Last November the voters of Houston overwhelmingly voted for the city to cease and desist its Red Light Camera program. This was the only opportunity the citizens of Houston have had to speak in a direct and significant way to their representative since the initiation of the program was not done with the consent of the voters. But instead was done behind closed doors out of the sight of the taxpayers, and in hindsight was done with the single purpose of raising revenue. Which the city’s leader and ATS after months of claiming it was about safety have all but admitted.
Now 10 months later after the cameras were initially turned off, after Mayor Parker promised they would not be turned back on and after a laughable lawsuit which the city tanked like a prizefighter owned by the mob, the cameras are back on, and the city is issuing tickets and planning on expanding the program. (If Mayor Parker and ATS were in charge after the Civil War one wonders if they would not have said “The civil war is over, the nation endures. Let’s expand slavery, because we need the money”).
So what are the citizens left to do? Does democracy matter? If we can hold an election and the city and private business can subvert and ignore the result of the vote because it affects their bottom line is it fair to ask why bother? What do the governed owe a government that has broken that bond of trust and respect?
I believe we owe the government nothing, but owe ourselves and our history the obligation to act. And to act in a real and substantive way.
Throughout the history of America, civil disobedience has been one of the defining acts of true patriots and lovers of freedom. From the Boston Tea Party, to Martin Luther King , from The Stonewall riots and the Pro-Life movement there has been a time when the people have said NO, this will not stand, I will NOT remain silent. Those men and women, heroes of our nation were not criminals but they did chose to ignore laws which they felt violated the principles of freedom and liberty which our nation holds dear.
And so it is time for us to act in a likewise manner. It’s time to completely ignore these so called Red Light Camera violations. We should trash them and send a message that the real violation is the city’s intent to ignore the will of the people. And unlike those patriots who have gone before us, by acting we risk only a small bit of inconvenience when it comes time to register our vehicles. Instead of going online we might have to take a few extra minutes when we go shopping or make the effort to drive to one of many Harris County offices where we have always been able to register our vehicles in person despite the scare tactics of ATS.
Let me be clear, I am not, and NO ONE associated with the Citizens Against Red Light Cameras are calling for anyone to run red lights. That would risk your life and safety and those of your fellow citizens. That is not the act or patriots. Instead it is time to just say enough is enough and break the city's will. When the profits disappear so will the Red Light Cameras.
You do not have to be a resident of Houston to act. In the State of Texas vehicles are registered through the counties. As long as your vehicle is registered in Harris County you can re-register your vehicle regardless of where you receive a Red Light Camera ticket.
"I repeat again for absolute clarity there is NOTHING any city in Harris County can do to a car owner or driver who receives a red light camera violation notice to keep them from registering their vehicle if your vehicle is registered in Harris County: not Houston, or Humble, or Jersey Village, or Port Lavaca or any other city or town anywhere in Texas."
However, your registration can be blocked if your car is not registered in Harris County. For instance, if your car is registered in Fort Bend County then Houston can suspend your registration. However if you are a taxpayer in Ft. Bend you can call for a policy change and ask them to allow the registration of vehicles regardless of Red Light Camera Violations.
State Law which supersedes any city law makes this fact absolutely clear. The simple fact that ATS and the city ignore State law in the issuance of the violations themselves is enough evidence to indicate the profiteers know that once the citizens learn the truth, the cameras cease to be profitable.
It is not often that we are given the opportunity to affect real change on our communities. This is that opportunity. It is not simply about red light cameras although they are an egregious and selfish act of the part of ATS and any government that employs them, no instead this is much bigger and yet much simpler issue than just traffic enforcement. This is about The American ideal of Democracy. This is about the result of a justly and legally called election in which both sides made their case and the people made a choice. And now the losers of that election seek to deny that choice and enforce their will. This is about who will rule our nation: the people or the politicians.
And if you have not received a notice of violation and wish to act, please join us at Houston City Hall on Tuesday Aug 2 at 1pm and be heard. We intend to overwhelm city hall and call for City Council to end the practice of using red light cameras as a revenue source. And instead respect the voters and honor the election results and respect the taxpayers and do their sworn duty and manage the budget better.
(Philip Owens is the Chief Strategist and Campaign Manager Citizens against Red Light Cameras)