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Red-Light Cameras: A Cautionary Tale From Houston

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Houston red-light saga becomes absurdist comedy
Many St. Louisans are eagerly awaiting the outcome of a court case that, in a partial ruling earlier this year, seemed to nullify the city's ordinance allowing red-light cameras.

But if Houston is any indicator, opponents of the cameras in St. Louis should be careful just what they wish for. Houston has a contract with the same camera company that St. Louis (and many other Missouri municipalities) uses to monitor its traffic lights, American Traffic Solutions.

Last year, 52 percent of Houston residents voted to end the city's contract with ATS and do away with the cameras.

But not so fast. ATS then sued the city for breach of contract, noting that the city signed an agreement with the camera vendor until 2014.

Now ATS claims it is owed $25 million for the city backing out of the contract. Lawsuits are flying and the city has flipped the cameras off, on and off again when the city council finally decided the hell with it and repealed the ordinance.

Houston Press has all the details in a story this week titled, appropriately enough,  The Red-Light Camera Circus.

Correction: This post originally stated that the cameras are currently on in Houston. They are not after the city council voted last month to repeal Houston's red-light camera ordinance.

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Brandy Pedersen
Brandy Pedersen

THE PEOPLE DON'T WANT THIS. JOIN SENATOR LEMBKE IN OPPOSITION OF IT. CALL JEFFERSON CITY TODAY

BRANDY PEDERSENST PETERS, MO

KITTY
KITTY

Fast Forward: The Bad News - Photo Enforcement Cameras Banned. The Good News - The loss of  all  revenue from the cameras would hasten the end of all those little piss ant  speed trap villages who only exist on the revenues generated by their outrageous speed traps and red light cameras.

tom2
tom2

Houston's mayor at the time of installation was Bill White, a pandering, big-government progressive guber wannabee.  The responsibility for such incompetent contract oversight rests clearly with him.  For this and many other reasons, I'd support a referendum that bans such incompetence from serving in any elected, appointed or hired position in Houston government.  These little fools are much like the big fools who gave half a billion to Solyndra.  Too bad for Houston taxpayers but they elected the fool.  And regarding Solyndra?  Too bad for all of us because we elected you-know-who, a bigger fool.

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

Cameras are off for good in Houston now . The City Council repealed the ordinance. They are just waiting for the Judge to okay their removal as the initial court order required they remain installed until the legal proceedings were over. The 25 Million ATS is asking for includes like 1 Million dollars worth of donations to the astroturf "Keep Houston Safe" group they created as well as future "profits" and lost income. The number is a total crock. This will go to a jury, and no jury will grant them any award. Plus, since the ordinance is repealed, it is a nullity, as a contract cannot require one to break the law, which the City would be doing by using the systems. ATS Attorney's Andy Taylor and George Hittner on are crack.

Scretch
Scretch

We took an inpromptu vote in a Defensive Driving class and the majority were for the red light cameras. I was surprised and I am against, but then i don't have kids. If I did I might think differently on this.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Curious, how "impromptu" was the vote? I'm guessing proposed by the instructor, but did they also keep a tally of the vote or just a eyeball estimate of votes?

Scretch
Scretch

it was an eyeball. like 70/40 percentage wise.

Scretch
Scretch

haha. you may be right, just a typo.

Scretch
Scretch

The instructor just asked who was for the cameras and the majority of the class raised their hands. Then he asked who was against them. Me and a few others raised our hands.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Thanks. Completely out of left field but was wondering whether ATS might be paying for polling in those classes. Although it would be a big blow to Houston if ATS won the case, the hairy balls on ATS to sue for breach of contact and win would certainly turn other cities off to the notion of installing the cameras in the first place.

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