New twist for Baytown's red light camera controversy

October 5, 2011 4:28:01 PM PDT
There are new developments in another battle over controversial red light cameras. Residents of Baytown who fought to turn those cameras off got their wish, but in the end their vote doesn't matter. And that's what's got so many riled up.

Last November, residents of Baytown voted to remove red light cameras from intersections all across their city. And while ultimately the cameras did get turned off, their vote on the issue is being tossed out as part of a settlement between the city and the red light camera company.

ATS, the company that operated the cameras, agreed to shut them off for a million of Baytown's taxpayer dollars. But part of that deal threw out an anti-camera ordinance, and that has some people seeing red.

When red light cameras came to Baytown in 2008 drivers had mixed reviews.

Driver Joann Nichols said, "It really didn't matter to me one way or the other."

"I think they ought to rely on police department to patrol the traffic," said driver Ray Mullins.

In a special election last November, 58 percent of Baytown voters cast ballots to get rid of them. By January they were shut off. On Tuesday, the city agreed to pay the camera operator American Traffic Solutions a million dollars for ending its contract. As part of that settlement the special election that made the cameras illegal is nullified, which means this court order erases all of those votes.

Byron Schirmbeck with the Baytown Red Light Camera Coalition explained, "This does away with everything that we've done in the last two years to make sure the citizens' voice was heard on this issue."

Schirmbeck led the petition for the ordinance. He's angry that future city councils could bring back the cameras, and that the camera company has won more than just the citizens' tax dollars.

He said, "This also goes to the benefit of the camera company, who does not want the people to vote on this issue because every time this issue has come up for a vote, they lose."


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