9/29/2011Washington: City Goes All Out to Defend Dangerous Camera Program
Redmond, Washington mayor goes all out to save photo enforcement program that has seen a 35 percent increase in accidents since it began.
The city of Redmond, Washington decided last week that it had no intention of putting the issue of red light cameras and speed cameras to a vote of the people. The mayor refuses to transmit the completed petition signatures for an initiative on the topic to the county auditor, despite a state law that sets a three-day deadline for the city administration to do so. On Tuesday, Redmond police released data that show accidents have increased since at the photo enforced locations since the program started in February.
On September 14, activists Scott Harlan and Tim Eyman handed the city clerk a stack of petitions containing 6050 signatures -- just under half of the city's active voters and far more than needed to qualify for the ballot. State law says the city "shall transmit the petition to the county auditor" within three days of filing.
"Following the city's legal review, we are advised the proposed Redmond initiative is virtually identical to the city of Bellingham initiative deemed invalid by a recent Court of Appeals ruling and not subject to the initiative process," Mayor John Marchione said in a statement.
That appellate decision (view ruling) stated that the measure would stay on the ballot as an advisory measure. The state supreme court also saw no problem with allowing the city of Mukilteo to hold a vote on cameras. A high court ruling on photo ticketing initiatives is pending. On Monday, initiative guru Tim Eyman filed suit to force Redmond to move forward with the election process.
"They just blatantly violated the law by not turning over the petitions forcing us to sue our government to turn over the petitions -- something they're required to do by the law." Eyman told TheNewspaper.
Redmond is following in the footsteps of the city of Longview, which spent $47,886.25 in litigation costs in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the anti-camera initiative off the November ballot. In the wake of the dispute, Longview's mayor has decided not to run for re-election and several city councilmen are facing stiff election challenges.
"You couldn't ask for a worse poster child of how to handle an initiative than Longview, but these guys [in Redmond] are just playing that same playbook," Eyman said.
According to a memo by Redmond Police Chief Ron Gibson, all three red light camera intersections saw accidents go up after the cameras were activated. Overall, the increase was 35 percent -- from 14 collisions before the cameras were installed to 19 afterward.
Chief Gibson pointed to the 43.7 percent reduction in the number of $124 tickets issued by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) as evidence that the camera program has been successful. Harlan pointed out that this statistic is misleading because two locations were idle for several months because the cameras malfunctioned. Moreover, Harlan discovered the police started throwing out more tickets after the initiative was filed in March. The rejection rate climbed from 11 percent in March to 38 percent in August.
"The police department really started vetoing and rejecting tons of ATS recommendations," Harlan told TheNewspaper. "The unintended consequence of that was that the data look like violations have dropped by a lot when in reality the behavior hasn't changed hardly at all."
Harlan calculated the actual reduction was closer to seven percent.