Texas legislators appear ready to pull the plug on cities that want to do more to protect motorists and pedestrians from those who break the law by running through red lights.
Yep. The Texas House of Representatives has approved a bill written by Rep. Jonathan Strickland, R-Bedford, to disallow cities from deploying the devices.
This, I must say once again with emphasis, is a huge mistake. It’s big, man!
Strickland believes — and this is rich — that the cameras violate constitutional provisions that guarantee accused citizens to face their accuser. Pardon me for saying so, but Strickland is full of crap!
The cameras do not deny anyone any rights as citizens. Those who get cited by the cameras that catch them running through red lights or taking off from a dead stop through an intersection are entitled to appeal their citation to a municipal judge.
The cameras that are used in cities all across Texas take pictures of license plates on the offending vehicles and the citation is sent to the vehicles’ owners. The fines run $75 for a violation.
Let me disclose something: I got caught by one of those cameras in Amarillo several years ago. I made a mistake by racing through an intersection; I was a tad late and I got caught. I paid the fine. That was it.
I am troubled by the Legislature’s motives in repealing the law enabling cities to use the devices. Republicans control both legislative chambers. GOP politicians traditionally have ceded power to local authorities, acknowledging that the locals know best what their communities need.
Many cities, such as Amarillo, determined that the red-light cameras would deter motorists from running through the red lights. City officials have determined that the cameras do their job. They give the city extra sets of “eyes” to monitor the behavior of motorists driving vehicles along public rights-of-way.
The Legislature is considering an amendment to the repeal effort that would allow cities to retain the devices until their contracts with vendors expire. It won’t soften one bit the lack of wisdom the Legislature is demonstrating by ordering cities to take down these devices.
I’ve heard the arguments for and against the cameras. I signed on early as a proponent of the devices. My support for them hasn’t waned. I only wish the Legislature would reconsider this unwise idea.
If cities — which are governed by municipal charters — feel the need to use them to reduce hazards to motorists and pedestrians, let them make that call without legislative interference.