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Ban on red-light cameras advances

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  • Ban on red-light cameras advances

    Feb. 16, 2005, 12:51AM

    Ban on red-light cameras advances
    It's the second traffic initiative of the mayor to stall this month
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

    AUSTIN - A bill that would prohibit Houston and other cities from using cameras to nab red-light runners was approved by a House committee Tuesday — the second of Mayor Bill White's traffic initiatives to get jammed up in Austin.

    A Senate committee voted last week to ban the city's Safe Clear mandatory towing ordinance, and a full Senate vote is scheduled for later this week.

    The House committee voted 4-2 Tuesday to send the red-light camera bill to the full House, where it is likely to pass.

    Lawmakers have debated the use of red-light cameras during the last several sessions, and have strongly opposed the practice.

    Under Texas law, running a red light is a Class C misdemeanor that can be regulated only by the state, even though local governments are in charge of enforcement. In 2003, the House overwhelmingly voted not to allow cities to use cameras to issue criminal citations to red-light violators.

    Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, inserted an amendment in the 2003 transportation bill giving cities authority to regulate transportation civilly or criminally.

    Houston proposes to issue civil citations to red-light violators caught by cameras.

    The bill by Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, would eliminate the civil loophole.

    Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt, who testified before the committee Tuesday, said he was disappointed by the vote.

    "I did not recommend this as a revenue enhancement for the city," Hurtt said. "We want to use cameras in the city of Houston to protect and save lives."

    Hurtt, who was police chief in Phoenix and Oxnard, Calif., before coming to Houston last year, initiated camera red-light enforcement in both cities.

    Houston officials hoped to start using cameras to issue civil citations in at least 10 dangerous intersections by April and to expand the program to as many as 50 intersections. That timetable has been put on hold pending the action in Austin. The city has yet to begin the formal process of seeking contractors for a camera system, which means the earliest it could install cameras is June, Hurtt said.

    The city had estimated the technology could bring in $675,000 in fines by June 30, the end of this budget year.

    In a show of support, police chiefs from other large cities — Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso and San Antonio — said they oppose Elkins' bill.

    But Elkins said current law leaves every city to "set a law unto themselves."

    More than a dozen people testified Tuesday before the Urban Affairs Committee.

    Among those speaking against the bill was Frisco Mayor E. Michael Simpson, whose city is evaluating bids to purchase the cameras along with two other Dallas suburbs, Plano and Richardson.

    "We believe this is a local issue," Simpson said.

    Scott Henson, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the bill, referred to red-light cameras as the "government eye."

    "There are no limits on what governments can use these for," he said. He added that cities that are "too cowardly" to raise taxes are using red-light cameras as a potential income stream.

    Hurtt said after the hearing that "there seems to be a lot of emotion behind this issue."

    "I don't know whether the facts really mean a great deal," Hurtt said. "To say we shouldn't use technology to establish public safety is baffling to me."

    Committee members Alma Allen, D-Houston, and Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, voted against sending the bill to the House. Committee Chairman Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, and Reps. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston; Martha Wong, R-Houston; and Roy Blake Jr., R-Nacogdoches, voted in favor of it.
    "Blue Oh-Two" (#424)
    Rick's header, Hondata gasket, Mugen thermostat/fan switch, Mugen radiator cap, Aussie mirror, Lucid's rear speakers, Alpine CDA-7893R & KCE-865B, Muz's saddlebag, Windscreen Light, Modifry's glove box organizer and lots of Zaino!

  • #2
    Good ban them!