If the Killeen City Council sticks to the agenda during Tuesday’s workshop meeting, the red-light camera contract will not be discussed. That could signify the end of the contract with Redflex, and the removal of the cameras from five intersections throughout the city unless action is taken to restore the consensus.
Still, there are at least three more chances to put the contract on a workshop’s agenda as a discussion item before the April 30 expiration date, and any member of the City Council can do so.
Redflex spokesman Michael Cavaiola said Friday that the door isn’t shut on the topic just yet.
“That’s not a done deal, but I can’t really comment on that,” he said in a phone call with the Herald.
If Killeen goes ahead with the consensus and sticks with the plan of not renewing the Redflex contract, it will be the third city in the past year to have done so. Corpus Christi and Longview both decided against the cameras, but meanwhile, five cities either entered new contracts or extended their current ones.
Those cities are Coppell, Farmers Branch, Haltom City, Marshall and Plano.
The council reached a consensus 3-2 vote earlier this month that it would not renew the contract with Redflex when it expires. Two residents showed up to show support the cameras.
“The truth is, they do change behavior,” John Evans, 75, said. “(Motorists) choose to flout the law. Period.”
Local law enforcement agencies have backed the use of the cameras, too. Killeen interim Police Chief Margaret Young said intersection crashes have gone down 43 percent in the 10 years since the cameras have been implemented. She also cited a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that said when cities turn the lights off, fatal red-light running crashes go up by 30 percent, and all fatal crashes increase by 16 percent.
Mayor Jose Segarra said in a phone interview last week that he is in favor of the cameras. Councilmen Juan Rivera and Gregory Johnson were not present for the meeting, and Segarra said if he thought their vote would have impacted the outcome, he would try to have the council vote again on the matter.
Johnson doesn’t necessarily lean one way or another on the matter. He wants to focus on ensuring that the typical Killeen resident understands the depth of the situation that surrounds the cameras. He’s not positive that the council, himself included, has done all that it can to inform the public of what exactly comes with the elimination of the contract.
“We have to make a thorough decision, and talk about all of the issues,” he said. “Do we have a way to get more officers on the streets? Do we have a way to replace that revenue? If we have answers to those questions, let’s get rid of the cameras.”
Neither Segarra nor Rivera could be reached for comment.
With the cameras, $75 citations are issued to motorists who run red lights. The ticketing program has been controversial since cameras were implemented in Killeen in August 2007. Councilman Dick Young at the time was the only person who voted in opposition of the cameras. Now 10 years later, it appears he’ll get his wish.
The ordinance gave permission for future city managers to make changes without City Council approval. Former Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison did so on Feb. 5, 2013, in a letter to Karen Finley, the CEO of Redflex, when he extended the contract for four years.
Finley has since been jailed after her role in several bribery schemes in other cities. She was sentenced to 30 months in prison after her roles in bribery schemes in Ohio and Chicago, according to a report in the Phoenix New Times.
Cavaiola said Friday that out of all drivers who pass through intersections with red-light cameras, just 2 percent violate the law and incur a citation. However, they become the most vocal, and eventually, that loud opposition leads to a political decision to remove the cameras. The number of violations a city hands out each year usually go down in almost all cities, Cavaiola said, unless additional cameras are implemented in later year.
“I’m not sure why we feel sorry for people who run red lights,” Cavaiola said. “It’s like 5 percent hate (the cameras), 85 percent of people never think about them, and 10 percent of people love it, whether that’s because they’re a member of law enforcement or have a personal experience with it.”
There are five bills in the Texas Legislature that deal with the cameras.
Two of them, Senate Bill 87 and Senate Bill 88, have been approved by the transportation committee. The other three are pending.
Johnson said that the council can’t be concerned with what lawmakers in Austin do though. It will make the best decision for the city and its residents, regardless of impending legislation. “Otherwise, we might as well shut down for the six months that they’re in session in Austin. We just can worry about what we can do.”