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Group sues to keep traffic-camera initiative off Mukilteo ballot

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By Oscar Halpert
Herald Writer
MUKILTEO -- This city's debate over red-light cameras just got hotter.
A group calling itself Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government filed a lawsuit late Monday attempting to keep the city's red-light camera initiative off the Nov. 2 ballot.
The six-page complaint attempts to block an initiative that calls for a public vote and City Council approval before red-light or speed-zone cameras can be installed in the city. The initiative also would limit fines to the least expensive traffic ticket, which is $20.
Christine Preston of Mukilteo is named as a founding member of the new group, listed in the suit as "an unincorporated association of Mukilteo residents." She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman, who gathered the petition signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, said he believes Mayor Joe Marine and the Arizona-based traffic-camera company American Traffic Solutions are behind the lawsuit.
Eyman said the traffic-camera company fought a recent Washington class-action lawsuit challenging red-light cameras and was represented by Seattle law firm Stoel Rives, which filed the lawsuit for Mukilteo Citizens.
"The idea of having a public vote is really scary for them," Eyman said.
American Traffic Solutions could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Vanessa Powers, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit Monday for Preston, would not say whether American Traffic Solutions was involved in this lawsuit.
Eyman also went on to say that Preston is listed as one of the friends on the Mukilteo mayor's Facebook page. Facebook is a social networking website.
Marine on Tuesday said he doesn't know Preston.
"I couldn't pick her out of a crowd," he said.
Marine denied he is behind the lawsuit and questioned its rationale.
"I don't understand how that helps -- having a citizen suing the city," he said. Marine said the council acted within its authority when it agreed to place Eyman's initiative on the ballot.
"It's their right to do that," he said.
Mukilteo considered becoming the second city in Snohomish County to add red-light and traffic cameras. Lynnwood added the cameras three years ago and backers say the city has had fewer red-light runners. Others question whether safety or money are the main motivations for having the cameras.
Lynnwood made about $4.5 million on the cameras in 2008-09. In the first five months of this year, the city has generated $2.2 million in cash from the cameras.
In May, the Mukilteo City Council agreed to hire American Traffic Solutions to install and operate red-light and speed-zone cameras along the Mukilteo Speedway.
In June, after Eyman began his petition drive, the council shelved that plan.
The Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government lawsuit names Mukilteo, its clerk Christina Boughman, Snohomish County and Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel as defendants.
Story tags » MukilteoLawsLocal electionsTraffic SafetyTraffic

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