Effort is on to put Monroe’s cameras to vote

  • By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:01am
  • Local NewsMonroe

MONROE — A coalition of civic activists wants Monroe voters to decide whether the city should be using automated surveillance cameras to issue traffic tickets outside schools and other high-risk areas.

The group, led by Mukilteo’s anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman, is planning to kick off a petiti

on drive outside Monroe City Hall at noon today. Many of the supporters hail from outside Monroe.

The move comes as the city has been testing out cameras outside one elementary school and readying more outside another.

“You’re not deciding whether you’re for cameras or against cameras, it’s who should decide,” Eyman said. “Should it be the voters, or the politicians and the red-light camera companies?”

Supporters have dubbed the effort “Monroe Initiative No. 1.” It’s similar to Eyman’s successful traffic-camera petition in Mukilteo this past fall and another ongoing effort in Bellingham.

The proposed ballot initiative in Monroe would bar the city from using camera surveillance to issue fines unless approved by a two-thirds majority of the City Council and by voters. It also would limit fines to no more than the least expensive parking ticket allowed in the city.

Currently, Lynnwood and Monroe are the only places in Snohomish County that have functioning traffic-enforcement cameras.

Monroe has been recording violations since Jan. 18 with a set of cameras outside Fryelands Elementary School at 15286 Fryelands Blvd. Another set of cameras at Frank Wagner Elementary School on 639 W. Main St. has not yet been activated.

Nobody’s been ticketed so far, and the city plans to send out warning notices through the end of the month, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

In February, the city plans to start issuing tickets that will cost $124. They’re a civil infraction and would not appear on a driver’s record, just like parking tickets.

The camera-monitored zones have flashing lights when they’re activated. There are two cameras in each spot, one for each direction of traffic.

The cameras were the subject of intense public debate at a Monroe City Council meeting in November.

To get Eyman’s petition on the ballot, supporters need to gather about 1,000 signatures.

They would file the petition with Monroe’s city clerk, who would send it to the Snohomish County auditor to verify the signatures, deputy city clerk Eadye Martinson said. Then it would go to the City Council, whose members could pass the initiative themselves or put it on a ballot for a public vote.

The issue could appear on ballots in April or August, depending on when the city forwards the issue to Snohomish County, county elections manager Garth Fell said.

Ty Balascio, founder of Monroe-area tea-party group Seeds of Liberty, is a supporter of the Monroe traffic-camera petition. For Balascio, who lives outside Monroe’s city limits, it’s important to have assurances that the traffic cameras are supporting safety and not just being used to generate revenue. Though he knows several elected members of city government and called them “really good people,” he said he hasn’t received those assurances yet.

“To say on one hand that it’s strictly about safety and not about revenue, and then on the other to provide nothing statistically significant to support that point, it’s hard to reconcile,” he said.

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