Tag Archives: local control

Red-light cameras to stay in operation

Let’s put the effort to ban cities from deploying red-light cameras on ice for another two years.

And then let us hope the Texas Legislature fails again to impose its will on cities who are seeking ways to prevent motorists from running through stop lights and endangering other motorists and pedestrians.


The 2015 Legislature won’t enact a statewide ban on the cameras. It fell short of efforts to take that authority away from cities, where officials — including in Amarillo — have deployed the cameras.

I happen to be glad that Amarillo will be able to maintain the cameras.

What’s more, I am hopeful the next Legislature will decide in the state’s best interest to let cities control their own traffic destiny.

Of all the arguments I keep hearing in opposition to the cameras, the one that angers and amuses me the most is that the cameras “violate the rights” of motorists. What rights? Privacy? The right to “face an accuser”? The right of “due process”?

If we’re going to accept the rights violation argument, then let’s just tell cities to disband their police departments. Let’s take down speed limit signs. While we’re at it, let’s take security cameras out of stores that protect businesses against theft; those cameras, after all, violate our “rights,” too, by watching our every move while we’re shopping.

Amarillo should be hailed for its insistence that the red-light cameras are helping deter motorists from endangering others, not to mention themselves, when they run through stoplights. Other cities haven’t demonstrated that kind of backbone.

So, for now, thanks also belong to the Texas Legislature for leaving cities alone and letting them determine what’s best for the motor vehicle-driving public.

Red-light cams under the gun in Senate

Did I dream this or is it for real?

Wasn’t there a time when Republicans sang the virtues of local control and said that local government knew better than state or federal officials how to deal issues of local concern?

Apparently, most members of the Texas Senate Transportation Committee think the state knows best as it regards red-light cameras.


I believe the committee is mistaken.

The panel voted to ban cities and towns from deploying the devices to stop people from running red lights. Amarillo is one of those cities.

The author of the bill is state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton. “The public has expressed great opposition to the growing practice of unmanned, automatic-controlled traffic cameras,” Hall said.

Great opposition? Have there been massive protests? Have motorists marched on city halls across the state to demand removal of these devices?

Come on. Let’s get real.

Amarillo and a handful of other Texas cities have seen a need to crack down on a practice that puts the public in peril. So why not let cities deal with these issues the best way they can?

The full Texas Senate is going to get this bill. It’s full of Republicans who, I once thought, believed local control was the best control.

I think the words of my favorite Amarillo City Council member, Ellen Robertson Green, sums up the issue succinctly. She once told a protester at City Hall the best way to avoid being hassled by the camera is to “just don’t run the red light.”

Is that so difficult?


What? Cities can't decide these things?

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a law that bans cities from enacting municipal minimum-wage standards for businesses within the city.

That’s strange. I have thought Republicans, such as Fallin, were categorically opposed to what they call “government overreach,” that local control should trump bigger-government control whenever possible?


Oklahoma cities, like cities in all the other states, do have this thing called “home rule charter” form government. I believe that enables cities to set the rules inside their corporate limits. Do I have that wrong?

Gov. Fallin’s signature on the bill now disallows cities from making that call.

It reminds me a bit of the Texas statute that used to prohibit cities from deploying red-light cameras if city officials perceived a problem with people running red lights, causing accidents and putting local residents in danger. That law has been amended and some cities — such as Amarillo — are using the cameras to catch those who run through red lights.

Those who support the Oklahoma minimum-wage ban say it “levels the playing field” for all cities. A GOP state representative said, “An artificial raise in the minimum wage could derail local economies in a matter of months. This is a fair measure for consumers, workers and small business owners.”

Sure thing. But if business owners agree that the $7.25 hourly wage is too low and are willing to pay more, don’t they have the right to do so if the city where they operate grants them permission?

Local control, man. Local control.

I thought that was preferable to patronizing Big Government.


Paper or plastic … bags, that is?

Texas might find itself in the middle of yet another legal snit.

This time it could be over whether cities have the authority to ban plastic grocery bags. My hope, given my environmentally friendly attitude about such things, is that cities can do this on their own if they see fit.


State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, has asked the Texas attorney general’s office to rule on it. He believes cities’ efforts to ban plastic grocery bags don’t comply with state health and safety laws.

I’ll ask the question here that I’ve asked regarding cities’ authority to install red-light cameras at intersections: Doesn’t local control mean that cities and other local jurisdictions have the right to do what’s best for their communities?

Today in the Texas Panhandle offers a prime example of why such a ban makes sense. The wind is howling at this moment, gusting at 60 mph and greater. I shudder to think what I’m going to see in the morning. I’m betting I’m going to see plastic grocery bags strewn across large stretches of open country, piled up against fences, snagged in trees, wrapped around utility poles or piled up in my front yard.

Would paper bags be immune from that kind of wind-driven mess? Of course not. The paper, though, is quite biodegradable and a better fit for the landfills.

Cities all across the country are enacting bans on plastic bags. That’s their call and individual states empower the cities to act independently. In Texas, though, the Legislature retains control over municipal affairs, despite contentions from politicians — starting with Gov. Rick Perry — who espouse the value of “local control.”

Grocer associations hate the idea of the ban. Their lobby is strong in Austin. In my view, it is too strong.

I’d prefer to see a more environmentally friendly policy enacted in cities, such as Amarillo, that does away with the plastic bags. If only the state would allow it.