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FEATURE NEWS

OPERATION PAPER BLIZZARD
HITS MONROE
Anti red light ticket camera foes to highlight Monroe Mayor as anti-open government, anti-voter

October 22, 2011






CLICK TO ENLARGE FLYER
(MONROE, WA) -- Still ticked off at what they see as Monroe Mayor Bob Zimmerman’s move to “sabotage” an opposing statement in the voter’s pamphlet for next month’s election about Monroe’s city sponsored measure dealing with the red light camera issue, ban-the-cam groups will be out in the Monroe area this weekend undertaking “Operation Paper Blizzard.”

Groups opposed to the cameras - and equally opposed to what they view as Zimmerman’s anti-voter, anti-open government positions – plan to blanket the Monroe area with the flyer at right.

Click to enlarge

It is their way of getting into the public domain the “opposing statement” to Monroe’s city sponsored measure in the November ballot that they claim Zimmerman crushed.

“In the battle over automatic ticketing cameras in Monroe, we are spending this weekend and early next week educating the citizenry about Mayor Robert Zimmerman's dishonest obstruction efforts against our initiative. We will be blanketing the city with the attached flyer,” said citizen activist Tim Eyman.

Founders of BanCams.com, Nick and Tiffany Sherwood created what Eyman sees as, “This honest, hard-hitting piece that informs the citizens of Monroe about how sleazy Mayor Zimmerman has been on this issue.”

For his part Nick Sherwood says he was, “Surprised to see how stacked the deck was in Monroe. Instead of working to serve the citizens of Monroe, Mayor Zimmerman plotted and schemed, using dirty tricks and political tactics to cut the citizens out of the process. They may be able to keep us out of the voters pamphlet, but they can't keep us from educating voters about how they did it."

The sponsor of citizen inspired Monroe Initiative #2 says it is no secret that Mayor Zimmerman is the point man on this action.

“ The lawyers do nothing without Zimmerman's explicit approval. Zimmerman authorized the lawyers to counter sue Seeds Of Liberty for lawyers fees in court even though in earlier public statements and to me on the phone twice, he said the city was not suing anyone. Yet that is exactly what the Mayor authorized the city of Monroe's lawyers to do despite his public and private promises. It is Zimmerman who has chosen to represent the best interests of the Arizona red-light camera company rather than Monroe's citizens.”

So what’s at the heart of this beef?

THE ATTACK DOG

Well, among other things the ban-the-camera groups feel that Zimmerman pulled a dirty political trick by bringing in his “attack dog” in the form of former city councilman Chad Minnick to disrupt and ultimately kill the process of writing an opposing statement.

Zimmerman appointed Minnick to a three-person group charged with writing an opposing statement to a measure the city of Monroe put on the November ballot having to do with the red light cameras.

That measure is Resolution No. 2011/019. It will ask voters what they think should be done with the cameras – not now, but in the year 2013.

And in short order after appointing Minnick to the process, writing a simple opposing statement blew up like a low-level nuke.

Minnick is the man who - besides having an interesting past with efforts to deep-six the city’s ethics guidelines when he was a council member, say critics - and an equally interesting connection to a very controversial land rezone issue having to do with land connected to his father’s church operation, has said he doesn’t care a whit about the red light camera issue, that his only interest is in “getting conservatives elected” to office.

Due to Minnick’s past on the council and his stated position on the cameras, some in the valley find it plenty odd that a man like Minnick was Zimmerman’s choice to appoint to a group charged with writing an opposing statement to a camera operation – and ultimately a relationship with an out of state camera company – that Zimmerman and the controlling majority on the council that support him are in favor of and do not want to see tampered with.

More on that issue can be found here

Zimmerman and the council appear to have gone to considerable lengths to insure that the relationship with the out of state camera company Redflex remains unchanged.

WHAT REDFLEX WAS UP TO IN NEW MEXICO

Last month a New Mexico TV station discovered that a campaign to convince Albuquerque, New Mexico voters to support those controversial red light ticketing cameras on the October ballot there had been bankrolled by the same company that profits millions from the fines – and which happens top be the same red light camera company that Monroe’s city leaders signed a contract with for the cameras to be deployed on Monroe streets.

KOB-TV Channel 4, New Mexico's first TV station discovered from campaign finance reports that Redflex, the company that operates the cameras there as well as here in Monroe, donated $45,000 to the initiative “Safe Roads Albuquerque.”

Safe Roads Albuquerque mailed thousands of flyers asking voters to support the red light cameras.

