Election Day: Washington cities to get say on ticket cameras

| Friday, October 14, 2011

Voters in two northwest Washington communities will get a say next month in whether they want to end the use of automated enforcement. Another community could challenge a decision to keep the issue off the fall ballot.

Ballots in Bellingham will ask voters if red-light cameras should be removed. However, a state appeals court ruled that the city council would not be obligated to take down the cameras even if passed by voters.

The court ruled the initiative is not legally binding because the city council enacted an ordinance a year ago that allows the city to install cameras. Council members said the Nov. 8 vote will amount to an advisory question.

They have assured residents they would strongly consider the will of the voters after the one-year pilot program ends. The city signed a contract this spring to install six traffic cameras at Bellingham intersections and in school zones.

If the question is enacted by the city council, cameras would be removed and could only be reinstalled after a city council and a public vote. Fine amounts would also be limited to the same amount as the least-expensive parking ticket – $10.

Supporters of automated enforcement say the technology helps to improve safety on roadways. Opponents say the cameras simply are an easy way for communities to rake in money at a time when budgets are stretched thin.

Initiative 1 on the Longview ballot will ask voters whether the city should get rid of 12 red-light cameras after a pilot program ends next spring. Also relegated to advisory status on the ballot, it would be up to the city council to heed the will of voters.

Meanwhile, a similar effort to challenge the use of red-light cameras was turned back in the city of Redmond.

Mayor John Marchione said the city would not submit to King County the signatures from a petition to put the issue to a vote next winter. Instead, the mayor assured that city council members would take the public input into consideration when deciding whether to extend a one-year pilot program late this year.

Opponents of automated enforcement in the community have indicated they may pursue legal action to get the issue on the ballot.

Ballots in Washington state for the Nov. 8 election are set to be mailed out to registered voters Wednesday, Oct. 19. Washington and Oregon are the only states to run their elections entirely by mail.

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