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California: City Retreats From Red Light Camera Referendum
Riverside, California to vote on backing out of referendum on red light camera use.

Gregory Priamos, Photo by Shawn Calhoun/Flickr
City leaders in Riverside, California are backing off the promise made last November to allow residents to make the call about whether to keep or eliminate red light cameras. The city council votes later today on a staff recommendation to pull the plug on the public vote.

The city has already postponed the ballot measure that was to be considered in June. The city council cited litigation filed by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to overturn the results of last November's election in Murrieta, where 57 percent favored shutting off the cameras. ATS succeeded in finding an activist judge, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia, willing to block the public from voting on the issue, but the Court of Appeal intervened, said Judge Ottolia was wrong and ordered the vote to proceed.

Despite being chastised by the appellate court, Judge Ottolia returned in April to declare the public's will invalid after the vote had taken place and Murrieta politicians received the message loud and clear. Because the anti-camera activists had their victory -- Murrieta's city council voted unanimously to take down the cameras in May -- they did not file an expensive second challenge to the ruling. ATS pushed for the Murrieta case in the hopes of securing a precedent that could be used against other cities. Riverside fell in line with the camera company's strategy.

"The trial court's decision is well-reasoned and it is our opinion that the decision would have been upheld by the Court of Appeal had the ballot measure proponents elected to appeal the judgment," Riverside City Attorney Gregory P. Priamos wrote in a memo to the council. "The judgment is consistent with the well-settled principle that the state has plenary power and has preempted the entire field of traffic control. Unless expressly authorized by the legislature, a city, whether charter or general law, has no police power over vehicular traffic control."

Photo enforcement companies have developed this legal argument to keep the public from having any say in the use of automated ticketing because when given a chance to vote on the issue, the public says no nine out of ten timed (view list of public votes). The results of public votes are the same in big cities and small towns, regardless of whether the residents tend to be liberal or conservative.

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