Monroe public hearing focuses on red-light cameras

  • By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, March 8, 2011 12:01am
  • Local NewsMonroe

MONROE– Want traffic enforcement cameras? Want to keep them out? Tell it to the council.

A public hearing on the topic is scheduled for a City Council meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m., at City Hall, 806 W. Main St.

The council wants to hear from both sides on the issue, even though the city has had an ordinance allowing automated traffic cameras since 2007.

“We had several people outside Monroe speaking against the cameras and people inside Monroe in favor of them,” Councilman Tom Williams said. “I’m interested in hearing people from Monroe.”

The only current council member who was on the council when the ordinance was adopted in 2007 was Tony Balk. He said there was no reaction from the community at the time.

The main concern for Balk has not changed: Red-light cameras are for the safety of children.

Still, he is open to hearing from people who have concerns about privacy and the use of automated cameras to ticket violators, instead of a police officer.

“If you listen to criticism, you can make something stronger,” Balk said. “Only a fool would not listen.”

The council is not expected to take action.

At a Nov. 16 meeting, several people expressed concerns about the traffic enforcement cameras outside two elementary schools.

Fryelands Elementary School, located at 15286 Fryelands Blvd., is the only one active site at the moment. No drivers have been fined because the camera is in a warning period. Police have sent 460 warning letters between Jan. 1 to March 3, spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

A set of cameras at Frank Wagner Elementary School on 639 W. Main St. are not yet active.

There are plans to install a red-light camera at the intersection of U.S. 2 and Kelsey Street.

The Arizona-based company Redflex Traffic Systems put up the cameras.

Activist Tim Eyman, said the hearing is good progress.

“It’s very important to let the voters have this decision,” he said.

Eyman helped launched a signature campaign in Monroe to put traffic cameras on the ballot Jan. 26.

The proposed ballot initiative, named “Monroe Initiative No. 1,” would bar the city from using camera surveillance to issue fines unless approved by a two-thirds majority of the City Council and by voters. It also would limit fines to no more than the least expensive parking ticket allowed in the city.

Seeds of Liberty is the local group gathering signatures for the petition. It does not have an exact number, but it aims to gather enoughnames to be on the August ballot, Eyman said. The goal is to get the 999 valid signatures by April 15.

Seeds of Liberty has had up to 12 members seeking signatures in different parts in the city, group founder Ty Balascio said.

The group plans to be at the council meeting to ask questions and learn more details, he said.

“We are looking for a chance to talk about the issue,” he said.

Longview, Bellingham, and Wenatchee are other cities where Eyman has started campaigns.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.

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