Texas Cities Rush To Extend Camera Contracts Ahead Of The State's Red Light Camera Bans

from the turns-out-their-grandfathers-are-assholes dept

Twelve years after first broaching the subject, the Texas legislature has finally killed red light cameras. This follows years of fraud, corruption, and contractual language negating prior ban attempts. The Newspaper reports on the good news, which unfortunately comes with some bad news. The supermajority vote means the bill can’t be vetoed by the governor, but some cities have managed to grandfather in their resident-screwing cameras.

The majority of red light camera programs in the Lone Star State will be shut down under legislation that cleared the Texas legislature on Friday. By a vote of 23 to 8, the state Senate approved the partial ban on automated ticketing that had sailed through the House with a vote of 109 to 34. Because it passed with supermajority support, the bill becomes law upon being signed by Governor Greg Abbott (R), who made getting rid of cameras part of his campaign platform.

Most, but not all, of 37 cities running red light cameras would lose the ability to approve $75 photo citations issued by private, for-profit companies. Cities that have clauses that allow for early termination of their photo ticketing contract in the event of adverse state legislation must pull the plug immediately. Cities that struck the escape clause in anticipation of the legislature’s move can continue using the cameras until the contract expires — many of the deals have been extended for twenty years or more.

Arlington is one the cities that has decided to screw its residents porn-style, going at them from multiple angles. When the bill passed, city legislators unanimously voted to extend its contract with American Traffic Solutions from five years to twenty years. This move will give residents less protection from traffic cams’ perverse incentives than residents living elsewhere in the state. It also means they’ll be paying more tax dollars for this dubious privilege, as there will be no reason for ATS to maintain competitive pricing for the next couple of decades. Nor will it feel any pressure to improve its tech, which has performed poorly enough to result in millions of dollars of refunds.

The good news is these cities will have to deal with the state Attorney General if they want to continue utilizing traffic enforcement measures the state has banned. Tickets from red light cameras in the cities that opted for extended revenue generation rather than compliance with the law are going to have a hard time collecting on unpaid tickets. The law prohibits the DMV from blocking vehicle registrations and license renewals for unpaid tickets. The problem is drivers may not be aware of the ban and will continue to pay fines when they’re not legally required to.

Cities that have opted for further resident-screwing will face increased activism efforts that will fill the gaps in the Attorney General’s enforcement.

Jurisdictions that attempt to defy the legislature will have to take on state attorney general Ken Paxton, who is tasked by the bill with enforcing the shutdown. Byron Schirmbeck, state coordinator for Texas Campaign for Liberty, says his group will also hold cities to account.

“Fortunately the remaining camera sanctuary cities will no longer be able to block registrations for unpaid tickets making them completely optional,” Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. “The cities that do have to shut down their programs are also not allowed to pursue outstanding tickets and all existing registration holds will be removed. We will consider petition efforts and an increased trash your ticket campaign to go after those that choose to operate camera programs after the ban.”

While it’s always tough to watch a revenue stream dry up, the fact is traffic cameras do little more than generate unearned revenue. They don’t make drivers safer or encourage better driving. But that was never the goal. Revenue generation was the endgame. Fortunately for most Texans, the state has realized this money is no longer worth pursuing.

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Comments on “Texas Cities Rush To Extend Camera Contracts Ahead Of The State's Red Light Camera Bans”

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anonymous says:

I beg to disagree

I sincerely believe that red light cameras were developed as purely a ‘make them pay attention’ measure; however, I don’t think there’s anything, short of no longer being alloewed to drive, that would help. Then, of course, the governments realized that the could make money with little effort, and its gone downhill from there.

