2/1/2012More Texas Cities Could See Red Light Camera Referendum
Ballot votes could put a stop to red light cameras in Cleveland, League City and Port Lavaca, Texas.
The effort to give voters a say in whether red light cameras are used in their community is spreading across Texas. Already, voters in College Station, Baytown, Houston and Dayton have rejected the use of automated ticketing machines. Yesterday the city council in League City voted to put the issue on the November ballot, and voters in Port Lavaca turned in sufficient signatures last week to force an election.
In League City, city leaders are looking to head off a public signature drive by asking voters not whether the camera program should be terminated immediately, but whether it should be continued when the contract expires in the year 2014. The cameras have been highly controversial in the Gulf Coast town where the devices have failed to reduce accidents, according to official data. City Councilman Dennis OKeeffe even won his seat last year by running on a "No Red Light Cameras" platform.
In Port Lavaca, cameras have been equally controversial, especially after the city and vendor Redflex were caught issuing red light camera tickets to drivers who had a green light (view story with video). The city ignored an anti-camera petition last March, so organizers have returned with a true referendum that strictly follows the rules laid down in the city charter, which places no time limit on a vote to repeal a city ordinance. As such, once the signatures are certified, the ordinance authorizing the cameras would be suspended pending the outcome at the ballot box.
"We predict the city will once again abuse the city charter by claiming this is a matter that would be a breach of public safety and deny suspension of the ordinance until the election," the group Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras said in a statement. "If the city does so we will know the city will do anything they can to save a failed program that has increased accidents and issued fraudulent tickets for drivers for going through green lights. If the council was truly concerned about a breach of public safety they would have never authorized the cameras and would have saved the additional accidents the cameras have caused."
Byron Schirmbeck, director of saferbaytown.com, spearheaded the successful referendum effort in Baytown. He told TheNewspaper that the next likely target will be Cleveland, a city of about 7600 about forty-five miles from Houston.