Mayor wants hearing on cameras

MONROE — Traffic enforcement cameras are still scheduled to be installed in front of two schools here, but the public might have a chance to weigh in on them.

Mayor Robert Zimmerman now says he will ask the City Council to schedule a public hearing before the city installs cameras in front of Frank Wagner Elementary School at 115 Dickinson Road and Fryelands Elementary School at 15286 Fryelands Blvd.

The mayor said he will bring up the matter with the City Council at its meeting Tuesday.

Concerns raised by Tim Eyman about the public’s lack of input in the process influenced his thinking on the issue, Zimmerman said. Voters in Eyman’s hometown of Mukilteo recently approved a measure making it difficult for the city to install traffic enforcement cameras. Zimmerman said the 71 percent vote was a factor in his decision to ask for a hearing.

Eyman reacted with muted applause to the mayor’s softening on the issue.

“I’d like to think this is progress,” he said. “If they have a hearing it’ll be the first time they’re really hearing from the citizens of Monroe.”

The city already has a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix, Ariz. to install the cameras within a few weeks and Zimmerman said he’d still like to proceed. But the council approved the plan more than a year ago and he’d like to the public to have a chance to comment.

If the public were to overwhelmingly oppose the plan for cameras, “I would be responsive to the citizens of Monroe,” he said.

Any reversal of the decision to install cameras would have to come from the City Council.

Councilman Tony Balk said he’d be fine with a hearing, but said people don’t have to wait for a hearing to weigh in, noting there’s a comment period at every meeting.

Balk said he is a strong supporter of using the cameras in front of the schools for safety reasons. Speeding has been common on those two streets, he said.

Four positions in the police department are unfilled because of budget issues and the cameras can help with enforcement, Balk said. The fine would be $124, without it going on the driver’s record.

“We have a contract to put it in place and we have to honor that contract,” he said. “If this is going to make the kids safer I think that is important.”

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

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