It has been often said that there is strength in numbers. While most people associate this saying with physical security, this concept is also very applicable to social reform measures. If social reform is to happen it is best achieved when the majority of the population rises up together, with one voice, advocating for the same thing, with the same objectives and goals in mind. When everyone is together, on the same page, their ability to change the social and political structure is impressive.
As a case in point, consider the town of Arlington, Texas. According to the Dallas News, earlier this month voters took Proposition 1 to the ballot. Kelly Canon, a local Arlington resident, organized a petition and was the driving force behind the referendum. Proposition 1 was overwhelmingly passed by the voters, which effectively shut down the city’s red-light camera systems.
The effects of this vote have been immediate. Although the cameras still flash when people violate the red light, no tickets are being issued by the local police department. At least 19 intersections in Arlington were equipped with red-light cameras and those cameras generated a total of $2.2 Million in annual revenue for the city, according to the article by Dallas News. Because of this loss of revenue, 26 city employees are having their employment evaluated by the city of Arlington and some of those staffers will invariably be let go.
The representative for the camera company that was contracted to operate the cameras went on record to say that he was “disappointed…but not deterred” by the election results. Several of Arlington’s elected officials and the chief of police have also gone on record saying that they disapprove of vote and have penned a letter to the Texas House Transportation Committee to try to resolve things in their favor at the state level.
Voter-lead petitions have had a long history of success. In the specific arena of automated cameras, there have been several success stories. One of the more notable examples comes from Houston in 2010. Voters there successfully lead a revolt to ban the red light cameras. The City of Houston fought that proposition in federal court and eventually lost and was forced to shut down the camera system.
One particular opponent of red light cameras in Texas, Byron Schirmbeck, has clarified why he thinks that more vote petitions do not happen. In the case of Arlington, the camera company that was contracted to run the cameras stands to lose out on a $16 Million contract, a contract which they do not want to give up easily. According to Byron, many of the camera companies are highly litigious and often take the petitions and the contracts to court.
The fact that these camera companies are willing to take things to court and that the city council of Arlington is trying to circumvent the voter petition is an example of how powerful voter-lead referendums can be. When many voices cry out in unison for the same thing, that unified voice is hard to ignore. The recent success in Arlington has lead to more interest in petitions against red light cameras all across Texas and in other states as well.