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Published: Sunday, October 9, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Emails intimate a Lynnwood city hall under siege

No one could accuse them of being flip-floppers.

Public records requests recently brought us another batch of city of Lynnwood emails regarding traffic-enforcement cameras.

There's nothing smoking this time, unlike the records that prompted Mayor Don Gough to hire an outside attorney to examine whether police officials are conducting themselves ethically in their dealings with the city's enforcement-camera vendor.

Still, something sticks out about these records: A number of city officials have banded together to support the cameras -- and each other -- in a way that left us wondering whether they are objective about the program.

There's a distinct vein of "us-versus-them" thinking at work, especially when it comes to anyone who has raised doubts about the city's reliance on the devices.

The unseen enemy is never named. Most often, the city's camera corps refers to opposition as the "vocal minority." At times, we can't help but wonder if that is code for the thinking public.

Particularly telling is a string of messages that began in May, when Lynnwood police spokeswoman Shannon Sessions opened fire after we reported, just a little bit, about how much money the cameras bring in.

She copied the email to police command staff, all of the City Council, the mayor's office -- and American Traffic Solutions, the city's camera vendor.

Police and city leaders commended her efforts.

Council member Loren Simmonds wrote, "Amen and Amen! Thank you for speaking the truth in love."

Council President Mark Smith wrote, "Nice letter and email. The press rarely reports how and what we want them to report, but it is important to keep getting accurate information out there."

Problem was, though, the city's information was less than accurate. It took steady pressure to get the police department to acknowledge that they really didn't have data proving safety improvements from the cameras.

The records also show that many complaints about Lynnwood's enforcement cameras get shot to the police department's top brass, even those containing predictable grumpiness over where tickets have been mailed, or whether the accused agrees with the citation.

Even those who aren't big fans of the cameras, notably Councilman Jim Smith, appear to be slogging through camera emails. He, too, appears to be under fire from new recruits to the "vocal minority" who clearly have doubts that anyone is paying attention to their views.

Lynnwood has major budget problems.

Cops are jumping ship and others in city jobs are worrying about the future ability to provide basic services. Some in Lynnwood, notably the police chief, say the city now is too reliant on camera-ticket revenue to step back from the program without triggering layoffs.

Has the city tested that assumption?

Is protecting the cameras at all costs the best use of all this energy? All this passion?
Story tags » PoliticsLynnwoodPoliceCar accidentTraffic Safety

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