No ban on traffic cams

MUKILTEO — More than 70 percent of voters here decided in November to make it harder for the city to install traffic safety cameras.

Now, city officials are treating that vote purely as advisory. That’s because city lawyers say the measure shouldn’t have been on the ballot in the first place

.

The City Council voted 4-3 last week to delay enacting the traffic camera ordinance sponsored by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

The initiative “is the law until a court rules otherwise,” Eyman said in an email to city officials Monday. “Your refusal to listen to the people is an unwelcome decision on your part.”

The ordinance requires a two-thirds vote of the council and a public advisory vote before any cameras can be installed. It also limits fines to the least expensive traffic ticket, currently $20.

The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on traffic safety cameras in May. Mukilteo councilmembers want to wait for the court’s decision. Meanwhile, they asked the Public Safety Committee to do more research into the effectiveness of traffic safety cameras in school zones.

People in November were expecting that their vote would have become Mukilteo’s law, Eyman said.

“I am flabbergasted that this is even being debated,” Eyman said. “The word ‘advisory’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the voter’s pamphlet.”

Actually, it does. But the reference is about future elections to decide whether traffic cameras are allowed — not the nature of November’s election.

The city heard the voters, but it’s probably better to see what the court decides, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said.

“I don’t see any urgency. The city is not putting up cameras or anything,” he said.

Councilmembers Kevin Stoltz and Jennifer Gregerson and Council President Richard Emery voted against any delay in recognizing the initiative.

“I will vote for the ordinance to respect the voters’ decision,” Gregerson said.

Eyman began gathering signatures for the initiative after the city approved a plan to install red-light cameras at the intersection of Mukilteo Speedway and Harbour Pointe Boulevard. They also planned speed-monitoring cameras in front of Olympic View Middle School, also off the speedway.

The issue wound up in the courts after some challenged the initiative’s legality. Judges decided the controversy was premature for a judicial referee and that the initiative should remain on the ballot.

The initiative helped heat up a statewide debate on traffic safety cameras, including in Monroe. State lawmakers also considered several bills addressing the issue but none of them passed.

Rex Caldwell, the city’s new police chief, supported traffic safety cameras at the City Council meeting last week. He was speaking from his experience in the Kirkland Police Department. A camera in a school zone would free up an officer, he said.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com

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