Arlington resident Jody Weiderman filed a lawsuit against the City of Arlington on Feb. 25 that would prevent residents from voting to keep or remove red light cameras at the May 9 city council election. Tom Lowe, 236th District Court judge, dismissed the suit against the city Tuesday.
Lowe quoted a previous red light camera case, City of Austin v. Thompson, to explain his decision.
“The courts of this state have no jurisdiction to interfere with the political rights of the people to hold an election, and by holding the election is meant every step pertaining thereto, including the declaring of the result,” he said.
Citizens for a Better Arlington and the Arlington Tea Party presented a petition to the city Jan. 20 with signatures from more than 5 percent of registered voters in Arlington. The petition called for an amendment to be added to the May 9 city council election ballot allowing residents to vote to keep or remove red light cameras.
Kelly Canon, Arlington Tea Party vice president, said she didn’t know what was going to happen, but she is excited to move forward.
“Red light cameras have decriminalized a criminal act of running a red light,” she said. “That’s not a good safety factor in our city.”
Assistant City Attorney Robert Fugate represented the city of Arlington and Mayor Robert Cluck.
“This was not about whether you were for or against red light cameras,” he said. “It was about the right of the people to have an election. Whether people are for or against, every one has the right to vote. The city encourages the people to have the right to vote.”
Weiderman said he paid nothing for his attorneys when asked by Fugate. Andy Taylor represented Weiderman. Taylor has represented American Traffic Solutions in other lawsuits. Weiderman also said he did not know who Wallace Jefferson was, another attorney representing him on the lawsuit.
Weiderman said he has no relationship with American Traffic Solutions.
“We filed this lawsuit because we believe in the safety of the people,” Taylor said.
Weiderman registered to vote Feb. 18, he said, seven days before he filed the lawsuit. By election time, he would be a registered voter.
“I think the red light cameras are a great program and needs to stay in the city of Arlington,” Weiderman said.
The suit said nowhere in the Arlington City Charter do the residents of Arlington have any right of citizen initiative or referendum, which is an event where the people vote for or against a law.
“Should we allow a referendum to prohibit the use of breathalyzer kits on weekend nights because it restricts the social habits of some citizens?” the suit stated. “By the same token, the City Council has enacted the program because of its considered opinion that red light cameras promote the enforcement of existing traffic safety laws, which deters drivers from running red lights and reduces intersection collisions.”
Lowe said the referendum is too premature for the court to make a decision about the election in question and the court is not making a ruling about validity.
“We legated this identical issue five times,” Taylor said. “Each and every one of the five occasions the judges held that this type of election is not valid. It’s not good for anybody, including the voters on either side of this issue, to get invested in the outcome that eventually gets thrown out in court.”