7/10/2008Anti-Camera Petitions Earn Huge Public Support
Anti-red light camera voter initiatives in Washington and Cincinnati, Ohio gather thousands of signatures.
Voter initiatives that would limit red light camera use in Washington state and Ohio will almost certainly be placed on November ballots. Although election officials must verify the authenticity of each signature turned in, referendum supporters succeeded in gathering far more signatures than is generally needed to qualify
As of yesterday, a total of 10,421 residents had signed a petition calling for vote to ban red light camera use in Cincinnati, Ohio. Only 6,150 signatures were needed. (view petition)
"We're very encouraged by the public's response to the red light camera issue," campaign co-chairman Josh Krekeler said in a statement. "Most people know about the city's plan and generally agree that it's a flawed approach to safety."
Krekeler is part of a diverse coalition of Republicans, Green Party members and supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- eleven groups in total -- who banded together under the label "We Demand a Vote" to fight the city's automated ticketing plan.
Washington's statewide initiative would not actually ban red light cameras. Instead, it the proposal is designed to put the financial pinch on cities that use photo enforcement to boost local budgets. Initiative 985 is a traffic congestion relief measure put forward by frustrated commuters as part of the Voters Want More Choices coalition (view details). On July 3, the group turned in 300,684 signatures, even though only 225,000 were needed.
"Qualifying an initiative for the ballot is one of the toughest things to accomplish in politics," said group leader Tim Eyman. "Such a huge number... guarantees our common sense transportation reform initiative will be on the ballot."
The initiative also would force city and state traffic engineers to synchronize traffic lights at busy intersections. It would pay for engineering and road improvements that measurably reduce congestion -- with the state auditor's office keeping track of performance -- by directing all profit from red light cameras, tolls and several other existing motorist taxes into a new congestion relief fund. It would also open high occupancy vehicle (HOV) carpool lanes to general purpose use during weekends and off-peak hours.
If the experience of North Carolina is any guide, diverting red light camera profit into a congestion relief fund would spell the end of photo ticketing in the state. After the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the state's constitution required all profits from photo tickets to go to the public school system, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Greensboro, High Point and Raleigh shut down their red light camera programs.
Experience also shows that because these measures will face a welcome reception among voters. Photo enforcement has lost every time the question has been put to a vote of the people. A 2006 initiative in the city of Steubenville ended with three out of every four voters rejecting camera ticketing. Between 1991 and 1997, voters in Anchorage, Alaska; Batavia, Illinois and Peoria, Arizona also rejected the systems by significant margins.