Monroe to appeal ruling on traffic camera initiative

MONROE — The enforcement camera war wages on in Monroe.

City officials decided Tuesday night to appeal a judge’s ruling that they mishandled an initiative aimed at ending the city’s traffic camera program.

They also agreed to put part of the initiative on the ballot in November, unless their appeal is granted first.

Mayor Robert Zimmerman said city officials respectfully disagreed with the judge’s finding that the city went to court to thwart political participation. He said he hopes the city can win the appeal and recover its legal costs.

Meanwhile, Mukilteo-based initiative activist Tim Eyman says the move will draw out a legal battle he says the city is destined to lose and cost it thousands of dollars more in the process.

Monroe’s traffic enforcement cameras went live in 2011. Soon after, Eyman and the Monroe-area group Seeds of Liberty submitted an initiative calling for all the cameras to be removed until they were approved by voters. They also wanted ticket amounts reduced and advisory votes on cameras to be held each year as long as the cameras were posted.

The city challenged the initiative in court, claiming it wasn’t legally sound because it sought a local vote challenging the authority of the city to enact a state law.

In January, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Bowden ruled that the city shouldn’t have rejected the entire original initiative. Bowden wrote that most of the initiative was legally flawed, except for the part calling for annual advisory votes.

The judge’s ruling was formally entered in mid-February, and the city had 30 days to accept or appeal the decision, Zimmerman said. Their attorney needed time to review legal options before offering counsel.

Zimmerman said he hopes for a speedy appeal to address what he calls a “frivolous lawsuit” by Seeds of Liberty. Court rulings on similar matters elsewhere in the state need be considered as well, he said.

The city’s main concern is Bowden’s finding that the city ran afoul of state prohibitions on using litigation to prevent public participation, Zimmerman said. That wasn’t the intent.

“This really came down to a matter of legal principle,” he said.

Eyman said he believes the judge’s ruling will stand. He said he’s baffled at the city’s decision to keep fighting.

“It’s just amazing that they will not move past this thing and accept that the judge ruled against them,” he said. “Move on.”

While the legal wrangling continues, city officials and Eyman do appear to agree on something: Red light cameras’ days are numbered in Monroe.

When the city rejected the original initiative, it instead ran its own advisory measure, asking whether residents wanted the camera contract renewed with Arizona-based Redflex Inc. after it expires in 2013.

Voters lined up solidly against the idea.

“I think the (camera) issue has been settled,” Zimmerman said Wednesday. “The Monroe citizens and voters have said, at the end of this contract, they don’t want the cameras continued.”

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

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