Red light camera fight heats up

September 13, 2010 3:49:15 PM PDT
As it stands now, come November, voters in Houston will get to decide whether red light cameras should stay or go. Those in favor of the cameras have filed a lawsuit to stop the proposition. Those against the cameras are prepared to fight, too. There was never a question that the red light camera charter change referendum would wind up in the courts, but now it's going into overdrive.

Of the thousands of lighted intersections around Houston, fewer than a hundred have red light cameras. An Arizona company contracts the service to the city which receives a portion of the fines collected along with local trauma centers. Ever since the devices went into operation though, there's been a degree of distrust about the devices.

"It's not human. Eventually we'll do away with all humans, right," said driver Demetria Brown.

The distrust level is high enough that thousands of people signed a petition asking that the red light camera program be put to a vote in Houston. City Council reluctantly agreed, expecting a lawsuit would be filed over the matter. And it was - last week by the Keep Houston Safe organization which promotes the use of the devices.

Today, their opponents joined the lawsuit, but on the side of the city of Houston.

"What was troubling to us is that they're actually alleging the red light cameras being on the ballot will somehow dilute minority voting and that's surprising to us in light of the fact of where we collected a lot of our signatures," said traffic attorney Paul Kubosh.

Ron Jackson says he gathered a lot of those signatures.

"They thought this was not about safety, but about money," Jackson said.

Attorneys say it's unlikely the request to block the charter change election will succeed. Even one of the chief proponents of the cameras, the Houston Police Officers Union, is prepared for that.

"If it gets down to the vote, which it looks like it's going that way, we'd just ask the public that they'd side with saving lives and helping the Houston Police Department versus siding with the interest of the traffic ticket lawyers," said Mark Clark, HPOU Executive Director.

Our legal analyst Joel Androphy told us it is possible that the federal judge assigned to hear the lawsuit might not even take up the case until after the November election, if it's taken up at all.

The city of Baytown is facing its own lawsuit over the city's decision to put red light cameras on the ballot. Voters in Baytown will have the opportunity to vote in November on an ordinance restricting the use of the cameras.

The company that owns and operates them, American Traffic Solutions, has filed a lawsuit to block the amendment election, arguing it violates state code and the federal voting rights act.


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