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Tom Sherwood's Notebook: Red-Light Cameras Double Whammy

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Well, there soon may be another reason to worry about those red-light cameras in the District.

If Mayor Vincent Gray gets his way, those cameras will be doing double duty. Not only will they take photos of red-light runners, but the cameras also would snap a photo if you’re speeding through the intersection when the light is green.

That’s right! The traffic signal could get you on either red or green. Now, if the city can just figure out a way to conveniently ticket on yellow, it would be a trifecta.

And, as they say on those cheesy television ads, “That’s not all!”

The mayor also is proposing that police use infrared lasers to beam inside tunnels and ticket motorists who zoom through over the speed limit.

It’s all part of the mayor’s 2013 budget, submitted last week.

The goal is both public safety and revenue-raising. The mayor’s new proposals would bring in an estimated $30 million, minus about $5 million for costs and installation. The $30 million is on top of the $58 million the city is expected to bring in this year from red-light and speed cameras.

“It’s really to have drivers to be cognizant that these cameras are out there, and the ultimate goal is to get folks to slow down,” Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told News4. “If you’re not speeding, at the end of the day, you’re not going to get a ticket.”

That’s hard to argue against. If you’re not speeding, you don’t get tickets. The Notebook broached this sensitive subject after a new speed camera spit out 30,000 tickets in two months on Foxhall Road NW.

Still, for many motorists, the automated enforcement seems like a money grab.

At-large D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, told News4 he’ll hold hearings on the new speed camera policies before they can go into effect this fall. It’ll be part of his review of the overall police budget.

Mendelson said that the city “should not be balancing budgets based on ticket writing; ticket writing should be based on public safety.” However, he said speeding and red-light running in the District present a real law enforcement problem.

If forewarned is forearmed, you can easily find out where the city’s speed cameras and red light cameras are. Just look on the D.C. police website.

Or better yet, just slow down when you drive.

• A new, new life.

Here’s hoping that the Carnegie Library downtown finally will get the attention -- and money -- it deserves.

Although it was renovated a few years ago to be used by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., the building has never drawn the special-event crowds needed to make it self-sustaining. The historical society, with its own money problems, essentially shut down for a while, and so did the building.

Now comes Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the city. It has taken over the Carnegie and plans to boost its use. There was a lunch there for the hotel industry just a few weeks ago.

The library building could serve as an impressive gathering place right in front of the more modern Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Carnegie has a 150-seat theater, an excellent reception space and more. The library grounds would be perfect for a restaurant with outdoor seating, concerts and art displays that could draw some of the thousands who visit the convention center itself.

The library was dedicated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt and Andrew Carnegie, whose fortune built this and other libraries as a public service. For more information on the Carnegie Library, visit eventsdc.com.

“The Carnegie Library is one of Washington, D.C.’s historic treasures, and by reopening its doors, this history will come alive once again,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, Events D.C. president, in a news release. We hope so. We really hope so.

• Community spirit.

The Carnegie story reminded us that in every part of our city, there are people who work to make a group, a community or a neighborhood better. Last week, the Emergence Community Arts Collective had an event at Howard University to honor six women who over the years worked to improve the Pleasant Plains and Park View neighborhoods along Georgia Avenue.

Among them was Delores Tucker, slowed by age but still strong in spirit. Ms. Tucker was among the earliest community activists who sought to school the Notebook on the real local Washington when we were beginning our journalism career in Washington in the 1980s. (She shouldn’t be confused with C. Delores Tucker, a civil-rights activist who marched in Selma and drew national attention with her fight against misogynist rap songs. She died in 2005.)

Delores Tucker “has been so involved in the community for so long,” said Sylvia Robinson, executive director of the arts collective. “She has adopted so many people and guided them. She’s a great community organizer, a great activist.”

Ms. Tucker’s father was among the first black lab technicians at the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Tucker herself was a career clerk at the CIA, beginning in 1951 and retiring in 1978 as a senior reference librarian. But she’s never retired from community service.

The collective’s home at 733 Euclid St. NW dates back to the late 1880s and counts as part of its history the education of former slaves. It was abandoned and forlorn after a day-care center closed in the 1970s, but it was purchased and brought back to life as a community center in 2003.

“Making sure we put our history in front is something very special,” Robinson told us this week. More about the collective can be found at inherhonor.charityhappenings.org.

• Primary aftermath.

What to make of the April 3 primary? Join Nikita Stewart of The Washington Post, Mark Segraves of WTOP radio and your Notebook at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. It’s free.

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