Skip to comments.Fight over (Houston)red light cameras goes to federal court (voters won referendum to turn them off)
Posted on 12/09/2010 11:50:14 AM PST by a fool in paradise
A U.S. federal district judge is set to take up the case of the red light camera fight. The camera operator, ATS, and the city of Houston, are at odds over whether or not the city must pay for turning off the cameras.
Voters decided a month ago they wanted the cameras to come down so the city says it doesn't owe the company that runs the cameras any more money. That company says not so fast...
Attorney for ATS say the vote was illegal and should never have been on the ballot. ATS said because the city broke its contract with the red light camera company, the city owes millions.
On the other side of courtroom, attorneys for the city of Houston argued it does not owes ATS any money because voters voided the contract.
..."We have a valid contract. There is a legitimate legal question as to whether a referendum vote can cause the city to walk away from a contract," said Mayor Parker. "We've asked a federal judge to help mediate this."
The city has stopped issuing red light tickets. But late last month, the judge ordered the cameras stay up and in place.
Meanwhile, ATS says according to data it has collected lately, red light running is up 27 percent over last year...
(Excerpt) Read more at abclocal.go.com ...
No mention in this Channel 13 puff piece about how the city of Houston is conspiring against the citizens of Houston to lose this case (and maintain their red light camera ticket revenue stream).
First it was, we can’t vote on Civil Rights. Now it’s we can’t vote on municipal issues. Next it will be, we can’t vote for the people we want to vote for.
Meanwhile a guy who recorded a judge during his trial is in jail right now.
They can film us, but we can’t film them.
Just another day in Obamaland. :)
I can believe it. Everyone knows if they don’t take these lights down; they will come back with them. They need to take them down period. The voters have spoken.
We need to get more involved with how things are written when they are presented to the voter to vote on.
If government entities can't be trusted to honour contracts; won't that weaken contract laws in general? Won't contractors be wary of entering into government contracts — unless they build in some additional premium, for risk of contract violation?
the cameras should come down - invoke rule 308.
As I understand it, the original contract had a severance clause. After the vote, the city council signed a new contract without the clause a mere 3 days prior to the new law going into effect.
The voters had spoken, and the council at that point lacked the legal authority to sign such a contract. The new contract should be voided.
Mayor Bill White voided the contracts on those who had rented out the George R. Brown convention center when he hijacked it to shelter Katina refugees from New Orleans.
Bill White looked in the camera and said “I DARE anyone to sue me over this decision”.
The city of Houston will do whatever it damn well pleases.
Obviously the city is in cahoots with the judge and the camera company to keep the cameras on, because they have the power to extend the yellow light time to say ten seconds and make an all red overlap of two seconds and virtually end all red light running AND prevent accidents as well. That would screw the camera company without taking the cameras down.
“As I understand it, the original contract had a severance clause. ....”
O.K. that makes all the difference. From what you said, the Council members were really in the wrong. This whole thing is on them. I was just speaking for the general principle of the sanctity of contract law.
“red light running went up 27 percent”
Well, then, put the yellows back to the length they were before you installed the cameras. Problem solved.
Some of the flaws in your metaphor are:
1) Shareholders are not responsible for the debts of the corporations they invest in.
2) Citizens under a government do not get to decide whether to join or not.
3) All governments claim sovereign immunity and private corporations know that when they contract with them.
Governments are not a private businesses and do not behave like private businesses.
Understood. And you are correct on the matter in general, of course.
Please see my # 12, to ex 98C MI Dude. Clearly, I didn’t have all the facts at hand.
Perhaps some good will come of this, if the red light company wins a settlement, and the contract-voiding Councilors are made to pay for their transgressions, in some way. That might help shore up contract law. Of course, the lights still have to come down; as that’s what the people voted for.
I agree that it is bad to break a contract (or otherwise default on an agreement).
I think it’s even worse when the elected leadership conspires against the interests and will of the people by siding with the opposition in a lawsuit.
“I agree that you were wronged, let’s see if we can nulify this vote that we never wanted to take place since it came in against our policies”.
I likewise think that Chuck Rosenthal helped throw the Lawrence v. Texas case on same sex sodomy laws. He said he didn’t like the law in the first place and claimed that he couldn’t pick which laws he wanted to enforce. From day one, the activists said their goal was to overturn the law itself (not the charge) in the courts.
However, municipalities aren't like other governments. They aren't sovereign in the same way as countries, or states (or, in the case of Canada, provinces). They generally derive their authority from the state government; perhaps through a special charter. Whether or not that distinction matters in this case; I don't know — but, it is generally an important distinction.
Also, one of the few, universally acknowledged, functions of government; is the enforcement of contracts. If governments void contracts with impunity; what does that do to their moral authority to enforce other contracts?
(I don't have a dog in this particular fight but I'm watching with interest since I've been working with a couple of city councilmen to get our revenue cameras removed as well)
I actually agree with you. The way I see it, it is like the city signed a two year lease on a building, and two months later the voters choose to tell the government they cannot occupy the building. It means the gov. still has to make lease payments for two years on an empty building.
That would mean I suspect the government must honor the contract and keep the cameras up and continue to pay until the contract expires, but the government will not use the cameras.
OTOH, maybe it can be ruled that the contract is not enforceable. I don’t know the nuances.
An interesting side note: In some states you can ignore red light camera tickets regardless of the threatening letters because a) you did not agree to the ticket so they cannot ding your credit record for not paying, and b) they carry no government weight. That is, they don’t go against your driving record and they will not be used to hold up any future licensing. I am having a devil of a time finding out exactly which states those are, however.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.