By on September 7, 2011

The Washington Court of Appeals yesterday delivered a big win to American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the photo enforcement firm that has fought hard to prevent the public from voting on red light cameras and speed cameras. A three-judge panel overturned last month’s decision by Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig that had found the ATS suit was specifically crafted to block public access to the ballot.

The appellate judges sided with ATS, which argued Bellingham residents have no right to decide whether or not automated ticketing machines can be used in their city.

“RCW 46.63.170 specifies that in order to use automatic traffic safety cameras for the issuance of traffic infractions, the ‘appropriate local legislative authority must first enact an ordinance allowing for their use,'” Judge Marlin J. Appelwick wrote for the court. “For more than 70 years, Washington courts have consistently construed similar provisions as the grant of authority to the local legislative body. Initiative No. 2011-01 expressly restricts that authority by conditioning its use on a concurrence by the majority of the voters. The subject matter of the initiative is therefore clearly beyond the scope of the local initiative power. Initiative No. 2011-01 is invalid.”

The ATS victory, however, may prove hollow. The court denied the ATS demand to block the initiative from ballots which will start being printed later today. Because the initiative would have no legal force if approved by voters, ATS could not prove no tangible harm would come from voters enacting the unenforceable measure. In effect, the judges converted the November election item into an advisory vote. Initiative sponsors believe that will ultimately prove to be the end of cameras in Bellingham. No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote.

“Bottom line, we are thrilled that we’ve successfully prevented the red-light camera company from blocking this citizen initiative from appearing on the November ballot,” Stephen Pidgeon, attorney for the sponsors, said in a written statement. “The voice of Bellingham’s citizens will be heard.”

The precedent set today could also change as a case on the legality of an identical traffic camera referendum in Mukilteo is pending before the Washington Supreme Court.

A copy of the appellate decision is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File ATS v. Bellingham (Court of Appeals, State of Washington, 9/6/2011)


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10 Comments on “Washington: Appeals Court Blocks Binding Vote on Photo Ticketing...”

  • avatar

    We do not live in a democracy. “We the People,” do not vote on govt budgets, debt limits, treaties, taxes, etc. “We the People” elect people to do that.

    If the people do not want RLCs, they need to elect people who will not enter into and/or renew such policies. It’s as simple as that.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you regarding the function of the concept of Representative Democracy, however, I disagree this should invalidate the rights of the People to use the Petition.

      The assignment of responsibilities by the People to their elected representatives should not remove the check/balance function of such an essential liberty from those enjoyed by the People.

    • 0 avatar

      Welcome to the 21st Century.
      We tell public officials how to vote on government budgets, debt limits, treaties, taxes, etc. And when they pretend otherwise, we vote them out of office.

      We don’t tolerate excuses when we find ourselves getting jacked with when we are trying to just live our lives. We don’t tolerate a scheme where some company pirates our driving records, our wages and our insurance rates in order to make a buck that gets collected through the law enforcement and court systems we also pay for.

      I don’t know how anyone in the traffic camera business expect Americans to blindly roll over and spread our cheeks when they claim the need to see our private business.

      Government works for us. We tell them what to do, dammit!

    • 0 avatar

      Nonsense. Many states have, right in their state constitutions, procedures to put ballot initiatives and refereda directly to the voting public rather than going through a representative. Washington is one of those states, and if ATS wants to do business in Washington State, they need to obey its laws. It’s as simple as that.

      • 0 avatar

        Those are the exceptions, not the rule.

        Also, since this judge ruled that in this case, the petition is non-binding, THAT is the law, not your perception of what the law ought to be.

        There is a big difference between what really is legal and what people are convinced is legal because it satisfies their concept of right and wrong. The law doesn’t care about that–only what is encoded in its rulebook.

        Regardless, if you vote for those who do what you desire and vote out those who don’t do what you desire, your govt will do what it is supposed to do, and you will be happy. Shunting the system may feel good when it works in your favor, but it’s a real bitch when it goes the other way.

    • 0 avatar

      true, but we were never meant to be. we’re (supposed to be) a constitutionaly limited republic. a democracy is basically mob rule.

  • avatar

    The petition process is a proper check and balance on elected representatives, especially on single issues such as scameras like this.
    We are not talking about micromanaging running a town, it’s a single issue.

  • avatar

    Who could have guessed the kid from Bad Santa would grow up to be a Washington state judge in just a few short years…?

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