This was what’s known as an interlocutory order from the judge. As such, we are required to seek permission from the district court and the 5th circuit to appeal. We have 30 days to do that. It is still under review.
So there you have it. Here’s a definition of interlocutory order for those of you, like me, who lack a law degree. And in case you’re wondering, I still have not received an email from George Hittner.
Meanwhile, this Chron editorial urges the city to turn the cameras back on.
The city and the contractor are currently facing off in court over the terms for severing their contract, which runs through 2014. Although 53 percent of voters rejected the camera system in November and the cameras were turned off soon after, Judge Lynn Hughes issued an opinion that the election violated the city charter requirement that such challenges be mounted within 30 days of the passage of an ordinance. Although the petitioners had claimed their initiative was a city charter amendment, the judge found that in fact it was an illegal repeal of an ordinance six years after the deadline had passed.
He had critical words for Mayor Parker and City Council members who voted to schedule the election. “Presented with this mislabeling,” wrote Hughes in his opinion, “the council supinely ignored — over the voices of some of its members – their responsibility and put the proposition to the voters as an amendment to the charter.”
Even though she is a strong supporter of red-light cameras, Mayor Parker, backed by City Attorney David Feldman, had insisted that the council had an “absolute sworn duty” to put the camera ban on the ballot. If Judge Hughes is right, they were wrong.
District C Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck was the only official to vote against scheduling the election. At the time, she declared, “Items like this don’t belong in the city charter. Otherwise, we would be like California …anything we vote on at this table could be overturned by petition.” Clutterbuck says she still supports the cameras, but to turn them back on now would “be a violation of the will of the people.”
We disagree. The election violated the will of the people as expressed in the city charter. If this result stands, it will set a precedent that would allow activist groups to attempt to overturn any long-standing city ordinance they choose, in the process potentially violating contracts that could cost the city millions of dollars.
This is the crux of the matter. You have a decisive election that never should have been allowed to take place. I can’t dismiss what the voters said, but I have a hard time accepting it. CM Clutterbuck was right – this is not how we run our city. Yet I disagree with the Chron and agree with Campos that none of the people who voted on this, who thought they were deciding the cameras’ fate, gave any thought to the legal niceties. Whether we accept the result of the election or not we’re setting a precedent that I don’t like. I hate to say it, because I’d rather keep the cameras, but the best solution is likely to be a negotiated settlement with ATS. I don’t envy the Mayor and Council the decisions they have to make.