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Published: Friday, July 1, 2011, 9:44 a.m.

Initiative to ban traffic cameras makes Bellingham ballot easily

BELLINGHAM - The citywide voter initiative against traffic-enforcement cameras received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, Whatcom County Auditor Shirley Forslof said Thursday, June 30.
"We're just really stoked," said Johnny Weaver, a member of the Transportation Safety Coalition, which backed the effort. "We're extremely excited that people will have a chance to have the debate on these cameras."
"It's never been so easy to collect names," he added. "Everybody wanted to sign this one."
Meanwhile, Mayor Dan Pike said he called the camera company, American Traffic Solutions, and urged them not to sue to try to block the initiative from reaching the ballot this November. Based on feedback he's getting from voters, he believes voters will reject the initiative, but suing would just galvanize opposition, he said.
The initiative would require removal of any red-light or school-zone speed cameras, and it would require voters approve any future city plans to re-install them. It also would limit the fine amounts.
The Transportation Safety Coalition needed 3,880 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. They submitted 6,775 total signatures.
The Auditor's Office finished counting and verifying signatures Thursday. Officials checked 6,063 signatures, and, from those, they got 3,981 valid ones, more than enough to qualify.
A total of 34.3 percent of the signatures checked were invalid, largely because the voters lived outside Bellingham city limits.
That percentage isn't out of the ordinary for a citywide initiative, Forslof said, although it would be high for a countywide one. Many people have Bellingham mailing addresses but actually live outside the city.
Now the City Council has 30 days to take up the initiative. The council could approve it as is, and it wouldn't go to the ballot. However, it'll go to voters if the council ignores it, rejects it or approves an alternate version for the ballot.
In Monroe, city leaders decided to legally fight a similar initiative to keep it off the ballot.
Pike said he's opposed to the city using its resources to fight the initiative effort, and he doesn't believe the City Council would want to do so either. He called Arizona-based ATS for the first time on Thursday and told an employee he believes it would be a mistake for the company to fight the initiative in court.
The already-signed contract between the city and ATS states that the city can cancel the contract after a one-year pilot program. If the company challenges the initiative, Pike believes the City Council would simply cancel the contract after the pilot.
ATS officials couldn't be reached by for comment Thursday after the results were released.
Information from The Bellingham Herald

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