Red Light Camera Ban Tossed Out

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

A federal judge has thrown out the city's ban on red light cameras because it came from a referendum, not a charter amendment.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said the changes mandated by voters last November were not valid -- they could only have been accomplished via a charter amendment, and that would have needed to be done almost immediately after the red light camera ordinance and contract were approved in 2004. Referenda aimed at specific city ordinances are not valid, he ruled.

Mayor Annise Parker said, "Judge Hughes's ruling means that we have several options to consider. I will consult with City Attorney Dave Feldman and City Council members as we deliberate the future of the red light camera program in Houston. Right now the cameras continue to monitor intersections, but no tickets are being issued."

Hughes noted that the city insisted its action was a charter amendment and therefore legitimate, but, he wrote, "Abraham Lincoln once asked 'If Congress said that a goat's tail was a leg, how many legs would a goat have? Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it so.'"

Hughes admitted (here's a link to the opinion) the time to overturn an ordinance by referendum is limited, but he said opponents have other options: Voting in new city councilmembers who will overturn it themselves.

"Those who favor repeal will react that this distinction is a legal technicality." wrote Hughes, who is known for his sharply worded and vivid written rulings. "In some sense, all law is a technicality. It draws lines and defines categories. It is the antithesis of passion and plurality. The Founders' definition of tyranny was arbitrary government. Timid and overenthusiastic city officials can destroy regular government as easily as a king."

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.