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10/25/2012Voters in Three States Take on Traffic Cameras
Five cities in California, Texas and Washington state will vote November 6 on whether to ban photo enforcement.
The issue of red light cameras and speed cameras is heating up at the ballot box. Residents of five cities in California, Texas and Washington state have battled for the right to have a say in whether automated ticketing machines are installed in their community. The November 6 results could raise to 25 the total number of municipalities nationwide that prohibit cameras.
The most hotly contested race this cycle has been in Murrieta, California where city council members gathered for a press conference on Tuesday in a desperate attempt to preserve the program. As the officials spoke, initiative sponsor Diana Serafin and a fellow volunteer stood across the street waving while holding a "Honk! Vote Yes on N" sign, urging passing vehicles to vote in favor of the ban on the automated machines that mail out tickets that cost $500 each. Motorists honked loudly in support of the anti-camera measure while the officials spoke.
About an hour's drive west in Newport Beach, the city council actually favors the ban. A city councilman proposed the initiative as a means of ensuring future councils will not be able to install automated ticketing machines without first obtaining permission from the electorate. Measure EE makes a number of changes to the city charter with the camera prohibition taking top billing. The council drew inspiration from nearby Anaheim where 73 percent of voters enacted a ban in 2010.
Anaheim and Newport Beach are unique in having councils propose the charter amendment. Elsewhere, photo ticketing companies and city leaders fought the ballot measures at every step of the way. In League City, Texas, Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia turned to the courts in an attempt to thwart the vote. City officials did succeed in re-writing the text of the initiative so that the ban would not take effect until 2014. As a result, campaign mailers recently hit residents' mailboxes targeting the councilmen who support Redflex.
"Mike Phalen voted to extend his term of office and pay himself for six more months with your tax dollars without voter input," one mailer stated. "Mike supports more red light cameras."
Byron Schirmbeck, director of saferbaytown.com, helped organize the effort to put the issue on the ballot. He believes the council's underhanded efforts will backfire.
"I think that with the universal hatred for the cameras the election is a foregone conclusion," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "If the anti-camera candidates take the seats from the pro-camera council members and there is enough of a margin in the vote against the cameras, the council will take steps to squeeze Redflex out before the end of the contract."
In Washington state, red light cameras and speed cameras return to the ballot for a re-match in Longview and Monroe where council members have ignored the the message sent by the electorate in a vote on banning cameras last year.
"A whopping 68 percent of Monroe voters rejected automatic ticketing cameras last November, yet the mayor and city council dug in their heels and refused to listen," initiative co-sponsor Tim Eyman told TheNewspaper. "Because of their obstruction, there is now a second vote. It's appalling that Monroe's politicians are representing red-light camera companies, not their own citizens."
A lawsuit filed by camera vendor American Traffic Solutions converted last year's votes from binding prohibitions to an "advisory" measure. In Longview, 59 percent voted to ban both red light cameras and speed cameras, though the message was muddled by a city-sponsored initiative on school zone cameras that passed. The city has since unplugged the red light cameras while expanding the number of speed cameras.
Camera companies and city officials have an uphill task in convincing voters to save cameras within the next two weeks. Throughout nine states, voters in all but one case have favored automated ticketing bans by as much as 86 percent. View a complete list of automated ticketing bans.
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