Anonymous Coward says:

The headline is a bit off

A few sentences down in the story: "He succeeded in blocking cities from rushing to extend their contracts with an amendment only accepting the terms of contracts in force on May 7." It’s only the cities that made truly insane 30 year deals with no way to get out that can keep the cams. Ft. Worth and Denton have already announced they will comply.

negativenate says:

Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

I’m a little confused but why is it bad that people get tickets, automated or not, for blatantly violating public safety laws that are really difficult to enforce and are already supremely ‘lax (see motor vehicle caused pedestrian and bicyling deaths across the state)
Personally I’m ok with outsourcing these enforcement mechanisms as cars are largely subsidized by tax dollars that are not related to usage taxes…somewhere in the 60% range, and that’s modest projections. The local governments need this revenue to operate and to allow motor vehicles to have infrastructure that’s sustainable and if some capitalist driven company is smart enough to assist it shouldn’t be frowned upon.
Literally…welcome to the future of capitalism. If you want it to work, as ugly and scary seeming they are, these mechanisms are necessary….

AJ says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

I don’t disagree with you in principle, however once you inject the human factor into driving, and remove it from enforcing the law, things get really fucked up.

If these devices were used to enforce the law and not as a revenue generating apparatus, I would be totally on board. But like most things in government hands, it unfortunately becomes ruled by corruption. The shortening of yellow lights, the non-human issuing of tickets based on "you may not have been driving but it’s your car logic….", and the horrible over use and heavy handedness (red light tickets, speed camera tickets…etc, at every profitable location) all take the humanity and "intent" out of the law and turn it into a vending machine. I seriously doubt that this is what our founding fathers had in mind… just my opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

The reasons against red light cams are many, one of the top issues is that the yellow light timing is reduced, beyond government recommendations, for the sole purpose of generating income. This results in additional income and in addition it creates more accidents, usually rear end collisions.

Get real.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

Think of the other side of this problem, If you could catch all speeders with technology, and fine them in real time, what would be the end result?

I would assume it would be something like red light cameras. States would quickly try to get cash out of everyone for every instance of speeding, after a while changing laws to deal with people speeding for a long amount of time, or for people speeding 1 to 3 MPH over the limit. Is this even remotely fair? Not really, it removes all context.

The same can be said for red light cameras.

Dallas Man says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

It’s purely a money making machine for the city and the company monitoring these lights. The one on Buckner and Garland road has a 3 second left turn during rush hour in the morning. I know because I use it daily. I’ve complained to the city without any changes. With drivers who choose to text and use their cell phones at each and every light, this makes it nearly impossible not to get a ticket nearly once a month.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

The laws were written with the assumption of a good deal of inefficiency in enforcement. A cop should have to spot you, pull you over, get out of his cruiser, and write you a ticket. This sort of automation as others have mentioned is a safety hazard. I see people turning cars inside out stopping for the photo enforced intersections. The also seem to chose locations where congestion is frequent, and it is nearly being a good citizen to the folks behind you, to slip one more car through per light. I have received one of those tickets, and I deserved it from a "letter of the law" stand point, but from the spirit of the law; no one was put in danger, and it was illegal by milliseconds.

Byron Schirmbeck says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

Using the cameras to enforce this is bad for a few reasons. Not the least of which is they don’t do what they advertise. They don’t reduce accidents and often increase them, they don’t hold the lawbreaker responsible since they ticket innocent people everyday who have broken no laws, they penalize owners of the vehicle for infractions that no one would consider red light running and don’t actually cause accidents statistically speaking. The vast majority of T bone accidents are caused by things cameras can’t prevent such as intoxication, weather, distraction, police chases etc. So how does the camera stop the most common causes of red light running accidents? Simple, they don’t.

Then add in the profit motive, the companies and cities only get paid if people break the law. They actually budget for people running red lights. Well what if the systems actually worked and people stopped running red lights? Not one single city plans for reductions in red light running revenue in their budget. TXDOT data shows the number of tickets often increase year over year.

Then let’s talk about the camera companies who are corrupt by nature. They slipped the authorization into law in the dark of night with a payoff to a corrupt legislator, they sue to stop citizens from having elections when they rise up and petition to have a vote, they literally have CEOs that have served time in federal prison for bribery, another one was just sentanced to 7 years for that in Texas. You cannot seperate the cameras from the corruption. Not possible.

Then there are the NUMEROUS constitutional issues like due process, equal protection under the law seperation of powers etc. So damaging our entire justice system for the sake of raking in millions of dollars damages us all.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

If they were really concerned about safety, they would just increase the duration of the yellow lights. That’s been shown to greatly reduce accidents due to running reds.

