In the grand scheme, I realize red-light cameras are not very important, but I was absolutely delighted to see that Houston voters approved a referendum to stop the city from using these devices. Red-light cameras should be called revenue cameras because local governments almost always use them to collect more money rather than to promote safety. Indeed, there’s good evidence that they cause accidents, in part because governments shorten yellow lights in hopes of raping more motorists.
The same is true of cameras to catch speeding. In my life, I’ve been nailed a couple of times by those devices, and in every case it involved an absurdly (and deliberately) low speed limit (including 45 on an interstate highway and 25 on a four-lane road in a non-residential area).
The fringe benefit of this Houston referendum, by the way, is that the city will be forced to spend less. The City Controller acts as if this is a terrible result, but one quick solution for the city’s budget problems would be to limit average pay for all government officials to the average of private sector pay in the region. Here are some excerpts from a story in the Houston Chronicle. Read and enjoy.
Houstonians rejected the city’s red light camera program in a hard-fought ballot contest, delivering an immediate $10 million hit to an already dire budget situation at City Hall. With all votes counted, 53.2 percent of voters demanded a decisive end to the use of the devices, which had been used to issue more than 800,000 tickets and collected $44 million in fines since 2006. …City Controller Ronald Green said the loss of the devices would amount to a $10 million shortfall in revenues, a sharp decrease that would greatly complicate efforts to close a shortfall that was already nearing $80 million. “We’re going to have to cut expenses,” he said. “We need to really start talking about the fact that furloughs and layoffs may really be a potential option. … It’s now time for drastic cuts.” Jim McGrath, a spokesman for Keep Houston Safe, said he did not anticipate that the political action committee — backed by the Arizona-based company that runs the city’s red-light camera program – would try to fight the election results in court.