Hittner Family Passover Seder Combines Faith and Politics
April 11, 2012

Faith and politics helped set the stage for a festive evening  during the 12th annual second night of Passover Seder hosted by the Hittner family.

George and wife, Erica, Judge David Hittner and  Dr. Helen Mintz-Hittner invited friends, family and associates of all faiths to read from the Haggadah and break bread during a traditional seder dinner of bitter herbs, eggs and wine.

The memorable moment of the evening happened when George, general counsel for American Traffic Solutions, presented souvenir red light camera signs to City Attorney Dave Feldman and Paul Kubosh, who led the successful fight to take down red light cameras in Houston.

With the Texas primary only weeks away, there were also plenty of political candidates and elected officials in the crowd including U.S. Senator candidate Ted Cruz, State Representative Candidate Gene Wu and City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen.

Other VIP guests: Public Relations Whiz Cindy Clifford, Jason Fuller, former Kemah Mayor Bill King, Grant Dorfman, Carl Davis, Bob and Carol Martin and many others.

I have enjoyed being invited to the Hittner’s annual tradition. George mentioned that the event could move to Phoenix next year, where he and Erica live.

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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.
 

Judge Denies City of Houston’s Appeal Over Red-Light Cameras
July 8, 2011

Late Friday, federal Judge Lynn Hughes set a July 19 court hearing after denying a city of Houston request to appeal his ruling regarding red-light cameras.

For now that means Mayor Parker’s plan to reactivate the red light cameras will stay on schedule while the legal issues are hashed out in court.

The city of Houston issued this statement in reaction: “It appears the court’s attempting to fast-track final disposition of the case so that the city would be able to appeal as a matter of right.”

In June, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes  ruled last November’s election on red-light cameras violated the City Charter and should not have been placed on the ballot.   He made that decision based on a charter provision that mandates any challenge of a city ordinance by referendum must occur within 30 days of passage of the ordinance. City Council adopted an ordinance initiating the use of red-light cameras in 2004. Opponents did not mount their ballot challenge until 2010.

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City of Houston Seeks Permission to Appeal Red Light Camera Decision
July 6, 2011

BREAKING:

The city of Houston has decided to appeal the red light camera decision and turn on red light cameras TODAY while the legal issues continue.

Mayor Annise Parker released the statement below. It is followed by a statement from American Traffic Solutions, the camera company.

City of Houston Seeks Permission to Appeal Red Light Camera Decision

Mayor Annise Parker today announced that the City will attempt to appeal a recent court ruling invalidating last fall’s vote on red-light cameras. In the meantime, the red-light cameras will be turned back on today. Ticket issuance will resume after a short period of equipment testing.“This is a difficult decision,” said Mayor Parker. “I have a responsibility to represent the interests of the voters, but I also have a responsibility to abide by the judge’s ruling. The City just went through a very painful budget process in which nearly 750 employees were laid off and park, library and health services were cut back. We simply don’t have the millions they claim we would owe for violating the court decision and our contractual obligation to American Traffic Solutions (ATS). Therefore, I have decided the fiscally-prudent path to take is to turn the cameras back on while also seeking a second chance for the voters in the courts.”Mayor Parker emphasized the safety measures provided by the red-light camera program. ATS and the City are initiating a study to make sure the cameras are placed at the city’s most dangerous intersections. As a result of this review, some cameras may be moved from their current locations to intersections with higher accident rates upon completion of this review.In June, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled last November’s red-light camera referendum violated the City Charter and should not have been placed on the ballot. The ruling was based on a charter provision that mandates any challenge of a city ordinance by referendum must occur within 30 days of passage of the ordinance. City Council adopted an ordinance initiating the use of red-light cameras in 2004. Opponents did not mount their ballot challenge until 2010.

The district court decision is an interlocutory ruling. As such, the City must first ask Judge Hughes for permission to appeal to the U.S.5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Permission is also required from the appellate court.

“It is not the prerogative of City Council to decide which laws it wants to follow,” Parker said. “We had no choice in putting the referendum on the ballot last fall. However, we do have the ability to settle this question for future City Councils and the public.”

STATEMENT FROM ATS:

In accordance with Mayor Parker’s announcement, ATS is working to immediately reactivate and fully functionalize Houston’s red light safety cameras. We look forward to resuming work with the city on this important public safety initiative. As we have seen over the course of the last several years, Houston’s red light safety program has been successful in changing driver behavior, reducing collisions and ultimately saving lives. – James Tuton ATS President & CEO

Appeal Filed Over Red Light Camera Battle
June 28, 2011

While the City of Houston is deciding its next move in the battle over red light cameras,  opponents  have filed an appeal with the 5th Circuit.

The appeal was filed on behalf of  Francis and Randall Kubosh, who lead the successful referendum to dismantle red light cameras.

Last November 53% of Houston voters rejected red-light cameras, however, federal Judge Lynn Hughes ruled earlier this month that the city charter requires action to overturn ordinances by referendum to take place  within 30 days of  when the ordinance was passed. Houston’s red-light ordinance passed in 2004

Last week American Traffic Solutions sent city leaders a letter saying it planned to once again begin recording citations on August 1, unless the city pays the damages ATS believes it is owed on its contract with the city.

In the Kubosh appeal attorneys argue, among other points, “if government by the people, of the people, and for the people is to have meaning in  Houston, this Court must permit Appellants to appeal the manifestly erroneous, June, 17, 2011, summary judgment granted in ATS’ favor.”

 I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.

