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Red-light camera issue to stay on Mukilteo ballot

The state Supreme Court refuses a request to prevent a vote

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By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer
OLYMPIA -- The state high court cleared the way Friday for Mukilteo residents to vote on an initiative that would give them a voice on use of red light cameras in the city.
In a two-sentence ruling, Supreme Court justices rebuffed the request of initiative opponents to yank the measure off the Nov. 2 ballot.
Justices did say they will hold a hearing on a lawsuit filed by a group calling itself Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government, which challenges the validity of the initiative. No date for the hearing was set and likely wouldn't be held until after the election.
"Mukilteo Citizens is disappointed that accelerated review wasn't granted" but is glad the court will review the case, said Vanessa Powers, the group's Seattle attorney.
Initiative author Tim Eyman, a Mukilteo resident, said he couldn't have asked for a better outcome.
"It's a win-win for the voter, because not only do we get to vote on the initiative but we get a chance for the Supreme Court to make clear that voters have a right to the initiative at the local level as well as the state level," he said.
Friday's decision sets the stage for a potentially groundbreaking vote involving the use of red-light and speed-zone cameras in communities around the state.
Mukilteo has been in the spotlight since May when the City Council moved to put up cameras at several locations. The council shelved the plan when confronted by Eyman, who is best known for his statewide anti-tax measures.
He crafted Initiative 2, which, if passed, would require a public vote before the city could install any new red-light or speed-zone cameras. It also would limit fines to $20, the cost of the city's least expensive parking infraction.
"If the voters in Mukilteo say 'Heck no, we don't like these things' it will have a huge ripple effect in the state," Eyman said, noting residents in other communities are pondering similar initiatives. He also said state legislators may be pressed to enact new rules clamping down on deployment of the cameras.
Soon after Eyman gathered enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot, Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government sued to push it off. The group's lawyers contend the initiative "exceeds the scope of the local initiative power."
On Aug. 6, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes rejected the argument. Opponents to the high court and justices discussed the case Thursday morning.
A decision had been sought by Friday which is when printing of ballots was set to begin.
"We appreciate the court acting quickly on this manner," Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said.
The county intends to send out its first batch of ballots Sept. 17 to voters serving in the military and living overseas, she said.
Story tags » MukilteoLocalLocal elections

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