What about red light cameras elsewhere?

Before the election, I noted a DMN story about how the red light camera referendum in Houston might spur opponents in other cities to try their luck with a similar ban. This DMN story discusses that, but you have to get past a few glaring errors first.

More than 50 Texas communities have installed the cameras since 2003, when Garland became the state’s first city to do so. But growing opposition, buttressed by the same brand of anti-government ire that propelled the tea party this fall, has cast an uncertain future on the cameras.

That includes Dallas, which uses some 60 cameras citywide. Legislators in Austin, who almost passed a statewide camera ban in 2009, have pledged to take up the issue again next year.

First of all, Republican voters in Houston voted for the red light cameras. It was the heavily Democratic, African-American neighborhoods – the opposite of teabaggerdom – that opposed them the most strongly. Second, while it may well be the case that the Lege will take the matter up next year and may well pass a ban, it was two Republican legislators – State Sen. John Carona and State Rep. Jim Murphy – that sponsored the legislation in 2007 that gave cities the official authority to operate the cameras. Things aren’t always as they appear.

A similar petition has yet to surface in Dallas, Fort Worth or the 11 other North Texas cities that use red-light cameras. But one might not be far off.

After voters in Garfield Heights, Ohio, rejected cameras earlier this month, some in neighboring Cleveland began their own ballot drive.

Petition or not, it may be a matter of time before North Texas faces a camera reckoning like Houston. State Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi, co-sponsored a statewide camera ban in 2009 and says he plans to again.

I’m afraid that’s going to be difficult for Rep. Ortiz to do, since he was defeated in his re-election bid. In fact, both of the main camera opponents from the 2009 Lege, Ortiz and Rep. Carl Isett, who chose not to run for re-election, will be absent in this session. I’m certain there are others who will take up the mantle, but at the very least the face of camera opposition will be different this time around.

Anyway. I won’t be surprised if the Lege takes up a bill to ban the cameras, and I won’t be surprised if that bill passes. I just wish this article had been more useful.

UPDATE: Received the following via Facebook from Stephen Polunsky of Sen. John Carona’s staff:

Hi – this statement from your blog is incorrect, would you mind correcting it? “State Sen. John Carona and State Rep. Jim Murphy – that sponsored the legislation in 2007 that gave cities the official authority to operate the cameras.” It was a floor amendment by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown the previous session that authorized the cameras (see press coverage from the time). Carona/Murphy clarified the authority and placed limits on it. Let me know if I can help further. Steven Polunsky, on Senator Carona’s staff, 463-0365.

My apologies for the confusion. What I recall about the Carona/Murphy bill was that there had been a lawsuit filed by Michael Kubosh that claimed that cities could not issue civil citations for running red lights; state law at the time was not clear on the subject. It was the clarification of that authority in the Carona/Murphy bill that I was referring to. I should have been more specific about that. My larger point was that it was Republicans who passed legislation that gave cities this authority, and as Rep. Harper-Brown is also a Republican, that still stands. Anyway, my thanks to Stephen Polunsky for the feedback.

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One Response to What about red light cameras elsewhere?

  1. It was useful, don’t be too hard on yourself! A couple of points, we heard Port Lavaca is getting ready to turn in their petition soon, the state GOP and HCRP adopted statewide bans as part of their platform this year, so if they stick to their platform we should get some legislation. Rep Gary Elkins, one of the strong opponents of the cameras, is in office, but Ortiz was an unfortunate loss in straight party voting. Carona and Murphy didn’t really get the legislation passed to authorize the cameras, Brown did that by slipping in another provision into the home rule language. Carona and Murphy put forth what became Texas Transportation code 707 which was a response to the legislation that gave the go ahead for civil violations. 707 placed strict limits on what cities can do with RLC programs, setting minimum YCI standards and requiring engineering studies proving a need for cameras before they are installed and requiring a citizen’s committee to have input in the decision.

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