Red-Light Cameras in Dilemma Zone Until Next Week

In today's special-edition episode of Houston versus (?) Red-Light Cameras, the mayor and city council could have turned off the cameras -- immediately and forever. But no decision was made.

Within half a second of Parker introducing the item, council jumped on it. Sue Lovell got to her buzzer first, tagging it. This stopped action on the issue until next week.

"Councilmember Lovell has tagged the item," Parker said, "We end this discussion."

C.O. Bradford motioned to override the tag, seconded by fellow red-light camera opponent Jolanda Jones. But Parker didn't budge. "The administration actually agrees with councilmember Lovell. It might be prudent to allow the mediation to proceed." With a quick 8-4 vote, the override was overturned, saving Houston's ass for another half-week.

Two additional councilmembers, Ed Gonzalez and Al Hoang, tagged the item, and Parker adjourned the meeting.

So died Councilmember Mike Sullivan's ill-fated amendment, one that would insist that the cameras be physically removed -- a violation of a federal judge's order not to touch the cameras while litigation is pending. Sullivan submitted it too late, which is really good news for everyone.

The City of Houston and American Traffic Solutions, the camera company, will go into mediation this weekend, said Parker. In their sure-to-be fun-filled weekend retreat, the city and ATS will try to resolve the dispute about the contract. "There's been a lot of numbers thrown around, and we need a mediation," she said.

The numbers she references are, at the highest, $25 million -- a number ATS chief counsel Andy Taylor said the camera company will be owed if the city breaches its contract. He'd prefer the city to honor its contract until it expires in 2014.

"The taxpayers are the ones who are going to lose out here," Taylor said.

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