Should You Have to Pay A Red Light Camera Ticket?
September 22, 2011

The city of Houston  has turned out the red light cameras and is fighting in court to prevent the camera company, American Traffic Solutions,  from trying to enforce a multi-million dollar contract.

In the meantime, motorists who were caught running red lights and received a ticket in the mail are still expected to pay the fine.

However, Houston attorney Randell Kallinen has announced that he is filing a federal class action lawsuit against Houston and Mayor Parker to nullify thousands of red light camera tickets issued after the election. 

More details will be announced at a news conference Friday morning. In the meantime -here is the press announcement.

A class action lawsuit has been filed in a Houston federal court to stop the
enforcement and collection of thousands of Red Light Camera tickets issued after 181,000 Houston citizens voted to amend the City Charter in 2010 outlawing Red Light Cameras and after the City itself certified the election results.
“If a citizen pays their red light camera ticket they likely cannot get their money back even when this class action lawsuit is won.” said civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen. “If  Judge Hughes ruling throwing out the City-certified People’s Vote stands then the People of  Houston–conservative and liberal, black and white, Republican and Democrat–will have lost an important right to directly effect the way they are governed.”
After traffic data showed that Houston’s Red Light Cameras were dangerous and increasing accidents a majority of safety conscious Houston citizens voted out the Red Light
Cameras in the November 2010, election. After the election the Mayor and the City certified the election results and the cameras were turned off.
On July 9, 2011, Mayor Parker unilaterally turned the cameras back on without City
Council input and on July 24, 2011, the City began issuing Red Light Camera tickets at 70 RLC locations until August 24, 2011, issuing thousands of Red Light Camera tickets in violation of the People’s Vote.
“The City and Mayor need to respect the People’s Vote and if they do not someone has to stand up for the People.” said John Strangmeier, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Not only were the Red Light Cameras shown to increase accidents the total number of red light citations increased in the last year of operation echoing critic’s contentions that the Red Light Cameras did not decrease red light running. Many RLC intersections had their yellow light times so short that the citations were ten times that of the RLC intersections with TxDOT standard yellow light times.

Mayor Parker Names New Deputy Chief of Staff
September 21, 2011

Mayor Annise Parker has quietly made some Important behind the scenes changes in her administration.

In August, Darrin Hall was named deputy chief of staff.

His responsibilities include municipal courts IT, administrative and regulatory affairs, health and human services and the Houston Fire Department


I meant to post this several weeks ago.
Darrin is a nice guy and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.

I’m waiting to see if the Mayor adds media management to his long list of responsibilities 🙂

Did Houston’s City Attorney Cross The Line?
August 26, 2011

It looks like the bad blood is getting worse between Houston city attorney Dave Feldman and Council Member Jolanda Jones.

Sources told me today that Feldman openly mocked Jones during a recent meeting inside his legal offices inside city hall.

According to my sources, Feldman dressed up and started talking like Jones.

He allegedly made fun or her style of dress and her notoriously long winded speeches.

While some people laughed, according to my sources. the incident made others feel uncomfortable

Some felt it was inappropriate for the city’s top legal officer to openly make fun of an elected official.

City Hall spokesperson Janice Evans is downplaying the incident and disputing key elements of the story.

Evans told me that Feldman received a gag gift described as a pair of ladies “long feather earrings”.

He was dared to put them on and he did.

Evans says Feldman never mentioned Jones by name.

According to Evans, this was Feldman’s attempt to inject some levity into what has been some challenging times.

In case you don’t know, Jones often sports a pair of feather earrings during council meetings.

She and Feldman are also known to be snippy with each other.

Feldman conducted the recent investigation into allegations that Jones used her council office and staff to conduct business for her legal practice.

Jones recently filed a complaint against Feldman with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Meanwhile,’Jones spokesperson, Kelly Cripe, issued this statement: “If this is true, we are disappointed by the actions of the city attorney. In his office, he should exude the highest standards of impartiality, justice and fairness. The people of Houston deserve better.”

I have not received a statement from Feldman at the time of this blog post.

I’m also told there is a photo being passed around of Feldman wearing the earrings, but I haven’t seen one.

Civilian Layoffs Inside the Houston Fire Department
May 12, 2011

The layoffs continued Thursday for city of Houston employees.   As of the close of business a total of 634 employees have received notice that their jobs are being eliminated.

Those notified on Thursday include 3 in the finance department, 99 in the Parks Department, 75 in the health department.

For the first time,  Houston Fire Chief  Terry Garrison  is confirming that pink slips are being passed out in his department.

So far the cuts impact 12 civilian employees.  Chief Garrison released this statement regarding the civilians who were laid off.

“In order to meet the need to reduce the size of the department’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012, the Houston Fire Department has begun staff reductions.   Layoff notifications have been given to some of our civilian staff members.
These personnel changes represent just over $1 million dollars in reduction of expenditures.
These members of our staff have served the city well.  It is a difficult day for all of us.
At this time, there have been no layoffs of classified personnel.  Work continues to find additional savings in hopes of avoiding this altogether.  A very important part of that involves our work with classified Labor through the collective bargaining process.   Both sides of the table are compelled to find solutions in order to meet the budget shortfalls. We all know that decreasing the number of firefighters could have a direct impact on our ability to deliver our service. And we all agree, that maintaining our level of service is most critical.”
Meanwhile, classified employees – firefighters – are scheduled to resume face to face collective bargaining with the city on Friday.
Earlier this week both sides worked to find a compromise that would balance saving the city money while allowing firefighters to keep their jobs.
 The city wants the firefighters to accept an interim 18-month contract with a significant number of concessions. One proposal calls for retired firefighters to receive their unused vacation payout over four years instead of in one lump sum when they leave the department.
However, the union wants some assurance that those concessions would be short-term and the firefighters would regain their benefits after the compromise contract expired. 

City of Houston Employees Get a Snow Day
February 3, 2011

Non essential city of Houston employees are taking a day off from work without pay on Friday, February 4, 2011.

The Mayor declared a weather emergency which means that those employees don’t have to report to work  and they can count the day as one of the six required mandatory furlough days.  (Mandatory furloughs were ordered because of the city of Houston’s budget problems)

The Mayor and other local leaders are concerned that freezing temperatures will bring snow and ice to our area. Houstonians aren’t use to driving in slush and that means the commute could be treacherous.

The mayor is encouraging people to stay home, stay warm and stay off the roads.

This is the email sent to city employees:

 Mayor declares weather emergency 

Non-emergency City personnel with scheduled shifts between 6 p.m. Thursday, February 3, 2011 and 6 p.m. Friday, February 4, 2011 should not report to work.  This applies only to personnel who are not assigned duties by their directors that are related to this weather emergency. 

City of Houston department directors have the authority to determine what emergency services are to be performed during this event. Affected employees shall make themselves available for work as required by the department directors. 

For employees included in the mandatory furlough plan who do not report to work during the hours specified above, the mayor has decided that Friday, February 4, 2011 will be one of the six required mandatory furlough days. 

If you have already scheduled a furlough day for Friday 4, 2011 and are now required to report to work due to this event, you will need to reschedule your furlough day.

 Please direct all questions related to this memo to your department director.