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Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Effort to put red-light cameras to vote in Monroe is scrambling for signatures

A petition drive to remove Monroe's red-light cameras has until June 10 to gather 375 more valid signatures.

MONROE -- Efforts to ban traffic enforcement cameras in Monroe are lagging behind some expectations.
Backers of Monroe Initiative No. 1 now say they're doubling efforts to get enough signatures before their June 10 deadline.
They turned in about 1,230 signatures last week, but many ended up being from voters outside Monroe or were invalid for other reasons, Mukilteo-based activist Tim Eyman said. As of Tuesday afternoon, the initiative needed 375 more verifiable signatures from Monroe voters to reach the required 999.
The signature count meant initiative backer Ty Balascio wasn't resting on Memorial Day.
He spent the holiday canvassing Monroe streets, knocking on doors to get more signatures. He was joined by about eight other anti-camera advocates from around the region.
Signature gatherers have covered about 65 percent of the city since April, Balascio said. They now are aiming to get double the needed additional signatures.
On W. Maple Street, Balascio got lucky, finding a couple who wanted to sign.
"I think I should have a say on what happens in Monroe," Sarah Burrington said after she signed.
"It's only fair to have a vote on this," added her boyfriend, John Lochmann.
Balascio wasn't as successful on the rest of the street. He knocked on several doors, but nobody answered.
Another signature gatherer, Gary Whitley of Arlington, got two more signatures from the other side of the street. By 5 p.m., Balascio believed he had 156 signatures.
Initiative backers expected they were going to be short on the required signatures last week, but they were surprised by how many more they needed, Eyman said.
Many of the people who signed didn't live within Monroe's city limits or weren't registered to vote there, he said. It will be a challenge to get the required signatures, Eyman said.
"It's Mount Everest, what we are talking about," he said.
Mukilteo voters passed a similar initiative by 71 percent last year.
There, the first round of signatures came up 407 short, Eyman said. They had 1,000 more in a little more than a week.
The initiative in Monroe would require the city to remove the cameras it has up and to ask for voter approval before installing any more. It would reduce fines from camera-generated tickets. Currently, a red-light camera ticket in Monroe could cost $124.
Monroe is the second city in Snohomish County to install traffic enforcement cameras, but it has not started to issue camera citations.
City and police leaders are working out an agreement on how to hold court for contested tickets, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said Tuesday. It is unclear when the agreement will be finalized.
If enough signatures are validated, state law gives the city two options: adopt the initiative as law, or take it to a public vote.
City officials are "reviewing whether this matter is lawfully subject to an initiative," Monroe Deputy City Clerk Eadye Martinson said Tuesday.
If the initiative goes through, the City Council could put it on the ballot or pass an ordinance cancelling the former city rule that allowed the cameras, she said. The council hasn't discussed either option in open session.
If the cameras are barred, the city would have to address its contract with the Arizona-based traffic camera company, Redflex Traffic Systems, she said.
"That would hurt the city," she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com
Story tags » MonroeLocal electionsTraffic Safety

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