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Iowa City Traffic Camera Ban Petition Filed
Petition calling for a vote on a traffic camera ban in Iowa City, Iowa secures the needed signatures.

Gary Biller, Aleksey Gurtovoy, Martha Hampel
Residents of Iowa City, Iowa are one step closer to a vote on banning red light cameras, speed cameras, and other surveillance technologies. On Tuesday, the group Ban Cams and Drones in Iowa City turned in a box containing 3322 signatures to city officials. Organizers believe it will be enough to qualify for the November ballot.

If approved, the measure would constitute the country's most sweeping ban on surveillance cameras, prohibiting not just red light cameras and speed cameras but also automated license plate readers (ALPR, also known as ANPR in Europe) and drones used for traffic surveillance without a warrant or emergency.

"The city of Iowa City, including its various boards, agencies and departments, shall not use any automatic traffic surveillance system or device, automatic license plate recognition system or device, domestic drone system or device for the enforcement of a qualified traffic law violation, unless a peace officer is present at the scene, witnesses the event and personally issues the ticket to the alleged violator at the time and location of the violation," the proposed charter amendment states.

Initiative sponsors Aleksey Gurtovoy and Martha Hampel had attempted to circulate the petition on two previous occasions, only to be thwarted by the legal maneuvers of the city attorney. This time, the measure had the legal backing of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which has filed legal memos defending the petition against the arguments of the city.

"I can't explain how thankful we are to them," Hampel told TheNewspaper in an interview. "We're also excited about how many people from the community have gotten involved. This has become a non-partisan issue. We have Republicans, Democrats, independents. We have members of the American Socialists group on our side -- the whole spectrum of people that just do not want this kind of traffic surveillance in Iowa City."

On Thursday, the group demonstrated its diversity by holding a forum with Republican state Senator Brad Zaun, Iowa ACLU Executive Director Ben Stone and National Motorists Association President Gary Biller (pictured, left, with Gurtovoy and Hampel).

"Their grassroots effort to protect the rights of motorists from government overreach and intrusion is in the same spirit that resulted in the founding of the National Motorists Association many years ago, and deals with a topic vitally important to our membership today," Biller said. "How could I not participate?"

Ban Cams included language outlawing surveillance drones because AirCover Integrated Solutions, a maker of unmanned aerial vehicles, opened a facility in nearby Cedar Rapids. Petition organizers do not want Iowa City to become a testing ground for this surveillance technology, which is largely unregulated. Last month, the government of Spain began issuing tickets from a speed camera mounted on a helicopter using technology that could easily be implemented on an unmanned vehicle.

"Our city's motto is, 'Big city choices, small town atmosphere,'" Hampel said. "This is not part of our small town atmosphere."

If the petition signatures are verified, the city council would have to either adopt the measure or put the question to the voters. Photo enforcement has been on the ballot in cities across the country thirty times. The bans have passed in all but two cases (view complete list).

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