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Citizens groups starts new petition against Port Lavaca red light cameras

By Gheni_Platenburg
Oct. 28, 2011 at 5:28 a.m.


If you want to sign

Petitions can be found at the following locations:

Action Lumber - 1507 W. Austin St., Port Lavaca

The office of Colonial Arms Apartments - 140 state Highway 35, Port Lavaca

Port Lavaca residents may have lost a previous battle in the fight against red light cameras, but a new petition proves residents are still aiming to win the war.

The Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras group is once again collecting signatures on a petition to have red light cameras voted on by the people of Port Lavaca.

"This time around, we are letting the city of Port Lavaca dictate the petition rules to us," said Dwayne Buehring, co-founder of Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras. "Even though, what we submitted last time was completely legal and should have been honored by the city council."

Messages left for Port Lavaca City Manager Bob Turner and Mayor Jack Whitlow went unreturned as of Friday evening.

The controversy over the red light cameras began in December 2008 after the city installed five red light cameras along state Highway 35.

The cameras are provided by Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company in charge of Port Lavaca ticketing. Each camera cost the city $5,000 per month, totaling $300,000 a year.

Since the cameras were installed, many residents have scoffed at the cameras' ability to reduce the number of accidents, instead claiming they actually increase the frequency of accidents and serve as merely another revenue stream for the cash strapped city.

Most of the red-light-camera-generated tickets are issued for either right turn violations made by people not stopping at or behind the white line for at least three seconds, and to people going through a red light in the first second the light turns red, during which time both lights are red so no cars are moving and no accidents occur, said Buehring.

Neither of these scenarios causes the majority of accidents, said Buehring, who explained that most of the cameras are fixed in the direction to catch right turn violators because of the large amount of money that generates.

In 2010, the group began circulating its first petition, which contained more than 1,500 signatures. The petition asked for an election so residents could vote in May 2011 on an ordinance outlawing the cameras

A lawsuit filed by the Texas Traffic Coalition against the city claimed the city could not allow the voters to decide on this issue because it involved "health and safety" and therefore only the council had the authority to decide.

Subsequently, the city council voted down the issue.

Meanwhile, in Houston, a federal judge ruled voters could vote on health and safety issues, essentially making the city of Port Lavaca's argument null and void.

These days, Buehring's organization has regrouped and has started its new petition, this time aiming at repealing the existing city ordinance.

Per the city's petition instructions, Buehring and nine others have formed a petitioner's committee, who will serve as witnesses for each of the petition's signatures.

The petitions are located at Action Lumber and the office of Colonial Arms Apartments, both in Port Lavaca.

Buehring's group needs 200 signatures, which he said they hope to have exceeded by December.

Upon collecting the minimum amount of signatures, Buehring said the city has to turn the cameras off immediately until either the city upholds the ordinance or they allow the people to vote on the issue in May.

"I just want to put it before the people and let the people decide," said Carl Baugh, the other co-founder of Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras.

"We expect a second lawsuit will be filed, but we don't know what is in it," said Buehring.

Baytown resident Byron Schirmbeck is helping Port Lavaca residents in their fight against tickets and the cameras. He successfully petitioned the city of Baytown to remove its red light cameras.

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