10/28/2011California: Red Light Camera Ban Qualifies for Murrieta Ballot
Signature drive qualifies to put red light cameras to a vote in Murrieta, California.
Red light cameras are to be put to the test once more in California. Local activists succeeded in gathering enough verified signatures to qualify a photo enforcement ban for the ballot in Murrieta next year. The city council will decide Tuesday whether to adopt the initiative text as an ordinance or turn the matter over to voters to decide whether machines should continue issuing $483 citations at city intersections.
"They have to write over 7000 tickets to break even," petition organizer Diana Serafin told TheNewspaper in an interview. "It's a scam. Now they want to add two to four new cameras."
The automated ticketing machines were first installed in 2006 at three locations: Murrieta Hot Springs Road at Whitewood Road, Nutmeg Road at Clinton Keith Road, and Murrieta Hot Springs Road at Margarita Road. City leaders insisted the cameras were a response to deadly accidents at these locations. Serafin pointed out that officials misleadingly included collisions such as a 2005 fatality at Hot Springs and Whitewood that took place before the traffic signal was installed and the road widened from two to six lanes.
"We had a major accident at that intersection in January," Serafin said. "The camera didn't stop it."
The Limited Government Political Action Committee (LGPAC) collected over 6000 signatures to stop the cameras, even though only 4470 were needed. Serafin personally registered 1000 people to vote during the collection process. She noted the revelations about the lack of any proven safety benefit in Los Angeles, where the city council dropped the program in July, spurred public interest in the issue.
"When that came out in LA, that changed a lot of people's minds." Serafin said. "That and the fact that Goldman Sachs bought into the red light camera company. That's made people angry."
The investment bank Goldman Sachs is the single largest shareholder in American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which is in charge of Murrieta's photo enforcement program. ATS faces an uphill battle to maintain this contract, as 73 percent of voters in Anaheim, about fifty miles away, endorsed a prohibition on red light cameras last year.
Red light cameras and speed cameras have been put to a public vote on sixteen occasions. On November 8, that figure grows to twenty-three. In Washington, votes will take place in Bellingham, Longview and Monroe. In Ohio, they will happen in Ashtabula, East Cleveland and South Euclid. Dayton, Texas will also hold a vote. Automated enforcement has never survived a referendum.
Text of the Initiative
THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF MURRIETA DO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 0: The ordinance proposed by initiative petition shall be known as the MURRIETA PROHIBITION OF AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS ACT.
SECTION 1: The term "red light camera or other automated traffic enforcement system" as used in this section shall mean and include any automated traffic enforcement system, as that term is used in California Vehicle Code Section 21455.5, or any successor legislation thereto, which is used to enforce any provision of the California Vehicle Code.
SECTION 2: An ordinance shall be adopted by the City Council which would prohibit the installation of and require removal of any existing red light camera or other automated traffic enforcement system in the City of Murrieta.
SECTION 3: This City Council, any officer, employee of the City, governmental agency or governmental official having jurisdiction in the City when acting in his or her official capacity shall be prohibited taking any action which would directly or indirectly result in the authorization, approval or installation of any red light camera or other automated traffic enforcement system in the City of Murrieta.
SECTION 4. If any provision of this measure or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or application, and to this end the provisions of this measure are severable.
SECTION 5. This initiative may not be amended except upon voter approval.