Pushing for a vote on red light cameras

April 23, 2010 4:08:05 PM PDT
You see the red light cameras at intersections across the city, snapping pictures of drivers running red lights. A local group that has been fighting those cameras for years is leading the effort to have voters decide whether the cameras should stay or go. When it comes to red light cameras, it's not hard to find some Houstonians who'd like to see them gone.

"They have flaws, they invade people's privacy," said Lerardrick Phillips, who opposes red light cameras.

However, simply wanting change on Houston streets is one thing, making it happen is another.

On Friday, the group Citizens Against Red Light Cameras began mailing out some 20,000 letters to voters in Houston. They are hoping to encourage residents to sign a petition that could put the issue before a citywide vote.

The people spearheading the campaign, two attorneys suing the city, say the program is just a money-making effort by the city. They also say officials have never proven red light cameras protect the public, citing the City of Houston's own internal emails.

"This is Professor Stein's report, 'The absolute number of collisions that camera monitored approaches is not decreasing,'" said attorney Paul Kubosh. "Let's be fair. Let the citizens vote. Give the power to the people to make this decision on whether or not they want to put up with this."

Houston police admit the current data does not support a reduction in accidents at red light camera intersections, however they say cameras are beneficial by holding red light drivers accountable.

"If people are obeying the law, you're not going to have a collision," said Asst. Chief Vicki King of the Houston Police Department.

This resident not only supports cameras, she thinks the petition is a bust.

"A waste of time and money. They can use that money on something else," said Isaura Matus.

Others see no harm in leaving the decision up to the voters, considering it's the taxpayer who will have to live with the consequences.

"We are ultimately the ones affected, so why not hear from the people who have been affected?" said Cindy Samudio.

The group needs 20,000 signatures to force a citywide referendum. They hope to get those signatures with this round of mailers in time to have a vote as early as November.

City officials say the program works and does reduce accidents.


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