Dallas-area cities are watching the red light camera referenda

What happens next month in Houston and Baytown may have an effect on our neighbors to the north.

North Texas city officials are monitoring a public backlash against lucrative red-light cameras that could signal their end.

Citizens in three Texas cities who are angry about the devices have forced a public vote to ban the cameras.

Last year, College Station voters narrowly passed a proposition that bans the cameras there. In November, voters in Houston and Baytown, a Houston suburb, will decide whether to keep red-light cameras in their cities.

The November outcome could set a precedent for similar revolts in North Texas municipalities.

“There’s concern on the part of everybody whether or not that’s a trend among cities,” said Plano assistant city manager Bruce Glasscock. “I’m monitoring it very closely and talking to the people in Houston. But it’s one of those things we just have to wait and see what the voters decide in Houston.”

The anti-camera advocates love to say that they’ve won every time the issue has come to a vote. If that streak continues, I’ve no doubt you’ll continue to see it on the ballot. I suspect they’ll still push further even if one or both get defeated here, but I’m sure that will change the way those campaigns are waged if that happens.

One more thing:

Lloyd Ward, a Dallas attorney who once challenged the legitimacy of red-light cameras in Dallas civil court, said the elections raise an interesting question.

“Would you rather have red-light cameras or potholes in the street?” he asks.

He’d choose potholes.

“Right now it’s set up to be a moneymaker for the city,” he said. “It’s much more profitable to institute that system than put more police on the street.”

Well, I appreciate the honesty. As you know, I would not choose the potholes. If this were how the issue were put to all voters, I wonder how it would affect the level of support for and against the cameras. It’s not clear to me that putting it this way is in the interests of the camera opponents.

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