By on October 1, 2009

And change we don't. Mayor Sulzer. (courtesy photobucket.com/image/mayor joseph sulzer/jmknapp/ObamaChilCol-109.jpg)

An Ohio city is so desperate to prevent voters from having a say on the future of speed cameras that it filed a motion Monday asking the state supreme court to strip the public of its right to vote on the issue. In April, residents submitted more than double the number of signatures required to place a photo enforcement referendum on the November ballot (view initiative text). The move so infuriated Mayor Joseph Sulzer that he challenged the ballot with the Ross County Board of Elections earlier this month. Sulzer insists the board had no right to reject this challenge. “Chillicothe seeks a writ of prohibition to prevent the board [of elections] from placing the proposed municipal initiative petition on the November 3, 2009 general election ballot,” the city’s petition states.


In an ironic twist, Mayor Sulzer’s primary argument is that city officials were denied a fair hearing before the board of elections when they attempted to quash the referendum. Citizens Against Photo Enforcement (CAPE) argues that city officials routinely deny citizens their constitutional right to due process through the use of administrative hearings that presume the guilt of vehicle owners accused by a private company that is compensated based on the number of convictions obtained.

Sulzer also argues that the initiative is void because Chillicothe officials used administrative, not legislative, powers to establish the camera program. He insists that the program falls under state law authorizing police departments to purchase any equipment needed to do their job.

“Ohio Revised Code 715.05 grants a municipal corporation the authority to ‘organize and maintain police and fire departments… and purchase and hold all implements and apparatus required therefor,'” the city’s court filing states. “Ordinance No. 151-07 incorporates the contract by reference, and specifically provides that the purpose for the use of cameras is to monitor and identify and enforce speed and red light violations and to attempt the reduction of vehicle collisions at specific intersections. Ordinance No. 151-07 and its resulting contract, therefore, were authorized by R.C. 715.05 in order to maintain the police department and hold implements and apparatus for maintenance of that department.”

Camera critics respond by pointing out that neither the city nor the Chillicothe Police Department own or operate any equipment related to the photo enforcement program. Instead, Redflex, the city’s Australian contractor, retains sole ownership of the automated ticketing machines. Opposition leader Rebekah Valentich, a candidate for the Second Ward council seat, believes the current situation is evidence that the entire city council must go.

“We have intentions of recalling the mayor, as well as all the council,” Valentich told TheNewspaper. “We are sick and tired to death of having legislation crammed down our throats and being told it is for our own good. We voted for them to legislate for us, not against us, and so we are going to make the necessary changes.”

No photo enforcement program has ever survived a public vote, with the city of Sulphur, Louisiana most recently voting 86 percent in favor of banning automated ticketing. A copy of the Chillicothe filing is available in a 350k PDF at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Original Action in Mandamus and Prohibition (City of Chillicothe, Ohio, 9/28/2009)

[courtesy thenewspaper.com]

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34 Comments on “Ohio: Chillicothe to State Supreme Court: Stop Camera Referendum...”


  • avatar
    creigs9

    I love politicans who don’t like to listen to the voters. He’s more interested in raising money than working for the people who elected him. Oh BTW, I did’nt notice the cheap a$$ hairpiece.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Someone please remind this tool that this isn’t Soviet style government we live within. Sounds like the voters need to start a recall movement.

  • avatar
    wsn

    What’s the big deal? There was no referendum on bailouts either.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    wsn:
    There was no referendum on Bush spending 30 billion dollars in Africa to fight AIDS either.

  • avatar
    KGrGunMan

    @jkross22

    are you so sure we’re not living in a soviet style government?

    we’re atleast moving closer to it.

    “In Soviet Amerika kar kompanys bankrupt you!”

  • avatar
    texlovera

    The mayor of Chillicothe needs to have a red-light camera shoved up his ass.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m not sure how I feel about on-ballot propositions and referendums: while they’re very directly democratic, they’re also very likely to be problematically populist and easily manipulated by whomever is writing the question or framing the issue.

    I get the impression they’re either a feel-good exercise, or a way for politicians to avoid having to make actual decisions or be in any way accountable and responsible for government.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    The mayor is being a jerk.

    That said, I tend to agree with those wiseasses that say if the Bill of Rights were ever put up for a vote, it would easily get defeated in post-Enlightenment America.

  • avatar
    wsn

    psarhjinian :
    October 1st, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I’m not sure how I feel about on-ballot propositions and referendums: while they’re very directly democratic, they’re also very likely to be problematically populist and easily manipulated by whomever is writing the question or framing the issue.

    —–

    That’s the exact excuse the Chinese Communist Party give, when asked why not implement a democratic system.

    CCP claimed that such a system would be manipulated by foreign powers (the US didn’t have much good reputation in this area anyway) and internal separatist groups, to divide China and get China into a civil war.

  • avatar
    Logans_Run

    I have been having these dreams about unleashing an RPG on a camera. It really is quite fun. In fact it seems to be a happy place for me.

