redcam

American Traffic Solutions, the company that owns and operates the cameras and sensor systems used to enforce red light compliance at several Baytown intersections, filed a lawsuit against the city Thursday seeking to overturn the city’s decision to call an election on an amendment to the red light camera ordinance.

In addition to repeating previous claims the amendment to the ordinance constitutes a repeal of the ordinance and violates state code, the lawsuit also claims the city is violating the federal Voting Rights Act.

City Attorney Ignacio Ramirez defended the city in a hearing Thursday in which ATS sought a temporary restraining order against the city, according to Patti Jett, public affairs coordinator for the City of Baytown. The temporary restraining order to stop the election was not granted, she said. Another hearing has been scheduled on the matter.

In its suit, American Traffic Solutions presents several claims to justify stopping the election, including:

• A claim the amendment to the city’s red light ordinance constitutes a repeal of the ordinance. Under the city charter, there are tight time limits on how soon a petition can be presented calling for a referendum to repeal an ordinance, but not limits on when a petition can be presented to amend an ordinance. An earlier attempt to repeal the red light camera ordinance was rejected by the city on that basis.

• A claim the proposed ordinance includes a definition of “law enforcement officer” that would not allow Baytown police to enforce the law. 

• A claim the proposed ordinance seeks to override state law in restricting the use of photo-enforcement equipment.

• A claim the election violates the Voting Rights Act.

The claim of violation of the Voting Rights Act is also being used in a contest to a pending election in the City of Houston regarding its red light camera program. Unlike the Baytown case, the Houston lawsuit is in federal court and was filed by a political action committee supporting red light cameras, rather than by American Traffic Solutions.

The Baytown lawsuit says the Voting Right Act violation comes from the city allowing a referendum petition outside of the 20-day window allowed by law. The suit says “no approval [from the Department of Justice] was sought (or received) to bypass the previously-approved twenty-day limitation on referendum petitions.”

Further, the suit maintains, “By permitting an unauthorized ballot proposition to be placed before the voters, the City has created a scenario whereby voters who oppose the Safety Camera Program — a group that historically tends to vote in a conservative manner — will vote in greater numbers than would otherwise have turned out for a November 2, 2010 election. This change in voting practices and procedures results in the potential for minority voting strength to be diluted through the inclusion of an unauthorized ballot measure.”

In response to a written question asking if the company had previously used the Voting Rights Act as a legal strategy to block elections, ATS Vice President for Governmental Relations and General Counsel George Hittner said, “ATS’ complaint is not based on the premise advanced in your question. ATS’ claims in this lawsuit are based on the calling of a costly and voidable election.”

In response to a written question asking if the company had any studies or other evidence supporting its contention regarding the political leanings of potential voters, Hittner provided the identical answer, “ATS’ complaint is not based on the premise advanced in your question. ATS’ claims in this lawsuit are based on the calling of a costly and voidable election.”

When asked how many of its clients the company has sued, Hittner replied, “None. However, we are required by law to file this challenge before the election occurs for the simple reason that an election contest is not available as a possible remedy after the election occurs.”

Speaking for the city, Jett said the election is still on as of this time.

She was unable to say whether the city had the legal authority to cancel the election at this time even if it chose to do so, as the state deadline for calling November elections has passed. 

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(20) comments

baytownb

ATS can see the writing on the wall, they are going to loose the contract for the scameras and the millions they have siphoned out of Baytown. They have, and will continue to say or do anything they think will give them a chance to protect their millions in ill gotten loot. Anyone tired of an Arizona based Goldman Sachs owned corporation telling Baytown what we can and cannot have a say on needs to vote "yes" on proposition 1 to ban the red light cameras. Early voting starts October 18. We still need your help go to www.saferbaytown.com to find out how you can help.

KevisRS

Let me get this straight. ATS has already determined the outcome of the vote. Because they have, it violates the Voting Rights Act??? Maybe after the cameras are gone we can hire them back to determine the outcome of EVERY election. We would never again need to deal with all the expenses that come with holding an election! GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

justchecking

Sue sue sue.Seems to be their business model.

baytownb

not only that, but their lawsuit basically says if you are against the cameras you are just a conservative racist. http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/32/3253.asp

merlinxo40

I was in favor of keeping the cameras for traffic safety purposes, but not now. Our unalienable rights are at stake here and if ATS continues this course of action, it will send a message to the entire country as to who is really in control. Go ahead... sue. If you win, that doesn't mean we can't determine the equipment to be unsafe, cut the power to it and use it as a decoration. Intense strobe lights have the ability to induce seizures in humans and/or cause severe distractions while driving. It's quite possible this equipment could cause more traffic disruptions than it was intended to prevent.

