Councilman James Rodriguez asked for the budget amendment, arguing that red-light cameras are good sources of revenue, and the money can be used to put more police on the streets.
The administration agreed with the proposal, as did all council members except Mike Sullivan of District E (Clear Lake and Kingwood). The vote asked HPD to identify 50 new intersections, which would each have a few cameras. The total number of new red-light cameras would be about 125.
HPD should return to the council with the new locations within two months, according to the amendment.
Putting this another way: It's fine by me if the cameras generate revenue because of a large volume of red light runners. I'm perfectly happy to see those people get stung for putting other people in danger. If the revenue plateaus and eventually declines because people are running fewer lights than before, that's fine by me as well. If we wind up spending some money to maintain cameras at certain intersections, instead of the cameras paying for themselves, because they've demonstrated they have a positive effect on safety at those intersections, once again that's fine by me. What I don't want is for the city to game the system by reducing yellow light times or whatever in order to maintain a projected revenue stream that's now falling short because drivers have wised up. For that reason, I'd prefer that the city view any revenue they get from these things as found money, and not a reliable source. So far, I believe the city has acted properly.
As it happens, if the Kubosh brothers get their wish, that would be a moot question.
Bail bondsman Michael Kubosh and his attorney brother Paul are looking to force a citywide referendum on the cameras.
"Let the citizens of the city of Houston decided whether or not they want this red light camera scheme," said Michael.
His brother calls the city's program dishonest.
"They're lying to the public. They're saying this is about public safety," said Paul Kubosh. "If they would just come out and say, "We want your money because we want to spend it the way we see fit."
"I wouldn't say fraud. But they're lying to the public."
It may not be until March before any referendum could be put before voters. A state law prohibits a measure that has failed in a previous election to be brought back before voters for 24 months.
The last attempt to let the voters decide the fate of red light cameras went in favor of those who support the program. This year's election falls on Nov. 4, just a few days shy of 24 months.