KOB-TV reported that all but $50 donated to the campaign came from Redflex.

The Albuquerque incident appears to be consistent with what citizen activists in Monroe and other cities are saying: namely there is virtually no local grass roots support for the cameras and whatever support there is for the devices must be internally generated by city councils who are interested in the money generated by the cameras and the camera companies themselves.

In every city in Washington State where voters have had a chance to express their opinion they have registered an overwhelming no vote on the cameras.

Redflex took in $17.5 Million in the last five years from red light runners in Albuquerque, according to the KOB-TV report.

MONROE SUES VOTERS OVER CITIZEN SPONSORED INITIATIVE

In Monroe, the mayor and city council decided to sue local voters who are opposed to the cameras, rather that let the citizen sponsored Monroe Initiative No. 1 be voted on by the public.

The lawsuit asked a judge to find Monroe’s Initiative No. 1 invalid on grounds it is beyond the scope of what a local initiative can legally do.

Defendants were Tim Eyman’s group, VotersWantMoreChoices, as well as the Monroe based Seeds of Liberty, BanCams.com and Washington Campaign for Liberty.

On the Monroe council’s move to go to court rather than give voters a say on the cameras, local anti-camera activist Brian Kohn – a co-sponsor of Monroe Initiative No. 1 - said he was, “Disappointed to say the least. These individuals, the council and mayor of Monroe were elected to represent the citizens of Monroe. These very same citizens, over 1,000 registered voters, have demanded, and legally earned a binding up/down vote on automated ticketing cameras in Monroe. This mayor and council, to a person have instead chosen to listen to their attorneys and represent the Arizona red light ticketing company.”

While Monroe city officials decided to fight their own citizens in court over the camera vote issue, other cities around the country are getting rid of the controversial cameras or are in the process of getting rid of them.

In August in Bellingham, The Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which supplies various cities with the red light ticket cams, was itself given a red stoplight by a Whatcom County Superior Court judge.

Judge Steven Mura ruled that ATS should be denied a request to keep a citywide initiative off the Bellingham ballot because ATS had not demonstrated it would suffer immediate and irreparable injury if the initiative goes forward to the voters.

The initiative, similar to two initiatives filed in Monroe, would restrict those red light cameras in Bellingham. ATS did not want voters to be able to vote on the issue.

The Bellingham city council voted on July 11 to send the initiative to voters. The measure would require the removal of any red light cameras in the city and would also require voter approval of any plans to re-install them as well as limit the amount of fines the camera tickets can generate.

City leaders in Los Angeles just got rid of their red light cameras after many citizen complaints and citizens refusing to pay the tickets generated by the cameras.

In San Bernardino County, California the city council in Grand Terrace voted in July to issue a termination notice to Redflex.

In March, the San Bernardino city council voted to pay $110,000 to get out of its contract with ATS before the 2014 expiration date.

CITY OF MONROE SPONSORS ITS OWN RED LIGHT CAMERA MEASURE
And that "outside agitator" thing


In response to angry citizens, the Monroe city council passed a resolution (Resolution No. 2011/019 ) that will be on the upcoming November general ballot. It will ask voters what they think should be done with the cameras – not now, but in the year 2013.

As far as is known, there appears to be no local voter demand for any measure that asks what to do about any issue two years from now.

The anti-camera forces point to that as one reason the city council came up with Resolution No. 2011/019 – to confuse voters since the council knew that the original Monroe Initiative No. 1 was scheduled to be on the same ballot (although now it appears only a portion of that citizen sponsored measure will be on the February ballot, not next month’s ballot).

The language of the Monroe councils’ Resolution also contains a line that could be seen as inflaming the issue further.

The resolution states that whereas the city’s camera program has generated a significant amount of public interest and commentary, it also adds the line that says “much of which has come from individuals and organizations outside of Monroe,” as if to signal to the general public the anti-camera movement is as much, if not more, about outside agitators as any real opposition from city residents.

The outside agitators angle has proven historically to be an often-effective governmental and corporate strategy to deflect attention and/or blame in controversial public uprisings, or to cast doubt on the validity of an opposing view held about a hotly contested public issue such as the red light cameras.

The theme of outside agitators has been a long-standing theme in the South as it pertains to the civil rights struggle for at least the last 175 years, according to civilwartalk.com.

In the decades prior to the Civil War, the term "outside agitators" more frequently referred to abolitionists; those who wanted to abolish slavery.

During the civil rights movement and anti-Vietnam war protests government officials time and again pointed to “outside agitators” as the real reason for civil unrest about the unpopular war.





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