KUHF-11 News Poll: Houstonians Support Red Light Cameras

Red light cameras may be the most contentious issue Houston voters will see on the November ballot. But a KUHF-11 News survey shows Houstonians appear willing to accept the cameras. Laurie Johnson reports.

Unlike other Texas cities, including Baytown and Bryan/College Station, which voted against cameras at traffic intersections — Houston appears poised to approve the controversial devices.

The KUHF-Eleven News Survey shows 53 percent of people polled say they would vote to continue the use of red light cameras in the city, while 42 percent say they'd vote against it.

Rice University Professor Bob Stein conducted the survey of 505 registered Houston voters. Stein is also the author of a previous study on red light cameras commissioned by the City of Houston.

"Not only do you have an 11-point lead, but what's really interesting is only four percent are undecided on this issue. And this has support across the board among all political stripes — Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals and moderates all support the red light camera program. And this is a bit of a surprise because of course the petition drive and all the news has been somewhat negative about it."

That negative news has largely been driven by Michael Kubosh, a bail bondsman who has crusaded against the cameras since their debut in the city.

"If polls were accurate, we would stop having elections. We would just have polls. But that's why we have elections. And I can go back to the fact that every time the citizens have had a choice to vote for or against the cameras everywhere in the United States, they've always voted them out."

Kubosh gained local notoriety when he intentionally ran a red light in order to get a ticket and challenge the constitutionality of the cameras. He lost that legal battle, but undeterred, made it his mission to bring the cameras to a referendum.

But the political action committee, Keep Houston Safe, is suing to keep the referendum off the ballot. They argue the petition should have been made back in 2004 when the red light camera ordinance was passed.

Mark Clark is the executive director of the Houston Police Officers' Union.

"The camera technology enables the Houston Police Department to do the kind of traffic enforcement that needs to be done given constraints on our city budget, as well as the resources which is the number of police officers that are available to run over a million calls a year, investigate murders, robberies, sexual assaults and all the things that are on our plate that we have a responsibility to do."

Clark says the 70 cameras, located at 50 intersections in Houston, have saved lives because they raise awareness and change motorist behavior.

"Fundamentally I believe that the vast majority of the people want to drive safely and believe in the Houston Police Department and realize that we wouldn't be asking them to support the use of this type of technology if it was something that was flawed. And I just can't help but believe that the average person out there that would be going to the polls in November to vote on this wouldn't vote to continue to keep this technology in place."

And if the KUHF-Eleven News survey is any indication, they will vote to keep the technology.

For his part, Kubosh says if the people get to vote, he considers that a win.

"The election doesn't have to ban the cameras for me to have won. I have already won — we've given the citizens of the City of Houston the right to vote on this camera scheme. And that's — I've won. I can't lose. So if the citizens say hey we want them, I'm for the citizens."

And perhaps this one should be left up to the voters.

Though not directly related to the industry himself, Kubosh's brother Paul is a traffic ticket defense attorney.
On the other side, Keep Houston Safe gets some of its funding from the red light camera vendor that contracts
with the City of Houston.

Tonight on 11 News at 10, find out what Houston voters think of paying an additional fee to address drainage and flooding problems in the bayou city.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF News.

 

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...