Houston voters have given a "red light" to the city’s 70 red-light cameras.
With all precincts reporting, 52.82 percent of voters wanted the cameras turned off, while 47.18 percent voted to keep them in use.
The cameras, which snap photos of drivers who run red lights, were activated in Houston four years ago and have generated more than $44 million in revenue since 2007.
Some public safety officials said the cameras made Houston’s streets safer, but opponents argued that they actually increased accidents and were just a money-maker for the city.
Three brothers, working under the banner "Citizens Against Red Light Cameras," spearheaded the opposition’s effort.
"Cameras have never been proven to save one life. Red-light cameras are just a money-grabbing scheme," said Michael Kubosh, a bail bondsman in Houston and one of the group’s founders.
The city was forced to put the red-light camera issue on the ballot after Kubosh and his brothers collected more than 20,000 signatures calling for a referendum.
Nearly all the Houston City Council members were in favor of the cameras, as well as the Houston Police Department.
HPD argued that the amount in fines from the cameras was far less than the $225 million the region pays annually for damages, injuries and deaths resulting from red-light accidents.
At City Hall Wednesday morning, the city controller said the loss of the cameras will mean $10 million less in revenue next year. That’s a tough hit for a city already expected to face an $80 million budget shortfall, and it was not clear how officials would make up for the loss. Houston Mayor Annise Parker said it could cost jobs.
City Attorney David Feldman said drivers still have to pay their red-light camera tickets – at least until the legal department decides on its next move. The city still has a contract with ATS, the cameras’ manufacturer, and it’s not set to expire for another two and a half years.
The CEO from ATS was at the council meeting Wednesday. He told reporters that the Arizona-based company had not yet decided whether to sue the city.