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Veto to Buffalo school zone camera changes being challenged by Common Council

Rasheed Wyatt and others hope to overturn the mayor's veto. They say they want to adapt the current program to better serve the city's schools and drivers.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The City of Buffalo's school zone camera program is facing some new scrutiny after Mayor Byron Brown vetoed several proposed changes to the program last month.

Those changes put forth by the Common Council sought to alter when the school zone cameras are active, favoring arrival and dismissal times instead of the current all-day hours, such as 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside the Nichols School.

Members of the city's Common Council now hope to challenge the mayor's veto and adapt the program to better serve the city's schools and drivers.

"The fact that people didn't realize, they ended up getting two or three tickets in a short period of time, was something that definitely caught our eye," Buffalo City Council Member Rasheed Wyatt told 2 On Your Side on Friday.

Wyatt said the proposed legislation would have created more school-specific hours for the cameras, favoring drivers but still keeping students safe.

When asked about that idea on Thursday, Mayor Brown said he stands by his decision.

"We thought it was important to keep the school zone program in place all day and something that parents, that community members, that educators agree with."

He added that not being conscientious of field trips and outdoor time isn't in the best interest of students.

A city report released in March, when the cameras were still relatively new, cited more than 1,100 drivers for speeding in two school zones on a single day, on Delaware and Jefferson. These violations cost drivers $50 each for going above the listed 15-mph limit. There are 20 zones in total.

"We're not trying to grab money. We're trying to keep kids safe," Mayor Brown said Thursday.

Countered Wyatt: "I think one of the numbers that was thrown out was $1.75 million in a week period, that is not what the council was pushing for in the midst of a pandemic. Now the city is hurting for money, but that's not the way we want to generate the funds needed to run our city."

And he agrees with the mayor that school safety is the focus, but Wyatt also believes that many tickets aren't fair to neighbors.

During a Wednesday Common Council legislation committee meeting, City Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer explained how overall compliance, people not speeding in these zones, has been high: 82% back in February.

But like with any new restriction, some people will need to learn through enforcement.

"The message to all must be that violations will only be decreased when motorists recognize and change dangerous driving behaviors," Helfer said.

He added that in comparison to a police-issued speeding ticket in a school zone, the city's $50 fine is modest.

Wyatt said he had hoped for middle ground with the mayor's office and feels that adding more flashing lights and signs to notify drivers are also fair ways to increase compliance that aren't currently in place at all 20 school zones.

"At this point, we haven't been able to meet that and so I'm hopeful that we'll have our votes on Tuesday to overturn it to do what we initially set out to do," council member Wyatt said.

The council would need a super-majority, six out of nine votes, to overturn the mayor's veto.

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