, professional engineers, trauma doctors, and victims' families who've lost everything to dangerous drivers.

It wasn't a coherent argument. Giove told Ken Lovett and Khadija Hussain at the Daily News that "the city’s own report shows that most pedestrian deaths and injuries occur where speed cameras are not permitted by law," which sounds like... an excellent case for more of the speed cameras that have markedly reduced speeding, traffic injuries, and fatalities where they've been installed.

But debating Giove is beside the point. It's Flanagan's conference, and Flanagan has little use for things like data-based policy or logical consistency. He just needs to satisfy the Senate GOP's core constituencies while preventing politically lethal fallout for any of his vulnerable caucus members. Losing any seat in November could flip the Senate to Democratic control.

For the speed camera bill, Flanagan's constituency isn't the millions of New Yorkers who are less likely to get injured or killed when speeding is less prevalent. Only three of NYC's 26 state senators caucus with Republicans.

The constituency Flanagan wants to protect is the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the largest union representing NYPD officers. The PBA ostensibly opposes speed cameras because they threaten the jobs of police officers, but trends in NYPD's headcount since the debut of the cameras don't support that explanation. More plausibly, PBA members resent getting $50 camera-issued fines for speeding at least 11 mph above the limit in school zones.

Since the beginning of 2015, the PBA has contributed $68,500 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $19,200 to Golden, and $5,000 to Flanagan. A disproportionate share of PBA members also live in the Senate GOP strongholds of Staten Island and Nassau and Suffolk counties, which include Flanagan's own district.

The fact that the speed camera bill is still at an impasse may seem baffling, since Golden and two other Senate Republicans now say they support it. Unless, of course, Flanagan is trying to keep the PBA happy while shielding Golden from the anger of constituents who want to keep speeding in check. In which case, the hold-up makes perfect sense.

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