Red Light Camera Ban Tossed Out

Categories: Courts

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Red light cameras: Status back to "up in the air."
A federal judge has thrown out the city's ban on red light cameras because it came from a referendum, not a charter amendment.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said the changes mandated by voters last November were not valid -- they could only have been accomplished via a charter amendment, and that would have needed to be done almost immediately after the red light camera ordinance and contract were approved in 2004. Referenda aimed at specific city ordinances are not valid, he ruled.

Mayor Annise Parker said, "Judge Hughes's ruling means that we have several options to consider. I will consult with City Attorney Dave Feldman and City Council members as we deliberate the future of the red light camera program in Houston. Right now the cameras continue to monitor intersections, but no tickets are being issued."

Hughes noted that the city insisted its action was a charter amendment and therefore legitimate, but, he wrote, "Abraham Lincoln once asked 'If Congress said that a goat's tail was a leg, how many legs would a goat have? Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it so.'"

Hughes admitted (here's a link to the opinion) the time to overturn an ordinance by referendum is limited, but he said opponents have other options: Voting in new city councilmembers who will overturn it themselves.

"Those who favor repeal will react that this distinction is a legal technicality." wrote Hughes, who is known for his sharply worded and vivid written rulings. "In some sense, all law is a technicality. It draws lines and defines categories. It is the antithesis of passion and plurality. The Founders' definition of tyranny was arbitrary government. Timid and overenthusiastic city officials can destroy regular government as easily as a king."

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25 comments
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JR
JR

It's just like Arizona, Wisconsin, et al.  It doesn't matter what the people think or want.  Just find youself a friendly Federal Judge, and that's the way to get what you want,

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

They would've been successful, too - if it weren't that meddling Constitution!

IV
IV

The people have spoken, no matter what this crooked judge rules. Get the cameras out, now.

Nathan Miller
Nathan Miller

I voted to keep the cameras, and if another such vote ever comes up again, I'll vote the same way. I understand that people are upset because the vote went against the cameras and a judge is invalidating that, but JB is right, that's part of what a representative government entails.

I will never understand why anyone will vote to remove the cameras. Maybe people will run red lights no matter what, but if there's a deterrent, who knows, maybe they'll be less likely to do so. Running red lights is a life-taker, and it's something we should be discouraging in any way we possibly can.

WhiskeyR
WhiskeyR

How is you not understanding the opposing opinion "more important" than a judge overruling what the people have decided on some kind of technicality?

WhiskeyR
WhiskeyR

Before anybody asks, he removed "More importantly," from his second paragraph. Chalk it up to just rhetoric I guess.

JB
JB

It's called representative government, people.  You elected the Mayor and City Council that put the red light cameras up.  Elect other people if you want the ordinances repealed.  Do you expect everything to go before the voters first? Do you want approval on whether to spend $25 million to buy police cars next year?  Do you want approval on limiting McDonald's signs to 10 feet by 30 feet?

Jim C
Jim C

Bill White.  The gift that keeps on giving.

citizenmark
citizenmark

Regardless, the bosses(and by that, I mean voters) of this city have spoken. If our government officials want to hem and haw, instead of acting on our wishes, then maybe we just need to take matters into our own hands and remove the equipment ourselves. They didn't give us a say in the matter when the program was implemented. By the time we did get to voice our will, it was too late. Nothing like being held hostage by your own government. These folks in government might make the policies, but they (and more importantly, we) need to realize, that we the people give them that power to ultimately make the decisions. And they need to learn not to abuse it or we will have to remove that power from their hands.  

informedcitizendave
informedcitizendave

'...held hostage by your government'???

Settle down, Francis. We live in a society of laws. In this case, the mob that tried to change the law went about it in the wrong way simply because they were stupid idiots.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said the changes mandated by voters last November were not valid -- they could only have been accomplished via a charter amendment, and that would have needed to be done almost immediately after the red light camera ordinance and contract were approved in 2004. Referenda aimed at specific city ordinances are not valid, he ruled.

What part of this are you getting stuck on?

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