Tomorrow, city council is holding a rare special session that may ring the death knell for red-light cameras. The to-be proposed ordinance, if passed, would immediately turn off the cameras. But yesterday, councilmember Mike Sullivan proposed an amendment that could kill the entire plot.
The amendment calls for the immediate physical removal of all red-light cameras. Normally, such a move would be applauded by Paul Kubosh, head of Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras. But according to a federal judge's order: "The cameras will not be removed during the pendency of the litigation." If Sullivan's amendment is passed, the ordinance will violate the judge's order.
In other words, the ordinance is strong enough as it is, according to Kubosh. Adding an amendment that violates a judge's order is dangerous.
In a press conference in front of his law office, Kubosh and councilmember Jolanda Jones spoke about the amendment. "We're afraid this is more gamesmanship by the mayor," Kubosh said. "We're afraid that somehow, this is another way to keep the cameras off."
Kubosh said that he spoke with Sullivan about the potential backfiring of the amendment, and that Sullivan did not indicate he would pull it.
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"I think it's probably well-intentioned, because it appears to do what the citizens overwhelmingly want us to do," said Jones, an adamant opponent of the cameras. Jones is also a lawyer.
"Legally, I believe it's problematic," she said. "You don't ever want to violate an order by the judge. You never want to be hauled into court for contempt."
If the amended ordinance is passed, the city of Houston could face monetary penalties by the judge. "It could cause whatever we do on Friday to be invalid," said Jones. "I don't want to do that."
Kubosh says he won't trust the mayor's goal to remove the cameras until the cameras are off. "I think her ultimate goal is to keep the cameras on," he said. "We'll know for sure tomorrow."