According to Houston’s mayor, red-light cameras will once again be issuing citation in the “very near future.” The red-light cameras were once prevalent throughout the city before they were removed by last November’s voter mandate. Reportedly, the devices had issued over 800,000 tickets during the previous four years.
Sources say a federal judge threw out the election results last month because the petition drive to repeal the ordinance authorizing red-light cameras did not occur within 30 days after it was passed, which is required by the city charter. The mayor says she understands the will of the voters but because of the judge’s decision there is a dilemma. The mayor was forced to choose between honoring the will of the voters and honoring the contract with American Traffic Solutions, which operates cameras throughout the city.
Reportedly, in an attempt to do both, the city will turn the cameras on but will ask U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes for permission to appeal the ruling to a higher court. Although the judge has ruled the city breached its contract with American Traffic Solutions, the damages for what the city owes the company for breaching its contract has not been ruled upon.
Reportedly, the system has collected over 50 million dollars in fines since it was first put into place in 2006. Sources say the mayor’s announcement comes two weeks after the city passed an annual budget with over 100 million dollars in spending cuts. The mayor says that after the city was forced to lay off nearly 750 employees because of budget cuts, she cannot allow the city to be exposed to the breach of contract damages. Sources say that cancelling the contract could cost up to 16 million dollars.
According to reports, the city of Houston’s contract with ATS runs through 2014. The mayor says she plans on asking the City Council to place another referendum on the ballot asking voters whether the program should continue.
The Houston Police Chief has also voiced his support for the cameras saying they make streets safer. According to Houston Police Department data, traffic accidents in the 50 intersection formerly monitored by cameras decreased by 16 percent in the four months the cameras were not issuing citations. However, the cameras did measure an increased level of movement during red-lights.