Port Lavaca's use of red-light cameras could go to a vote
by Dianna Wray
Jan. 14, 2011 at 6 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2011 at 7:14 p.m.
DID YOU KNOW?Houston citizens voted to remove their red-light cameras in a Nov. 2 referendum. The move is now being contested in court, as the city and the company contracted to run the cameras sue each other.
The red-light cameras in Port Lavaca have been a point of contention for months.
Now, the issue over the light cameras could be put to a vote in the next few months because Carl Baugh submitted last week a petition to revise the city charter.
In January 2009, five red-light cameras approved by the city council were installed at three intersections deemed to be the busiest in town.
The company, Redflex, approached the city council about installing some cameras. The council voted to install the cameras after reviewing a study conducted by Reflex.
The cameras were set up at three intersections along state Highway 35 at Half League Road, Smith Road and Travis Street.
Baugh became concerned about the cameras after slick streets caused his brakes to lock up, sending him skidding through a red light in December 2009. He received a $75 citation in the mail and was surprised to find he would have to travel to Harlingen, a four-hour drive, to appeal the ticket.
This got Baugh interested in the red-light cameras. He created a Facebook page, PL Citizens Against Red-Light Cameras, and started collecting signatures in February to have the cameras removed.
He collected signatures for months before finding out signatures expire after 180 days. In October, he started collecting again.
To get the ordinance put to a vote, he is required to get 5 percent of the registered voters who participated in the last election to sign the petition. Because 700 people voted in the last election, Baugh needed 289 signatures. He got more than 530 registered voters to sign.
Baugh doesn't just want to have the city ordinance for the red-light cameras repealed.
With this petition, he went after the city charter amendment, trying to have that revised, Baugh said. Revising the charter would make it more difficult for the city council to bring the cameras back in the future, Baugh said.
Turning in the petition after all of these months was exhilarating, Baugh said.
"It feels great and I'm glad to finally have them out of my hands and into the city," Baugh said. "Hopefully, they'll schedule a vote soon and the citizens of Port Lavaca will vote whatever way they want to vote. I have a feeling we'll be pulling down those cameras soon."
Next, the city secretary has to verify the signatures and then it will be up to the city council to call a special election or put it on the ballot in the upcoming May elections.
Port Lavaca Mayor Jack Whitlow said he expected to see the issue voted on, considering the amount of public interest displayed.
"As soon as we've checked all of the signatures, we'll accept the petition," Whitlow said. "I don't have a problem with putting it up on the ballot. We have quite a few people for it and quite a few against it, and I think that means it's worth having a vote."