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Monroe plans advisory vote on traffic cameras

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By Alejandro Dominguez
Herald Writer
Published:
MONROE -- A vote should be on the ballot in November to offer nonbinding advice whether Monroe two years from now should renew a contract for traffic-enforcement cameras, the City Council decided Tuesday.
Meanwhile, camera opponents said they are gathering lots of support for their own advisory vote, and preparing to defend in court an initiative that could require the cameras already up in Monroe to immediately come down.
The City Council on Tuesday evening unanimously approved a resolution to ask voters for their advice on whether to continue to contract with Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems after September 2013.
Monroe has until Aug. 16 to present the resolution to the Snohomish County Auditor's Office, setting in motion a non-binding advisory vote in November.
The resolution comes days after the city filed a lawsuit against supporters of Monroe Initiative No. 1, asserting that the measure is not legally valid.
The initiative is the city's first-ever to garner sufficient support from Monroe voters to qualify for the ballot. It seeks to remove enforcement cameras that already have been installed, to reduce fines levied from camera-generated tickets and to require voter approval before any more enforcement cameras can be installed.
Named as defendants in the city's lawsuit are the groups that supported Initiative No. 1: Washington Campaign for Liberty, Seeds of Liberty, Bancams.com and VotersWantMoreChoices.com.
The council also discussed a resolution that could allow an advisory vote on whether more traffic cameras are installed in Monroe. The council is scheduled to continue the discussion next week.
Council members want to know whether the city is legally required under its contract with Redflex to install a traffic camera along U.S. 2 at the intersection with Chain Lake Road. The camera has been approved, but the installation has been delayed. The city currently has red-light enforcement cameras at the intersection of U.S. 2 and N. Kelsey Street. It also has speed cameras in two school zones, but they are turned off for the summer.
Some on the council want a vote on more cameras to be binding.
"I would prefer to go to the voters if they want a camera on Chain Lake," Councilman Tony Balk said at the meeting.
The council's actions came as no surprise, said Brian Kohn, a member of Seeds of Liberty.
He and others who want binding votes on cameras are preparing to defend Initiative No. 1 in Snohomish County Superior Court. Backers also have launched their own advisory vote plan -- Monroe Initiative No. 2 -- which would require advisory votes on enforcement cameras in the city, at every municipal election cycle, for as long as the city has camera contracts.
Kohn, who is leading the signature drive for Initiative No. 2, told the council Tuesday that in just 12 days, his group has gathered more than 500 signatures for the second initiative. They need at least 999 signatures of registered voters in Monroe.
Most of the signatures should be valid because they come from people who also signed Initiative No. 1, he said.
"They wanted to vote on the traffic cameras today," he said to the council. "Our message is clear: do you want traffic cameras? Yes or no."
The council's actions have just reinforced the groups' resolve, Mukilteo-based activist Tim Eyman said. Eyman runs VotersWantMoreChoices.com, one of the groups being sued. He helped with the signature drive for Monroe Initiative No. 1.
"This is a cheap substitute for simply letting people vote on Monroe initiative No. 1, the same way voters did in Mukilteo and (will get to) in Bellingham," Eyman said.
In Bellingham, city leaders decided last week to let the voters decide on an initiative with the same language as Monroe's.
Mukilteo voters weighed in 71 percent against the enforcement cameras. The state Supreme Court recently heard argument on whether that initiative was legal.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@ heraldnet.com.
Correction, July 21,2007: The headline on an earlier version of this article referred to the wrong city.
Story tags » MonroeLocal electionsTraffic SafetyBellingham

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