7/18/2012Texas Town Fights Back Against Red Light Cameras
Activists intend to make Cleveland the fifth Texas city to ban automated ticketing machines.
More than a thousand residents of Cleveland, Texas are now on record opposing the use of red light cameras in their community. Tri-County Texas Tea Party co-founder Aubrey Vaughan on Monday presented petitions to the city secretary that, if verified, will put the future of automated ticketing on the city's November 6 ballot.
Vaughan and the team of forty volunteers who helped collect signatures believe Cleveland will join Dayton, Houston, Baytown and College Station, each of which voted to take their cameras down by margins as great as 70 percent against. Cleveland voters appear similarly motivated.
"When I knock on their door and begin talking to them, they see my petition says 'Ban Red Light Cameras,' they would sometimes forcibly open the door, reach out and grab the petition, saying 'Gimme that, I'll sign that thing,'" Vaughan told TheNewspaper. "They're very passionate about it."
More signatures continue to come in and the activists intend to continue gathering them until the measure is certified for the ballot. Vaughan's says his motivation in taking on the camera issue is two-fold.
"The constitutional issue got me to thinking about how wrong this is," Vaughan said. "Then as I studied and experienced some things I realized -- it's not safe."
According to Texas Department of Transportation data, the average number of accidents before and after installation of the cameras remained essentially the same. There were only two injury accidents in the eighteen months prior to camera installation, neither of which were related to red light running. In the twelve months following installation, there were three collisions that caused a reportable injury, including two related to red light running.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the for profit company in charge of the cameras, threatened to impose a $1 million charge on the city if it attempted to withdraw from the photo ticketing contract before it expires in 2015. The city council voted Monday not to renew the contract in 2015, leaving the program in place. The contract includes a clause allowing the city to cancel the agreement "as a result of adverse state legislation."
Red light camera companies have made attempts to block access to the ballot through lawsuits, but these attempts for the most part have failed to save the programs. Since 1991, there have been twenty-four election contests with red light cameras or speed cameras on the ballot. Cameras lost all but one election after city officials dispatched uniformed police officers to "encourage" citizens to vote to keep the cameras. This November, referendum votes are also likely in Newport Beach and Murrieta, California. A vote is also possible in Port Lavaca, Texas pending resolution of legal issues.