7/29/2011Washington: Anti-Camera Referendum Sponsors Fight Back
Efforts to put traffic cameras to a vote in Longview, Monroe and Wenatchee, Washington take a creative turn.
Backers of ballot initiatives that would ban photo enforcement in a number of cities in Washington state are fighting back against municipal efforts to silence their vote. Traffic camera companies have become increasingly bold in their efforts to prevent the public from deciding whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in any given community.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS) scored its first victory in May when it found an activist judge in Chelan County willing to block residents from even filing a petition to their government regarding the use of traffic cameras in the community (read decision). Just days after the decision came down, the state supreme court discussed traffic camera initiatives, and several justices pointed out that blocking signature collection efforts would be a violation of the state constitution. Nonetheless, to bypass the legal blockade, initiative co-sponsor Matt Erickson is circulating a second petition that schedules an advisory vote on taking down the cameras at every election until the devices are finally removed.
"Wenatchee Initiative Number Two will give the citizens of Wenatchee the chance to express their disgust with the council and their sleazy tactics and to pursue a public vote on an issue they clearly care about," Erickson and his co-sponsors wrote to the city council. "The people of Wenatchee deserve a public vote on automatic ticketing cameras now, not later. And their decision should be implemented. You are elected to represent the people, not rule over them. We will continue to fight for the rights of Wenatchee's voters who signed on to a public vote and we will not stop until they get it."
The same tactic is being used in Monroe, where the mayor is planning to take the extraordinary step of spending public money on mailings to 5100 residents to encourage them to support red light cameras and speed cameras. Yesterday, initiative guru Tim Eyman wrote to the director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission to intervene. On Monday he filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission.
"With as many as three ballot measures on this November's ballot, this is now a political debate over ticketing cameras in Monroe and so it is unquestionably unfair and inappropriate, and likely illegal, for the pro-ticketing-camera side of the debate to be subsidized by city revenue," Eyman wrote. "Certainly, taxpayer-funded city officials will claim that they're not propagandizing, that they're just 'putting out the facts.' But as everyone knows, a political debate over ballot measures involves both sides bringing facts to the attention of voters."
In Longview, sponsors of the anti-camera effort are circulating a second petition that, if adopted by voters, would prohibit city officials from using the court to block referendum efforts.
"The city may not sue citizens for participating in the initiative process or use any revenues to pay legal expenses related to challenging any initiative," Longview Initiative Number Two states. "Citizens are guaranteed the right to collect and submit signatures for any initiative on any topic and the city must process the initiative petitions without delay... The city may not initiate, participate in, or pay for any legal challenge to any initiative or obstruct citizen participation in the initiative process in any way."
Initiative sponsors expect their secondary efforts to be successful since they have already have a massive list of qualified voters who want the issue on their respective ballots.