That white van parked outside Gatewood Elementary School this morning did triple duty — helping bust speeders along Fauntleroy a few hours earlier, helping city leaders put drivers on notice, and underscoring a political point about a statewide ballot initiative you’ll be deciding between now and November 4th. Full details (including how the van works, plus video from this morning’s event, at which Gatewood Elementary’s principal spoke too), just ahead:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
One person who wasn’t in attendance at this morning’s school-zone speed van show-and-tell outside Gatewood Elementary nonetheless loomed large: Prolific ballot-initiative backer Tim Eyman.
If his Initiative 985 (text) passes in the Nov. 4 election, cities wouldn’t get to keep any of the penalty proceeds from camera-enforcement programs like the speed van and red-light cams — not even to operate the programs; the money would go to a “congestion relief” fund set up by Eyman’s initiative.
That point as an underscore to today’s announcement didn’t overtly emerge till we asked a question about whether more vans were in the works. Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske mentioned the initiative, though not by name/number.
According to Chief Kerlikowske, the city has opinion-poll results showing that more than 70 percent of citizens support speed-van/red-light-camera-type technology. But let’s back up to what this morning was all about. This van has actually been deployed around the city for a few months:
Portable signs are set up to warn you it’s ahead – like the one you see next to the van in this photo:
Its bright white flash in your rear-view mirror will let you know you’ve been photographed. During its pilot program, violators got a warning in the mail. But now, as announced this morning, if it’s on the job and you were speeding, the firm with which SPD contracts for the van will send you a citation that carries a 189-dollar fine. And it takes a pretty good picture, transmitted quickly to a computer terminal in the van:
The van will be deployed in various spots around the city, but this morning, as a prelude to the media event, it spent some time on the Fauntleroy side of Gatewood Elementary, as Sgt. Don Smith from SPD’s Traffic team explained that in a typical deployment, the van isn’t put into action immediately when the school-zone lights start flashing – a few minutes elapse, then the officer who’s running it checks that the warning lights for the school zone are on, then the van is fired up – and it’s shut down a few minutes before the official “when lights are flashing” time normally ends.
Minutes before Sgt. Smith demonstrated how the van works, the mayor had said this morning’s Fauntleroy stint netted a dozen citations, including that one for 45 mph (25 over the school-zone limited). He also side-noted a personal memory from Gatewood, meeting site of his Cub Scout troop, and yielded the podium to Gatewood principal Rhonda Claytor, who said the enforcement efforts send an important message to kids like her students, years before they themselves get behind the wheel.
Will you see the van elsewhere in West Seattle, given that it has an entire city to roam? Chief Kerlikowske says the department will work with school administrators and PTSAs to find out where to get the most bang for its … flash; however, according to the official news release about today’s announcement, the focus will be on eight schools that are part of the pilot project, including Gatewood and Schmitz Park elementaries.
By the way, the mayor and police chief were joined at this morning’s announcement by City Councilmember Nick Licata, who has made pedestrian safety a special emphasis of his work; he co-chairs the council’s Pedestrian Safety Committee.
Gatewood Elementary will be back in the citywide spotlight this Friday, for Earth Summit III, 9 am-3 pm; last year’s Earth Summit brought Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai to West Seattle for a tree-planting celebration (WSB coverage here and here).