jcwconsult

ATS is absolutely desperate because they know ticket cameras have never survived a public vote, they always get voted out. See www.thenewspaper.com ATS has used false "data" on the safety effects of the cameras, clandestine ads & websites not identified as being from ATS, and lawsuits seeking to deny residents the right to vote. The simple truth is that red light cameras do NOT improve safety in most cases - they usually leave the crash rate the same, or increase it. Setting the yellow intervals for the ACTUAL approach speed of 85% of the free flowing traffic under good conditions will reduce the straight through violation rate by MORE than a camera program in almost every case. Ticket cameras are just a cynical means to make money from incompetent and/or unethical traffic management policies. The business plans for ATS and other camera vendors depend upon improper engineering of traffic lights because correctly engineered ones will NOT make any profits. Baytown residents should vote ATS out of your town, permanently, and never entertain the use of these non-safety devices again. For more technical info, see our website.
Regards, James C. Walker, Member - National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ju Ju Eyeball

LOL people. Just knock the cameras down in the middle of the night. When it starts costing them too much money to keep putting the cameras back up, they will go away on their own.

JackG1980

I got one. I called and told them I was not driving the vehicle when the vehicle ran the light. The operator ask me who did and I told her to ask the camera. The red light cameras are base upon making money. not safety. I am now paranoid when I see yellow lights. I tend to slam on the brakes everytime. A few times already I almost got rear ended because I stopped suddenly. I feel this cameras are now endangering my safety as well as others. Is anyone else now paranoid to drive? Is anyone starting a class action lawsuit? I also find myself staring at the light instead of the road... Does anyone else have this problem.

baytobay

Photo enforcement has been a proven safety device all over the country that saves lives and punishes those who wantonly break the law. Whatever keeps them in place, I'm for.

badgers2009

If the lawsuit is legitimate, there are a number commentors on here that don't care if the election is violating the law. That is a sad state but it is even more evidence that they could care less about the law when it comes to elections or on the roads. All they want is the freedom to act as they wish and not be responsible or accountable. Sad state! At least they are predictable.

baytownb

the lawsuit isn't legitimate, no matter how many people working for the camera company posting on news articles want it to be. They lost their lawsuit in Mukilteo washington and they will loose this one too. The camera company is the one breaking the law with their unconstitutional cameras, false claims about what the cameras do and voter intimidation. They will say or do anything to protect the millions they have made. Safety and the law are on the side of those that want the cameras out, not those that want to keep them. Baytown PD recently reported to TXDOT that total accidents are up 40% at camera locations, injury accidents are up 75% rear end accidents up 83% and side impacts due to red light runners were up 37% this year. There's your proof.

cubuffalo

I sure hope they win. You can't put public safety measures up for a vote. Heck the next thing will be drunk driving laws. Seriously, there are groupsthat think drunk driving laws are too strict.

baytownb

wow, cubuffalo, you sure get around, when I google "cubuffalo" and "red light camera" I see you posting on articles from small localities all over the country in small local newspapers. All posts trying to convince people how great the cameras are, are you really that concerned about what happens in all of these towns all across the country or are you another one of the people putting fake posts out there for the camera company? I think I caught another one.

killerinstinct

I don't see what all the fuss is about- if someone has a contract and the terms of that contract are changed (the city doing an election) then why wouldn't you sue? That is the WHOLE point of a contract right? Protection from someone "changing the deal?" Also- whoever is linking to the newspaper.com site- what a joke that blog is. Try to find one good article/study on red light cameras on that site- funny because it is being used to back up claims that the cameras are bad and it is so far from neutral it is laughable. There are many studies out there that show that these cameras bring down accidents, there are many cities out there that have their own stats on how accidents have been lowered as well. I am a supporter of cameras because I believe in the rule of law and I believe in personal responsibility.

baytownb

You don't see the fuss about an out of state corporation suing a local government to stop a vote called for and demanded by the people? You don't see what the fuss is about that same corporation engaging in voter intimidation tactis and hiding behind a fake PAC acting like local citizens? the terms of the contract haven't changed. The citizens have decided they want a vote on them. Any contract with a city has provisions for dropping the contract due to legal changes such as new laws and ordinances like the one that is proposed. They aren't suing over changing the terms of their contract, they are suing because they don't want their cameras go to a vote. Why? because they know they will loose, 10 out of 10 times when people got to vote on cameras they voted them out. You don't like thenewspaper? I can post the links to the same studies from USF health department and virginia DOT from other sources if you like. The facts are still the same. It's funny, I started my efforts against the cameras because I believe in the rule of law, the highest law in our land our constitution and the Texas law governing the cameras the city violated. I also believe in personal responsibility, that's why I want the stifest penalties for red light runners, not a ticket in the mail they probably won't pay.

