In Houston's on-again, off-again relationship with red-light cameras, city council finally decided today to break ties. This morning, they repealed an ordinance allowing the cameras to operate. As a result, the cameras were shut off as of 12:01 p.m. today.
The decision was unanimous except for councilmember Sue Lovell, who voted not to repeal the ordinance. "We've walked away today with nothing in place to keep you safe," she said. Lovell was also concerned that the damages the city may have to pay to the camera company ATS -- who is asking for around $25 million -- will result in layoffs.
But almost a year after citizens voted the cameras down, one chorus finally resounded throughout the council chambers this morning: "We must follow the will of the people."
Before the vote, councilmembers weighed in on the issue. "This is a representative form of government," C.O. Bradford said. "It should be pretty clear to us what we have to do."
Also passed was a resolution that allows the city to continue negotiating with ATS and litigate in court.
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Andy Taylor, head counsel for ATS, said that the decision is bad news for Houston, which has proven it can't be trusted to abide by its contracts.
Michael Kubosh, one of the heads of Houston Coalition Against Red Light Cameras, was elated. "I don't believe the city will owe much of anything," he said in an impromptu press conference outside of chambers. "This is a big day."
Nearby, the anti-camera campaign manager, Phil Owens, stood smiling. So what happens to the coalition now?
"Cigar and a beer," he said.