Eyman works to end legal challenges to local initiatives

MONROE — Tim Eyman’s campaign against traffic-enforcement cameras has a new twist.

The Mukilteo activist long has been the face of initiative efforts around the state aimed at banning the devices outright, community by community.

In many places, including Mukilteo and Monroe, the filing of local initiatives led to legal challenges by city officials. Monroe’s case still is being fought in the appellate courts.

Now, Eyman wants to bolster the laws guiding initiatives to make measures supported by voters immune from similar court actions by local governments. If passed, the law would apply to all initiatives that qualify for the ballot.

Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state law that allows enforcement cameras limited decisions on their use to local government leaders, such as city councils. Eyman’s initiative would loosen back up the definition of “local legislative authority” to include voter-supported initiatives.

“It’s not just red-light cameras, although that’s my driving motivation behind this thing,” Eyman said.

Eyman and his supporters started gathering signatures on Initiative Measure No. 517 in March, he said. They have until the first week of January to gather at least 241,153 valid signatures.

“We’re making good progress on that, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

The new measure is an initiative to the Legislature rather than one to the people. That means that if supporters gather enough signatures, state lawmakers generally must pass it as law, come up with an alternative version for voters to consider or they can reject it and take no action. If any of the latter three things occur, the measure must be put on the ballot for voters to decide in the next general election.

Monroe officials last week declined to comment on their camera case or Eyman’s initiative, citing the ongoing litigation.

The state Court of Appeals heard arguments in Monroe’s case Nov. 1. City officials last week said they expected the judge’s decision to take three to four months.

The city is challenging a Superior Court ruling that its failed attempt to stop a vote on cameras amounted to litigation to snuff out political participation.

If the ruling stands, the city must pay a fine and the legal fees incurred by Eyman and other initiative backers.

Monroe’s contract with Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems expires in fall 2013.

Councilmembers could vote to continue the program beyond that, but Mayor Robert Zimmerman has said there is zero likelihood of that happening.

Voters in Monroe earlier this month again were asked whether the city should keep the cameras. The city ran the advisory measure again to avoid potentially violating the earlier court ruling that supported advisory votes.

Ballots still are being counted, but recent tallies showed about 70 percent of Monroe voters don’t want the cameras.

Combined, Monroe’s speed-zone and red-light cameras yielded $435,730 in fines between August 2011 and June 2012, police data show.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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