Tim Eyman challenges Monroe’s camera information campaign

  • By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, July 26, 2011 12:01am
  • Local NewsMonroe

MONROE — The city’s decision to inform residents through their utility bills about how it is using traffic cameras has drawn the ire of initiative activist Tim Eyman, who argues that by doing so the city is violating state law.

The state Public Disclosure Commission is analyzing the evidence

presented by Eyman before even deciding if there should be an investigation.

“Our goal is to review it in less than 10 business days,” said Tony Perkins, lead political financial specialist for the commission.

Last week, the City Council approved putting on the November ballot an advisory vote about continuing use of traffic enforcement cameras. The nonbinding vote is intended to help city officials decide whether Monroe should renew the contract it has with Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems, which expires in September 2013.

The city plans to send out a special insert to its 5,100 utility customers as early as next week. The fliers would feature answers for the 10 most-asked questions regarding the traffic cameras, city administrator Gene Brazel said.

“We just want to include the facts,” he said.

Eyman contends that because tax money is being used, sending this information violates state rules for political campaigns. Cities cannot use public funds to tell their side of the story, while those pushing to get rid of the cameras need to use private funds to gather support, he said.

“This is now a political debate over ticketing cameras in Monroe and so it is unquestionably unfair and inappropriate, and likely illegal, for the pro-ticketing-camera side of the debate to be subsidized by city revenue,” he said in an email.

It would cost about $500 to put the insert on the utility bills, Monroe’s financial director Dianne Nelson said. The City Council reviewed the traffic camera insert on July 12.

Some of the questions include what constitutes a violation, how to dispute a ticket and where the traffic cameras are located. It is still not known whether information about the initiative would be on the insert, Brazel said. The city attorney is reviewing the draft document, he said.

Meanwhile, the council tonight is also set to consider a different, also nonbinding, advisory vote regarding whether to install additional traffic cameras in the city.

Eyman and his supporters are trying to put two different initiatives on the November ballot.

One is Monroe Initiative No. 1, which seeks to remove enforcement cameras that already have been installed, to reduce fines levied from camera-generated tickets and to require voter approval before any more enforcement cameras can be installed.

The initiative got the required 999 valid signatures to be put on the ballot or be passed as new law in mid-June. The City Council, however, argued it had no legal validity and filed a lawsuit against the groups sponsoring it.

These groups replied by launching a second signature campaign. Monroe Initiative No. 2 seeks to require advisory votes on enforcement cameras in the city, at every municipal election cycle, for as long as the city has camera contracts. Supporters say they have raised 500 signatures in only 12 days and also need 999 to get it on a ballot.

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