Houston's Red-Light Camera Controversy Lands in Federal Court

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(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) The legal battle over Houston’s red-light cameras has taken another turn. At a hearing with a federal district judge today, the city and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) presented arguments over whether the city is liable to pay out its contract with the red-light camera company. Mayor Annise Parker asked a federal district judge to mediate the dispute.

Houston residents voted to turn off the cameras during last month’s mid-term election, but ATS argues the measure shouldn’t have been on the ballot in the first place. The reason? It was illegal. ATS says the vote wasn't legit because the cameras were still under contract with the city. ATS attorneys argue that the city has to cough up millions of dollars for breaking its contract.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the city of Houston contend it doesn’t owe ATS a dime since Houston voters nullified the contract when they cast their ballots to get rid of the cameras. ATS is hoping the judge will reactivate the devices (which are still up but switched off) and invalidate the referendum.

The loss of revenue from the decommissioned cameras has added to the city's budget woes, which is now roughly $26 million in the hole. The red-light cameras brought in around $10 million a year.