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Keep Houston Press Free
4

If Kids Are Our Future, Then We're Going To Be Stuck Forever With Red-Light Cameras

Ever wonder what happens when you throw a bunch of kids in a room and ask them to debate and vote on a hot issue? Well, as it turns out, pretty much the same thing as the old folks.  

Last night, 23 members of the Mayor's Youth Council sat behind the microphones at City Hall discussing whether the city should restrict car owners from renewing their registration for not paying traffic violations caught on red light cameras. The grownup city council has already voted yes to this.

The kids heard from Joseph Fenninger, CFO and Deputy Director of Budget and Finance at HPD, who said the measure is needed to give the enforcement of red-light fines some teeth and to encourage payment of them. Civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen tried to sway the mini-council by saying several studies prove the cameras do not prevent accidents and that taking away someone's right to register their car goes too far for a mechanism that doesn't work right.

Then it was the students' turn.

Youssef Bargach of District H led the charge against the ordinance, saying, "I believe it would trigger a domino effect. The people are already irresponsible by not paying the ticket, why do you think they'd register their car? They'd drive without it, which means a warrant would be issued, which means more police time is taken up, and it would help backlog the judicial system. There must be another method."

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At-large member Grace Sun fought back, arguing, "I'm in favor of it because I don't think laws can be effective unless we can enforce them. In addition, some of the money taken in from the fines goes toward enforcing laws here, so this helps make citizens safer."

Overall, the meeting went like most real city council meetings. Perhaps these teens were a tad more civil, and certainly better dressers.

In the end, they voted 15-8 in favor, which pretty much means red light cameras and penalties for not paying are here to stay, so long as the kids have anything to say about it.

-- Chris Vogel

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