Houston, Texas Mayor Flip Flops on Red Light Cameras

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
houston texas mayor flip flops on red light cameras

Another twist in the red light camera saga in Houston, Texas could leave photo enforcement vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) out in the cold. Later today US District Court Judge Lynn N. Hughes is expected to decide whether to grant ATS a restraining order that would prevent America’s fourth largest city from deactivating its automated ticketing machines. Voters in November enacted a charter amendment prohibiting camera use, but Hughes personally decided to overturn their ballot choice saying the voters just “want to run red lights.”

That ruling has not gone over well with the public, and Mayor Annise Parker has been feeling the heat from members of the public and the city council. Late last week Parker reversed course and scheduled a vote this Wednesday that will allow the council decide how to proceed on the issue. The sudden shift left ATS furious.

“In an unprecedented and colossal flip‐flop in position, the city’s mayor has decided to invite city council to again breach its agreement with ATS by placing an agenda item on next week’s council meeting to pass a resolution to turn the red light cameras off,” ATS lawyer Andy Taylor wrote in a court brief filed Friday. “Should council vote to eradicate this public safety program, ATS will incur irreparable harm for which no remedy at law exists.”

With seventy cameras, Houston represents one of the largest single contracts for ATS, and the permanent loss of the city would deliver a massive financial blow to the company which just last month lost the contract with America’s second largest city, Los Angeles, California.

“The city of Houston’s decision to turn the red light cameras off, back on, and now, most likely back off again, has negatively impacted ATS’ ability to do business, including its ability to negotiate contracts in other cities for its services,” ATS General Counsel George Hittner wrote. “Representatives from other cities have expressed concern to ATS personnel about the situation in Houston. ATS’s employees, investors and contractors have also expressed concern about the strength of ATS’ Texas customer contracts and ATS’ contract obligations with third-party vendors.”

Hittner is the son of Judge David Hittner, who has served alongside Hughes for the past twenty-five years. So far, Hughes has sided with Hittner in every important decision, going so far as to exclude the charter amendment sponsors from defending their initiative in court. The sponsors say one way or another those cameras will be turned off, and that ATS should let it rest.

“They poured everything they could into Houston and still lost,” Citizens Against Red Light Camera spokesman Philip Owens told TheNewspaper. “They can’t get over it.”

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

The Newspaper
The Newspaper

More by The Newspaper

Join the conversation
2 of 13 comments
  • Roamer Roamer on Aug 15, 2011

    Wouldn't the fact of the son of a friend for over two decades being involved in the case be sufficient reason to recuse oneself? Yes, that was rhetorical. Sadly.

  • Henrythegearhead Henrythegearhead on Aug 16, 2011

    How do you get the cameras out of your city, when the camera company is so deeply entrenched? After all, the camera company has spent a great deal of money installing the cameras, so you can't just cancel the contract - the company will litigate and get a multi-million dollar judgment against the city. I suggest this compromise: Let the cameras continue to run, but limit or prohibit automated ticketing on rolling rights (the Tennessee legislature recently enacted just such a prohibition), raise the yellows on left turns to a minimum of 4 seconds, and add 1/2 second or more to all straight-thru yellows. These very small adjustments will cause ticketing to drop to less than half of what it was before, and because of the "Flexible Payment Plan" or "Cost Neutrality" found in most contracts, the monthly rent owed to the camera company will go way down, too. (Someone may argue that motorists will get used to the longer yellows, and resume running the light when, in fact, running stays down, indefinitely, after a yellow is lengthened. There is no "rebound." See: http://www.highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsLinksFAQ6Details.html ) Can a city do these things (above) without handing the camera company a cause of action? Listen to what the Tennessee Attorney General wrote, last week, about their new rolling right ban: "While Chapter 425 might arguably diminish the income received under a revenue-sharing agreement [Flexible Payment Plan, or Cost Neutrality] by reducing the number of traffic citations issued, any expected revenue stream was always necessarily contingent on the citizens of the state violating the law in certain numbers. That contingency tends to suggest that the parties have no 'vested right' in a particular level of revenue." ( http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2011/op11-61.pdf ) Please note that any change regarding rolling right tickets must be nuanced. If the city has directed, allowed or caused the camera company to install cameras on lanes which are used exclusively for right turns (no option to drive straight-through), the company could successfully argue that an all-out ban on rolling right tickets unfairly deprives it of any revenue from the equipment it installed on said lanes. If this situation obtains in your city, I suggest that instead of an outright ban, you enact a limit on rolling right ticketing - such as a requirement that the vehicle's speed over the detection loops (called the "trigger speed" or the "threshold speed" and typically set at 10 - 18 mph) must be in excess of 20 mph, before a right-turn ticket can issue. In this way, the camera company would still get some income from the equipment it installed to monitor the dedicated right-turn lanes. And the city would not be seen to be giving a free pass to people who race around corners at ultra high speeds.

  • ToolGuy "Mr. President, no government agency, no think tank, and no polling firm knows more about the automobile customer than us. We talk to customers every day. As retail automotive dealerships, we are agnostic as to what we sell. Our business is to provide customers with vehicles that meet the needs of their budgets and lifestyles.”• How many lies can you fit into one paragraph?
  • Spamvw Three on the tree, even Generation X would have a hard time stealing one of those.
  • ToolGuy This trend of cyan wheels needs to end NOW.
  • Kwik_Shift Interesting nugget(s) of EV follies. https://x.com/WallStreetApes/status/1729212326237327708?s=20
  • SaulTigh I've said it before and I'll say it again...if you really cared about the environment you'd be encouraging everyone to drive a standard hybrid. Mature and reliable technology that uses less resources yet can still be conveniently driven cross country and use existing infrastructure.These young people have no concept of how far we've come. Cars were dirty, stinking things when I was a kid. They've never been cleaner. You hardly ever see a car smoking out the tail pipe or smell it running rich these days, even the most clapped out 20 year old POS. Hybrids are even cleaner.