Initiative effort aimed at red-light cameras

  • By Rikki King and Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writers
  • Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:01am
  • Local NewsMonroe

MONROE — An initiative that aims to ban traffic enforcement cameras in Monroe is gaining ground.

Mukilteo-based activist Tim Eyman said Monday that backers have collected enough signatures to qualify Monroe Initiative No. 1 for the ballot.

Eyman’s crew collected 1,175 signatures out of the required 999, he wrote in a letter to Monroe city leaders. The signatures will need to be validated by the county auditor.

If enough signatures are validated, state law gives the city two options: enact the initiative as is or take it to a public vote.

If they decide to enact it, city officials have 20 days to do so, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington. If they choose the other option, they must hold a special election within 45 days of the votes being validated, unless there’s a general election coming up.

In the meantime, the group will continue to collect signatures with the help of local businesses, Monroe initiative supporter Ty Balascio said.

Multiple attempts to reach Monroe’s city leaders for comment Monday were unsuccessful. Several City Council members declined to comment.

The use of traffic cameras has been controversial for cities around Snohomish County and the state.

The initiative in Monroe would require the city to remove the cameras it has up and ask for voter approval before installing any more. It also would reduce fines from camera-generated tickets.

Mukilteo voters in 2010 lined up 71 percent behind an Eyman-inspired measure that ultimately deep-sixed plans for using enforcement cameras in that city. In the months since, Eyman has been working on similar measures in Wenatchee, Bellingham, Longview and Redmond.

The state Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the Mukilteo initiative Tuesday morning. The hearings will be available live online at www.tvw.org.

Monroe now has cameras up at three spots — two school zones and the intersection of North Kelsey Street and U.S. 2. The city and the police department have been working on a plan to start using the cameras to issue citations, but they’re waiting to figure out how to hold court for contested tickets.

For now, Lynnwood is the only city in the county actively ticketing with cameras. The cameras are the biggest reason that traffic tickets raked in enough cash to pay for nearly 16 percent of the city’s bills in 2010.

Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis has said that Monroe plans for its cameras to be cost-neutral and not a major revenue source for the city.

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

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