KevisRS

I'm beginning to believe that ATS has a room designated strictly for employees to go online to post on message boards. It's not about safety or any real concerns. It's about keeping their jobs. Accusations like "...there are a number commentors on here that don't care if the election is violating the law" are posted purely for intimidation. What's funny is that they are so transparent. If asked, I bet most couldn't find Baytown on a map or give any specifics about our town without Googling it.

Baytown Hound

It's on in Houston too. Read this: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7194200.html

Read the people's comments below that article. Some people fear that the City will raise property taxes if the cameras are voted down. That mentality all boils down to Big Government. Government on all levels live beyond their means and the need to raise taxes really exists if they lose the camera monies.

Look back to the 90's when Baytown's Police Department faced heat when they spent a small fortune on business cards for the Dept's captains and they bought office desks and equipment so fancy that they would rival that of big fortune 500 corporations. The mentality then was "well, it was the end of our fiscal budget and we had a surplus of funds and "had to spend it or lose it and give it back to the city general fund". Why does government have to run this way? IT DONT! If it were their (city department heads, etc) own wallets they wouldn't have spend it that way I'll bet.

The Dept was buying several AR-15 rifles just a very few years ago and it "had to be Colt" brand...the by far most expensive, when Colt was not the best, just the most expensive. I don't know what they ultimately bought, but they could have saved a ton by purchasing the same brand AR-15's the Texas DPS now has. Don't blow it just because you have it!

The dept (as I understand it) operatives MUCH more effectively and streamlined now, but what about the other departments? What about the local goverment as a whole? Has the mentality of spend-spend-spend got us to the point that we cannot afford to do what it takes to bring in more and more money and live beyond our means that we cannot afford to lose these cameras revenues?

The Arizona based camera company which receives the lion's share of the fines from these red light cameras is connected to a publically held and traded company. Their income generated from these cameras benefit not only their employees and Arizona, but private investors looking to get rich, all over the country.

These camera's are not at all about safety, but about profit. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) of Arizona has pulled the wool over our eye's under the disguise of safety and it's not all the fault of our City for buying into in, but it's time to dig our way out of it and vote FOR the proposition that will ultimately remove the camera's from our city.

hookem

[sad] This is distracting and I really don't think anything is going to be accomplished. I want all drivers to have their rights and be safe.

JackG1980

Yeah I also want the right to vote on it. This cameras are a huge distraction. The lights constantly flashes even when there is not even a car in sight. I was not even driving my car when the suppose incident happen. The guy driving doesnt want to pay it off because he was not proven guilty and his name is not in the ticket. He also doesnt remember the incident and believes it is a scam. Now I have to take a day off of work to go to court. And the video does not even show a clear picture of who was driving. I am also not going to say who was driving. The camara should know. Now i am constantly calling them everyday until they drop the ticket. I am going to waste hours and hours of their employess time because they are wasting mine. Everyone should do this.

JackG1980

to CUbuffalo. He is posting this comments all over the internet. He never responds to or back from a comment. And also most done around the same time. Like he is on a schedule. Work schedule maybe? Sorry cubuffalo(ATS) but your tatics are not working.
" This is good news and proves that this was a good investment. These systems really do reduce property damage and personal injuries. " " this is a great article. Just the fact that it is out there will help change drivers habits. THe more publicity these systems get the better they work. Drivers just don't want to get a ticket no matter how it is delivered. I sure hope this get this figured out without jeopardizing the continued use of these systems. They are reducing property damage and personal injuries. " This is a good thing. I think drivers and the all citizens will find that these systems go a long way to reducing property damage and personal injuries. And they work 24/7 " Posting the locations of the cameras is a very affective way to make them work even better. Drivers don't want to risk getting a ticket either live or by radar.
So keep it up. Everyone will be safer.
Cameras are a proven and effective method of enforcement. You may not get the ticket right away, but that fine sure stings and sticks in your brain when you get on the road for years after. That's fine by me.
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