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College Station Red Light Camera Referendum, 2009

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The College Station Red Light Camera Referendum appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Brazos County, Texas, where it was approved. Local resident Jim Ash spearheaded the effort to place a referendum on the ballot to abolish red light cameras that capture speeding drivers in College Station.[1]

In January 2008, the city implemented a program to inform residents about the Cameras Advancing Red Light Enforcement Safety (CARES) initiative. This program includes the installation of these cameras to catch motorists who run red lights. According to the city’s website, these cameras were located at nine intersections. Ash gathered 850 signatures, enough to put the referendum on the November ballot, which abolished the red light cameras and would disallow the city to re-establish them in later years.[2]

Election results

Ballot measures about red light cameras

The measure was approved.

Red Light Camera Referendum
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 4,081 51.7%
No 3,809 48.3%
Total votes 7,890 100.00%
Voter turnout n/a%


Opposition

American Traffic Solutions (ATS) opposed the referendum and was doing everything in its power to sway voters to keep cameras in the city of College Station. ATS, also the company in charge of the cameras, formed a group called “Keep College Station Safe Political Action Committee”. Revenue from a twenty year contract with the city was in jeopardy with the referendum on the November ballot and was said to cost the Arizona based firm millions of dollars.

The group also used a telephone survey on city residents in hopes of persuading voters to keep the red light surveillance program.[3]

Controversy

Ash believed the city government had plans to sabotage his efforts. Ash’s petition stated that if the referendum passed, the red light cameras would then become “unenforceable.” City officials were poised to alter the text of the referendum to allow the program to be re-started in the future.

According to a letter written by Ash to the city manager: “In a recent radio interview, Mayor Ben White asserted 'the city does not have to take the petition to a vote in November.’ This fact coupled with the city's plans that you disclosed to me in our call today leave me troubled. I believe the city's actions threaten to undermine the foundation of the petition."[4]

Aftermath

A suit has been filed to stop the shutdown of the red light cameras. Two men who were part of the main group to oppose the shutdown, filed a suite by way of their lawyer. He cites several issues which would make it so the petition filed to get this issue to a vote would actually be invalid, if that turns out to be the case the vote would be thrown out and the cameras would stay on. The issue has been given priority in the court so that a decision is reached quickly. The cameras were due to be turned off Wednesday November 18 at noon.[5]

However, on November 20, 2009, a judge forced the settlement of the lawsuit. The terms of the deal were not released, but the city council voted 4-0 on November 11, 2009 to abide by the November 3, 2009 results that saw the referendum pass. American Traffic Solutions will now have to take down the red light cameras in the city of College Station.[6]

The judge ruled in favor of the city, but the verdict was not official until the council voted unanimously 6-0 on Monday November 23. This means that the city is obligated to turn off the cameras as voted upon by city residents.[7]

As of December 7, the judge ruled in favor of ATS, meaning the vote to ban the red lights will be overturned. The judge cited that the wording of the ballot measure was unclear. The proposition should have been a referendum petition and it was not, due to this legality the judge ruled against it. The impact of this decision though is that because the city terminated its contract with ATS, if another business wants to come in to provide red light camera service they can do so and the city can allow them without voter approval.[8]

See also

References