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And Back Come the Red-Light Cameras, Starting...NOW!!

Mayor Annise Parker announced today that the city will go back to enforcing red-light camera tickets immediately.

Voters had tossed out the cameras in a referendum, but the company that operates them said they had a contractual deal to make their dirty cash from people who ever so slightly go through "on pink." (They didn't mention toying with the yellow-to-red timing, but we guess they didn't want to brag.)

Parker said the cameras will go on again while the city appeals a recent court decision in favor of the company, American Traffic Solutions.

"This is a difficult decision," Parker said. "I have a responsibility to represent the interests of the voters, but I also have a responsibility to abide by the judge's ruling."

Saying the city just went through "a very painful" budget-cutting process, she said, "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."

A federal judge ruled the referendum should not have been put on the ballot because the initiative to put it there came too late.

"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."

The contract with ATS expires in 2014.

Bottom line: Get ready to be hit in the pocketbook again, people.

Update: New info from the mayor's office: The cameras will be turned on, but citations until testing is done on the equipment.

And ATS' statement:

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.

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