David Gantt, Longtime Foe of Red-Light Cams, Changes Tune

Gantt2_782058.jpgOne of Albany's chief foes of automated traffic enforcement appears to have softened his opposition to red-light cameras, but allegations of patronage may taint his turnaround.

For years, State Assembly Member David Gantt, a Rochester Democrat, has used his position as chair of the transportation committee to block the expansion of red-light cameras in New York and other cities. When pressed by advocates, Gantt could be relied upon to dismiss automated traffic enforcement by saying that privacy concerns trumped safety benefits. Not any longer.

In a recent about-face, Gantt has introduced legislation that would allow counties outside New York City to install red-light cameras at up to 25 percent of their intersections. New York, currently the only city in the state permitted to use the life-saving devices, first installed them in 1994 but is not allowed to set up more than 100. While the Gantt bill would not raise that limit, it may signal greater willingness on the part of Albany to approve automated enforcement measures down the road.

"From the perspective of New York City, it's neither a good bill nor a bad bill," said Chad Marlow of the Public Advocacy Group, a public relations firm whose clients include Transportation Alternatives. "But it shows that Gantt is more open to red-light cameras than he was earlier."

Gantt's motives, however, have attracted scrutiny. The bill would steer contracts to a specific vendor, who is lobbying for the legislation with the help of a former Gantt aide. The Buffalo News has the story:

...the bill appears crafted to benefit CMA Consulting Services, an Albany County firm that distributes for Sensys Traffic, a Swedish firm...

Lobbying, with an $80,000 contract, on the issue for CMA is Robert Scott Gaddy, a former counsel of Gantt’s Transportation Committee.

Gaddy said the Sensys system distributed by CMA is not proprietary and that any other company could use it. He said it is a higher-priced system because it includes a number of advances over other systems.

Gantt's bill is not expected to receive serious consideration until the next legislative session. Whether it survives the whiff of patronage or not, there will be an earlier test to see if the Assembly Member has truly changed his views on automated enforcement. The bus camera legislation transit advocates are now pressing for cannot receive a full vote in the Assembly without his say-so.