Battle over red light cameras continues

Jan. 2, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 1, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.

The Port Lavaca Citizens Against Red Light Cameras is moving forward with another petition to repeal the red light cameras.

The controversy over the cameras started in December 2008 after the city of Port Lavaca installed five cameras along state Highway 35.

The city government claims that the cameras are about safety, while the citizens group working to have the cameras taken down contends that the cameras are about profit.

Lt. Brandon Riedel, the interim police chief of Port Lavaca, said records show the cameras have reduced tickets because citations have dropped from more than 15,000 in 2009 to just under 5,000 in 2011.

However, Byron Schirmbeck, a Baytown resident who fought successfully to get the red light cameras removed from Baytown, has been studying the data on accidents at the Port Lavaca intersections with red light cameras.

Two out of the five places cameras were located had no red light related accidents in the 18 months before installation and the other three only had one each, Schirmbeck said. There were a total of six red light related accidents at these locations in the first 12 months after the cameras were installed.

Port Lavaca Mayor Jack Whitlow said the cameras haven't made money for the city since the first six months they were installed. The cameras are a matter of safety, he said.

"They're serving their purpose. They've dropped violations. ... They've obviously proven that they work. I don't recommend them for all places, but we had special circumstances," Whitlow said.

A petition containing more than 1,500 signatures requesting the city put the question to a vote was rejected after the Texas Traffic Coalition filed a lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit claimed the city could not put the issue to a vote because it was a matter of "health and safety," something only the city council could decide on. The city council voted down the issue.

Now the group has gone back to square one, organizer Carl Baugh said.

This petition requires 200 notarized signatures be collected to put the issue to a vote. Baugh said his group hopes to get at least 300 signatures collected before submitting the petition later this month.

"All I want is to at least put it on the ballot where people can have the chance to vote on it. If they vote it out, then they vote it out, but every time the people get the chance to vote on it, it's been voted out," Baugh said.



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