The local governments need this revenue to operate

The government relies on its citizens regularly breaking the laws so it can fine them for it? If true, that needs to change pronto because that sets up some really messed up incentives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

The reason they are bad is cause for example, I drive my fiends car, I am in the process of purchasing it and have not transferred title since I am still paying. I messed up and didn’t see a light. They sent her the ticket because the car is registered to her. If I refused to pay her it, the cities can block the new registration of her van or the renewal of her license etc.
or another example. My ex lived of a street with a legal right on red corner. He would stop completely, then proceed through and as he made a legal turn the camera would sense the movement and issue a ticket. He would have to miss a day of work to go to court to prove he did nothing wrong… or in his case he could t miss work and was forced to just pay it. It is prosecution without proper due process that leaves the owner of the car to prove innocence as apposed to the other way around.

Bobvious says:

Re: Re: Texas Cities rush to extend Yellow Lights

Is that an Onion article?

Well, if it is, it’ll be a multi-layer investigation, with detail that’ll make your eyes water. They’ll slice through the BS and run rings around the opposition with a stinging rebuke that they spring on their targets.

The article’s authors are "Brown", and "White", who mostly rely on leaks, because they don’t have thyme to cultivate their sauces. Apparently a fertile imagination also helps.

Anonymous Coward says:

the question obviously is what are the Arlington city legislators getting in return for making this ridiculous extension period? i cant believe it has been done for nothing! and with the threat of the AG going after them, how is there any advantage in it at all? surely it’ll cost the city a lot of tax payers dollars in court?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Arlington Texas does not have a red light camera program. The voters voted them out a few years ago.

"Arlington city leaders are not only defying the state House, they may also be defying the will of voters. Although the city’s residents have never had the opportunity to vote on the issue of red light cameras directly, they came close in February 2003. Fifty-eight percent of voters had shot down a bond package known as Proposition 6, the first time a bond proposal for expanding street capacity had ever been rejected in the city. The most controversial aspect of the proposition was setting aside extra money for surveillance "traffic cameras" which critics at the time said would serve as a precursor to red light cameras. Nine months later, the bond measure was split into two distinct provisions and placed once again on the ballot. When asked in a separate vote to spend $400,000 for "traffic management cameras," 64 percent of voters said "no." "


Byron Schirmbeck says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, you posted an old article BEFORE it went on the ballot and were voted out. ARLINGTON VOTED OUT THEIR RED LIGHT CAMERAS. I put it in caps so you can get the point. I helped the people with the petition get it on the ballot. It was an overwhelming vote against the cameras and threw the then mayor out of office. Their petition case went all the way to the Texas supreme court after the camera company sued to invalidate the election.

"Voters in Arlington, Texas took matters in their own hands Saturday and outlawed the use of red light cameras. The ballot proposition terminating the city’s photo ticketing program was adopted with 60 percent of the vote. By nearly the same margin, voters also ejected pro-camera Mayor Robert Cluck in favor of Jeff Williams, a staunch opponent of automated ticketing machines."

This article was from 2015. http://thenewspaper.com/news/46/4698.asp

Byron Schirmbeck says:

Re: Re:

Yes, they always send it to collections for everyone that doesn’t pay. But since they can’t affect your credit trash those as well. Texas law prohibits it from going on your credit. And all three major CRAs have agreed not to accept tickets for a ding on your credit so even in Ohio it can’t affect your credit. But they know that too many people think that since it is in "collections" that it is on their credit when that isn’t true.

jcwconsult (profile) says:

Ending red light camera rackets

It is great to see the for-profit red light camera rackets come to an end in Texas. Many thanks to Byron Schirmbeck with the Texas Campaign for Liberty, many members of the National Motorists Association, and many local people & groups who worked tirelessly to end these governmental theft rackets with the cameras. People who live in and/or shop in the few cities that maliciously extended their contracts should stop shopping in those cities until the cameras are gone. Visit each business where you have shopped and tell the owners/managers they can have your business back when the cameras are gone. Business owners have some power with city councils, ask them to use it to end the for-profit camera rackets.
James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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