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3/30/2011
Texas: Gulf Coast Red Light Camera Controversy Mounts
Baytown, Texas sues vendor over red light camera contract. Candidate runs against League City cameras.

OKeefe sign
Red light cameras continue to generate controversy in a pair of Texas towns located off Galveston Bay. Last week, Baytown responded to the lawsuit filed by photo enforcement vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) in Harris County court on St. Valentine's Day alleging breach of contract. The quarrel between the two parties began when voters overruled the city council's decision to implement automated ticketing machines by imposing a requirement that police personally witness each alleged violation. ATS decided it would not earn sufficient revenue under such an arrangement and pulled out.

"By refusing to comply with its obligations [under the contract] and unilaterally deciding to discontinue its services, counter-defendant has breached its agreement with the city for which the city hereby sues," Baytown City Attorney Ignacio Ramirez Sr wrote it the city's counterclaim. "The city will show that the city has lost revenues for traffic safety based upon counter-defendant's breach."

Baytown is supposed to receive 45 percent of each traffic ticket issued, so the city is asking the court to order ATS to pay all of the money it would have received had the company not ceased ticketing on January 11, plus interest and attorney's fees. Byron Schirmbeck, leader of the effort that put the anti-camera initiative on the ballot, said the lawsuit exposes the motivation of both ATS and Baytown city officials.

"All of our predictions have been realized," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "We knew when the revenue was taken out of the equation the cameras would no longer serve their true purpose. As of this moment the cameras are deactivated, but still in place as a constant reminder that the direction of the citizens is yet unfulfilled."

In nearby League City, at least one candidate for city council is running on a platform promising to eliminate red light cameras. Dennis OKeeffe, a local businessman, has added the slogan "No Red Light Cameras" to his campaign signs for the election to be held May 14. League City's cameras have become a subject of debate after the city's own data showed that the cameras have failed to reduce accidents.



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