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11/13/2009
Second Texas City Initiates Traffic Camera Referendum
Activists in Baytown, Texas work to put red light cameras to a public vote.

Baytown speed limit signInspired by the success of the College Station, Texas initiative banning red light cameras, activists a hundred miles away in are collecting signatures to do the same in Baytown. Officials in the Gulf Coast city of 72,000 allowed American Traffic Solutions to set up the cameras in April 2008, but resident Byron Schirmbeck is circulating a petition in the hopes of giving voters the opportunity to take them back down.

"The response has been absolutely overwhelming," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "I am conservative in saying that I have had less than ten percent of people I asked at public places refuse to sign because they support the cameras. The usual response to the question, 'Would you like to sign the petition to ban the red light cameras?' is 'Hell yes' and 'Can I get my wife to sign it too?'"

Schirmbeck formed the Baytown Red Light Camera Coalition PAC to coordinate the petition drive. He needs 620 verified signatures to qualify the initiative for the next ballot. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public referendum.

Schirmbeck has been especially interested in the issue since he caught the city using illegally short yellow times in an effort to increase revenue. After he beat his ticket at West Baker and Garth Roads earlier this year, the city increased the yellow time to 4.5 seconds on June 5. Seeing the number of $75 violations drop, the city decreased the yellow time to 4.0 seconds in July. The city justified this change by putting up a 40 MPH speed limit sign on the camera-monitored approach, even though the other side of the same road is posted at 45 MPH. Texas law sets minimum yellow timing standards according to the posted speed limit.

"Just when I think I have seen the city do everything they can to keep their revenue with the cameras they go and surprise me again," Schirmbeck said.




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