Judge OKs vote on red-light cameras

EVERETT — The city of Mukilteo should be allowed to ask voters before installing traffic enforcement cameras, a Snohomish County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Michael Downes ruled against a lawsuit brought against the city to block a public vote on the use of cameras.

Downes said the court should not interfere with the political process and that a Nov. 2 vote should be allowed to proceed.

“It’s quite apparent the Mukilteo City Council wants to hear what its citizens have to say about this issue,” Downes said.

Tim Eyman, who lives in Mukilteo and collected signatures calling for a public vote, cheered the decision.

“Obviously it’s always good when a judge doesn’t stand in the way of the people having a chance to vote,” he said.

Christine Preston of Mukilteo, who filed the suit under the name Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government, argued that the City Council should be able to approve the use of cameras on its own without having to go to a vote.

Her attorney, Vanessa Power, argued that state law specifically prohibits cities from using the initiative process on this particular subject.

“What is before the people in this initiative is a legislative action,” she said.

Eyman’s attorney, Dick Stephens, said the law leaves it up to local elected bodies how they want to address the issue.

In May, the city council voted to hire American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., to install a camera on the Mukilteo Speedway near Olympic View Middle School. Eyman then took his signatures and proposed initiative to the council.

The initiative includes a provision requiring a public vote and two-thirds majority vote of the council before contracting with “for profit” companies to install cameras. It also would place a limit on fines.

The council shelved its original plan and voted to put a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot asking voters to decide on cameras. The council’s vote stopped short of enacting all the provisions of Eyman’s initiative.

A few weeks ago, Preston and her group filed a lawsuit to prevent the measure from appearing on the ballot.

Eyman contended that American Traffic Solutions is behind Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government.

George Hittner, ATS vice president for governmental relations, said recently his company is not providing financial assistance.

Preston was at the hearing Friday.

“I’m here for public safety,” she said after the ruling. “I’ve witnessed a lot of traffic violations in my neighborhood so I’m deeply concerned about this issue.”

Power said she and her client would consider an appeal.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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