Crashes Up Since Red Light Cameras Voted Down?
June 8, 2011

 

Last November, Houstonians voted to remove red light cameras from dangerous intersections around the city.  The cameras remain up while litigation is pending, but a new study released tonight by the camera company, American Traffic Solutions,  shows that crashes are up at those intersections.

Mayor Annise Parker and other city leaders supported red light cameras as method to reduce crashes and discourage red light running.

However, critics complained the cameras were money makers for Houston and did nothing to reduce crashes.

I’ve posted information from the company. Obviously, that is just one side of the story.

 

Houston Police Department Data Shows Intersection Crashes Up 137 Percent

Since Cameras Turned Off

 

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (June 8, 2011) – New data, just released by the Houston Police Department, shows crashes at intersections previously monitored by red-light safety cameras have increased by nearly 137 percent since the cameras were shut off last November.  HPD’s analysis found that there were 366 more crashes at these intersections from November 2010-April 2011 (634) than there were from November 2009-April 2010 (268).

 red lght cameras one

Red lght cameras

“Every traffic collision exacts its own toll on families, vehicle owners and the community-at-large,” said James Tuton, President and CEO of American Traffic Solutions. “Medical care, vehicle removal and repair, and the attention from police and other emergency response personnel are just a few of the measurable costs associated with traffic crashes. Red-light safety cameras help reduce vehicle collisions by changing driver behavior.”

This data expands on a recent Houston Chronicle study that compared crash rates for the six months prior to, and after, the cameras were turned off.  That comparison concluded that crash rates had actually slightly decreased.

“Unfortunately, this type of data is what we expected to see based on the increase in potential red-light running violations that had been observed since the cameras stopped issuing citations,” added Tuton.

Additionally, HPD’s analysis also showed that “Major” collisions more than quadrupled from 44 from November 2009-April 2010 to 200 from November 2010-April 2011, the period since the cameras have been disabled. “Major” collisions are defined by HPD as those that include injury and significant damage. 

Based on a recent economic model created by John Dunham and Associates, we estimate that each of the 72 cameras in the Houston Red Light Safety Camera Program saved the city more than $50,000 a year, $3.5 million in total, simply by reducing the number of red-light running related crashes.  This savings was after any fees paid to ATS and did not include any additional revenue generated by red-light running violations.

A February 2011 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that nearly two-thirds of the deaths and injuries from red-light running related crashes were people other than the red light runner including: bicyclists, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles. The study also found that, in 2009, 676 people were killed and more than 113,000 were injured in red-light related collisions.

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About American Traffic Solutions:

ATS is proud to be the market leader in Road Safety Camera installations in North America. ATS has more than 2,600 installed Intersection and Speed Safety Cameras serving more than 30 million people. We have contracts in 240 communities in 22 states and Washington, D.C., including: Fort Worth, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Nassau County (NY), New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Seattle and St. Louis. ATS also offers PlatePass, an automated electronic toll payment service that enables rental vehicle customers to use high-speed, cashless electronic toll lanes. ATS is a privately-owned, U.S. corporation. For more information, please visit: www.atsol.com or  www.PlatePass.com

The City Pays A Big Price For Losing Red Light Cameras
November 16, 2010

On Monday,  the city of Houston ordered American Traffic Solutions to turn off all 70 red light cameras installed at dangerous intersections in the city of  Houston.

Houston has collected  $44 Million in fines since 2006 when the cameras were installed and began catching red light  runners.  Much of that money was invested in public safety programs.  Mayor Parker says the city plans to aggressively enforce traffic laws at the intersections that will no longer have cameras, but the city’s efforts will be hampered by the lack of revenue.

At the same time the cameras were turned off,  Mayor Parkers says the city  took action to protect its interest, by filing suit in federal court seeking to terminate the red light camera contract with A-T-S .  

The contract is supposed to be good until 2014 and requires a 120 day termination notice.

“ATS agrees with the city that red-light cameras are effective safety tools that change behaviors and saves lives.,” said Charles Territo, Vice President of Communications for A-T-S. ” As disappointed as we are with the results we the respect the outcome of the election and have complied with the Mayor’s request to turn the cameras off.  We will now work with the city to find a fair and reasonable solution to resolving outstanding issues.”

Would You Vote For or Against Red Light Cameras In Houston?
August 8, 2010

 It  looks like Houston residents  will have a chance to vote on two controversial issues during the November election.

RENEW Houston seeks to pass a city charter amendment to impose a fee to repair flooding and drainage issues, and now a group wants voters to decide if the city should continue operating red light cameras.

The group  Citizens Against Red Light Cameras says it has collected enough signatures to require the city to place the measure on the ballot.

Should be a really interesting  election year.  The hot button topic of  red light cameras could help drive up voter turnout in a year that also boasts a gubernatorial election and several contested judicial races.

For Immediate Release

The grass roots group of citizens, known as Citizens Against Red Light Cameras will present petitions signed by Houston’s citizens who oppose the use of photogenic cameras in the City of Houston. The group led by Attorney Paul Kubosh will present over 30 thousand verified signatures to the city’s secretary. The citizens will gather on the steps of City Hall, Monday August 9, 2010 at 2pm. In attendance will be members of the clergy, housewives, community activists, students as well as a diverse group of Houstonians.

Citizens Against Red Light Cameras want the controversial cameras brought before the public on the November 2, 2010 election. Twenty-two thousand verified signatures are required by the City of Houston to place the measure on the ballot. The group collected the required signatures by mailing out petitions and by canvassing door to door in targeted precincts. Attorney Paul Kubosh said, “We were ecstatic at the response of the community. Many expressed how grateful they were for us taking the initiative to end the use of red light cameras in Houston.”

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