6/30/2010Texas, Washington Anti-Camera Initiatives Gather Momentum
On the second try, voter initiatives to ban photo ticketing gather sufficient signatures in Mukilteo, Washington and Baytown, Texas.
Voter initiatives to outlaw photo enforcement gained a second wind this week in Texas and Washington state as enough signatures have been gathered to force the issue onto the November ballot. In both Baytown, Texas and Mukilteo, Washington, organizers required a renewed effort to meet all of the legal requirements. Later today in the Lone Star State, SaferBaytown.com leader Byron Schirmbeck will turn in a second batch of signatures to the city clerk's office.
"Under this taxation through citation program the drivers in Baytown have been subjected to an increase in certain types of accidents, decriminalization of red light running, dangerously short yellow lights, improper notices of violations and questionable at best constitutional violations including due process, equal protection under the law and presumption of innocence," Schirmbeck said in a statement. "We believe the cameras have more to do with revenue than safety and we intend to prove it. Our initiative petition, if passed, will remove the profit motive from the cameras."
In December, the grassroots movement against red light camera ticketing gathered more than double the number of signatures that should have been needed to force a vote. City officials, however, pounced on a technicality in the drafting of the initiative and refused to put the matter before the electorate. The new petition does not repeal the city's existing red light camera ordinance, it creates a new ordinance requiring a police officer to be physically present for any camera citation to be valid.
"We believe this will drastically reduce the revenue to the city and the camera company, and once no longer profitable the cameras will come down," Schirmbeck explained.
Although restarting the initiative process from scratch involved a great deal of effort, organizers believe it will help push the measure closer to victory in November.
"Since we had to get signatures over again we decided to concentrate on new people that haven't signed the first petition, this way we got the word out to more people," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper.
As in Baytown, Mukilteo's city officials attempted to sabotage the anti-camera referendum effort. On Monday the city council met in secret session to discuss tactics that might be used to keep petition signatures from being certified by the Snohomish County Auditor. Initiative co-sponsor Tim Eyman believes the vote will ultimately happen.
"It's clear that the city is going to fight tooth and nail to try to block our initiative from getting on the ballot," Eyman told TheNewspaper. "But I think when the dust settles, their obstructionist efforts will fail, and the voters will get a chance to vote in November on our initiative."
Together with the Washington chapter of the Campaign for Liberty and the group BanCams.com, Eyman rounded up over 2900 signatures -- 1100 more than necessary -- to put a ban on the use of automated ticketing machines on the ballot (view initiative). Earlier this month, the county auditor tossed a number of signatures because the voter was not properly registered in the city. The group's latest signature count represents nearly fifty percent of active voters, ensuring near-certain passage for the measure once it is put to a vote. In fact, no photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.
A copy of the Baytown initiative is available in a 20k PDF file at the source link below.