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Election 2012: Texas, California cities to get say on ticket cameras
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

Voters in two Texas and California communities could get a say this fall on what they want to do about automated enforcement. Another community in the Golden State will not get a chance to decide on the matter.

A petition effort in Cleveland, TX, could result in local ballots on Nov. 6 including a question on whether to discontinue the use of red-light cameras in the city off Interstate 69 northeast of Houston. The community’s two-year-old program reportedly has generated more than $1 million from tickets.

Opponents of the ticketing machines submitted signatures to the city council urging them to include a question on the November ballot.

The city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions to operate the cameras is set to expire in 2015. City council members previously voted not to renew the contract.

Whether voters get their say on the devices this fall or they are forced to wait until the contract ends, the Houston-area community will join Texas locales that include Houston, Baytown and College Station in removing their cameras.

In California, Newport Beach voters will get to decide on red-light cameras.

The city does not employ the devices at this time. The public vote will decide whether future city councils can enact an ordinance to permit or authorize any photo enforcement in the city of 86,000. Instead, voters would have to decide whether to allow cameras to be used.

Advocates are hopeful that voters will respond in a similar fashion to neighboring Anaheim, where nearly three-quarters of voters in 2010 opted to prohibit red-light cameras.

Meanwhile, voters in Murrieta, CA, will not get a chance to decide on the future of red-light cameras in their community.

A judge has blocked voters in the city located along Interstate 15 in Southern California from getting a say on the issue.

Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled that the ballot initiative was not legal. Instead, he decided that traffic ordinances should be left up to municipalities, not residents.

“The court finds that traffic regulation is a matter of statewide concern,” Ottolia wrote. “The Legislature has specifically delegated the authorization of automated traffic enforcement systems to city councils, and such delegation precludes the municipal electorate from using the initiative and referendum process to authorize or prohibit red light cameras.”

Riverside County voters could get the next word on the matter. Judge Ottolia is up for retention on the November ballot.

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