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MONROE CITY COUNCIL TELLS VOTERS NO VOTE ON CONTROVERSIAL RED LIGHT CAMERAS
June 22, 2011
(MONROE, WA) -- The Monroe City Council voted Tuesday night not to put an initiative on the ballot to allow voters to decide if they want to keep those controversial, automated red light ticketing cameras on city streets.
No vote for Monroe voters red light ticket cameras.
Despite the city’s first successful pubic initiative – Monroe Initiative No.1 holding the validated signatures of 1,099 residents – the council decided not to put the cameras to a vote explaining it had to honor its contract with the company that manufactures the devices.
The initiative would remove the cameras and require a public vote for any future installation of traffic cameras and also reduce the traffic camera fines for speeding from $124 to $20.
“Tonight, the citizens of Monroe were disregarded by their elected officials. The politicians claimed they had no choice, but that's not true…it is simply paternalistic and condescending to prevent a vote because of concern that the people will vote 'wrong,' said anti-camera activist Tim Eyman in a statement.
Eyman was involved in promoting the initiative and Monroe resident Ty Balascio and his grassroots group Seeds of Liberty did the heavy lifting on the street gathering signatures.
“Tonight the council acted with one voice and unanimously acted as traitors to the People and the Constitutions they swore an oath to uphold and defend,” said Ballascio in a statement.
“They were left alone with the lawyers, and the lawyers convinced them that the “potential liabilities” to Redflex (the Arizona company that owns the cameras) outweighed our constitutionally-protected rights…they decided arbitrarily and capriciously that your voice, your vote mattered naught in the face of a contract with a corporation in Arizona. Nay, the right to petition your government for redress does not apply when money is at stake,” said Ballascio.
The anti-red light foes like to point out that more citizens signed Monroe Initiative No. 1 petitions (not all signatures were validated) than voted for the mayor or any member of the city council.
“We take great offense with them (Monroe council) preventing the people from voting to 'protect' them from themselves…this is the first initiative in Monroe city history qualifying with two-thirds of active voters' support. Rather than celebrating that extraordinary achievement, Monroe's officials dismissed it. It is a horrible travesty,” added Eyman.
Eyman and other anti-camera foes maintain that Monroe could have done what Mukilteo city officials did when faced with the same dilemma – simply put the measure to a vote.
But the anti-camera foes say the 71% vote against the cameras in Mukilteo last year was a heads-up lesson to Monroe city officials that if there was a public vote they would lose.
The way Eyman, Ballascio and others see it is that blocking a public vote was essential because a losing vote meant Monroe officials would have to sacrifice, “The millions of dollars they want to get from those very profitable ticketing cameras. It's always been about the money, and this just proves it again,” said Eyman.
In Spokane the controversial cameras pull in some $500,000 a year in fines and that is just from eight cameras. The infractions most often are for people who run a red light or don't come to a full stop while making a right turn on a red light. The city plans to install four more cameras this year, which could boost income to $750,000.
Many cities claim the cameras are not about the money, but about safety.
Eyman asserts the law (RCW 35.17.260) required Monroe officials to either adopt the initiative 'as is' or put it on the ballot.
“Instead, they are going to pay their taxpayer-funded lawyers to file a lawsuit seeking injunctive and declaratory judgment against the initiative,” added Eyman who before the vote handed out a copy of last year’s ruling by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes denying that same motion when the red-light camera company sued Mukilteo.
Summing up the evening's action in Monroe's council chambers Ballascio said, "It was an abject disappointment. The only color photo I wish I had was the red face on Stima (councilman John Stima) when I got up and told the council that they were fired."
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tags: red light cameras, Monroe, WA, Monroe Initiative No. 1