Merely cautious or cleverly duplicitous: What are the City’s red-light-cam plans?

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TheNewspaper.com makes an interesting connection regarding the City’s curious behavior on the red-light camera controversy:

[Federal Judge Lynn] Hughes had called a colloquy among lawyers for the city — David Feldman and Hope Reh — and the lawyers for ATS — Andy Taylor and George Hittner — on the day after Thanksgiving. Although the city technically filed suit against ATS, the city staff do not want to see the cameras removed any more than ATS does. The parties hashed out a compromise that happened to give ATS everything the firm wanted.

“ATS requests the court to preserve the status quo by enjoining the city from terminating the public safety program or otherwise implementing Proposition 3, pending an adjudication of these fundamental issues of law affecting not only these parties, but the general public at large,” Taylor wrote in its brief to the court filed Wednesday.

The actions in Houston track what happened last year in the city of College Station after voters approved an anti-camera referendum. Attorneys for the city attempted to lose the lawsuit that ATS filed to overturn the result of the public vote. Ultimately, public pressure on elected officials forced the College Station cameras to come down, even though a local judge ruled against the vote. ATS is hoping it can win this time by arguing not only that voters have no right to overturn a city council decision through the charter amendment process, but that no power can take down the red light cameras.

The Newspaper goes on to point out that the City of Houston purposely removed an opt-out provision from the contract with ATS previously*, in an apparent effort to make the agreement bulletproof against legislation then being debated in the Texas legislature.

Various councilmembers have said they intend to honor the will of the voters, whatever may come of the legal wrangling. Councilmembers Jolanda Jones and Anne Clutterbuck have been very clear in that regard.

Mayor Annise Parker — who communicated effectively in her successful mayoral campaign — seems unwilling to provide an equally definitive statement about the cameras, deferring instead to the city’s equally cryptic attorney and refusing interview requests (the mayor was much too busy to talk about the will of the people on this matter today, it seems). Perhaps she’s merely being cautious, but it does invite speculation about her intentions.

* Another headache passed on from Bill White to the Parker Administration?


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Kevin Whited
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