Houston City Council votes to turn off red light cameras

August 24, 2011 5:10:29 PM PDT
Houston's red light camera fight has been going on for months. It's still far from over in the courts, but as far as the city is concerned, the cameras are now banned.

For Houston drivers -- the bottom line is this. As of 12:01pm Wednesday afternoon, the city stopped issuing red light camera tickets. If you found the whole situation a bit confusing, you're certainly not alone.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker explained, "I turned them off, I turned them back on because of the lawsuit. Council needs to understand and to weigh in, and that's what I'm asking."

Mayor Parker presided over a raucous morning at Houston City Council, where the vote to permanently shut down the controversial red light cameras hung in the balance. Long-time camera opponent Michael Kubosh watched every move.

He said, "It looked like they were going to waffle, it looked like they were going to kick the can down the road some more, but I guess they just got tired of it."

Council members seemed tired and frustrated over the confusing series of votes and amendments necessary to turn the cameras off.

"I lost track of where we were," admitted Council Member Mike Sullivan.

Many of their questions were lobbed at City Attorney David Feldman, who grew testy when Council Member Jolanda Jones accused him of not keeping her updated on negotiations with the camera vendor.

Jones said, "I just learned from Attorney Feldman there was 21 hours of negotiations this weekend. Well, I just learned that at the table."

"The rest of the world knew it, council member," Feldman responded.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't speaking with you," Jones clarified.

In the end, council members voted to shut down the cameras and repeal the ordinance, a defeat for camera vendor ATS, whose lawyer promises another trip to court.

"We will be back in court, asking the federal judge to rule as to what the consequences are for the city's breach of contract," explained ATS attorney Andy Taylor.

Mayor Parker just seemed relieved that at least part of the fight is over.

She said, "The red light cameras went off today at 12:01. We are no longer issuing tickets via the cameras, but believe me, we will issue tickets written by police officers."

Now the question is, just how much money does the city owe ATS in damages? ATS, the camera vendor, intends to file legal paperwork as early as the end of this week. Sometime next week discussions will center around just how much taxpayers may be on the hook for.

With the cameras off, you may be wondering if you still have to pay your violation, should you receive one. The city is not granting amnesty for past violations. However, the city doesn't really do anything if you don't pay. It doesn't go on your driving record and it's not reported to credit agencies.


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