  • avatar
    wsn

    # psarhjinian :
    October 1st, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I get the impression they’re either a feel-good exercise, or a way for politicians to avoid having to make actual decisions or be in any way accountable and responsible for government.

    ———–

    In the beginning, states are small. So, the 1000 citizens can have referendum on almost anything. That’s democracy.

    Then, there are more and more people in one state. The 300 million Americans cannot possibly hold one million referendums per month. Nor does it make sense to hold a $1B referendum to solve a $1M problem. So, they migrated from democracy to democratic representatives. (i.e. president, mayor, etc).

    So, in essence, referendum is the default way of democracy. We delegate politicians to make the decisions only to save time and money.

    Issues with a budget of over a trillion truly deserve to have referendum, because the cost of that referendum becomes a small portion of the total cost.

  • avatar

    The kickback potential must be huge for this sort of thing.

    If only Australia had an equivalent to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act…

  • avatar
    texlovera

    @psarhjinian:

    I’m not sure how I feel about on-ballot propositions and referendums: while they’re very directly democratic, they’re also very likely to be problematically populist and easily manipulated by whomever is writing the question or framing the issue.

    Whatever doubts you may have about a referendum in this case should be easily overshadowed by the overwhelming majorities that vote these cameras down, whenevr they are given the chance. THAT is why the mayor is contesting the citzens’ right to even put the issue on the ballot, rather than try to win the referendum on the camera’s (supposed) merits.

    And now that I think about it, the camera should be inserted sideways….

  • avatar
    WildBill

    Goodbye, Mr. Mayor. Bad move. I live near a city somewhat close to Chillicothe and we don’t take to this sort of “governance”. Should be interesting to watch this develop.

  • avatar

    Our Supreme Court just said we can’t have gambling at race tracks without a vote, so I will be very interested to see how it could block a vote when the people in Chillicothe obviously want one.

    John

  • avatar
    Monty

    Referendums are all well and good, but do you want your state to end up like California, where the populace has referendumed the state to near bankruptcy?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Referendums are all well and good, but do you want your state to end up like California, where the populace has referendumed the state to near bankruptcy?

    Thank you, that’s the point I was trying to make, and the current political paralysis in California is a perfect example.**

    Referendums sound nice before you realize that a) they result in tyrannies of the majority, b) tend to be incredibly populist and c) allow politicians to absolve themselves of responsibility.

    Do you really want to govern using the same methodology as American Idol? ***

    Political theory—very old, very well-tested theory—says that direct democracy doesn’t work beyond the tribal level. Even smallish city-states moved to representative democratic models: that you elect people who you trust to act as a proxy for your interests, provided you can remove them from power at a later date if you feel they haven’t performed to your needs. That’s hardly Chinese communism at work.

    If people don’t like the mayor’s stance on this, then municipal elections are where this ought to be settled. Elect a candidate or candidates that don’t support cameras. End of story.

    ** Interesting how conservatives decry referendums it when it’s their whipping boy (California) even though that state’s propositions have tended more towards the conservative, populist end of the spectrum. And then we support it when it’s something we want voted down? Pick your viewpoint.

    *** Party politics makes this happen anyways, at least at the executive level and, worse, at the legislative level in Westminster parliaments. But it would be so very much worse if reduced to the direct model.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Whatever doubts you may have about a referendum in this case should be easily overshadowed by the overwhelming majorities that vote these cameras down, whenevr they are given the chance.

    So why is the mayor and the councillors who support it still in office, if this is such a contentious and reviled platform so obviously unfavoured by the majority of voters?

  • avatar
    wsn

    Monty :
    October 1st, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Referendums are all well and good, but do you want your state to end up like California, where the populace has referendumed the state to near bankruptcy?

    ——————-

    California is still one of the best places to live in the world. Certainly better than Congo, where they don’t decide on things using referendums.

    Referendums, or Democracy for that matter, isn’t a cure-all medicine for everyone. But it serves as a peaceful and sustainable platform.

    Now that Californians did make wrong decisions. No big deal. Bankrupt and re-organize and hopefully learn something. Wheres in a dictatorship, you don’t have that luxury.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    Referendums sound nice before you realize that a) they result in tyrannies of the majority, b) tend to be incredibly populist and c) allow politicians to absolve themselves of responsibility.

    Who cares? Elections themselves tend to have many of these types of weaknesses as well, so should we abandon those also? And as for the whole “absolution of responsibility” point – the “responsibility” of elected officials is to express the will of the people. It is NOT to slam undesired agendas down the people’s throats.

    If politicians choose to fight against policies that the people broadly support, then they’ve already “absolved themselves of their responsibilities”.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    If politicians choose to fight against policies that the people broadly support, then they’ve already “absolved themselves of their responsibilities”.

    But you can vote them out. Who do you hold accountable in a direct democracy? The masses? Really? Good luck with that.

    Here’s another point Sometimes a leader needs to do something unpopular but necessary in order to fix a problem (example: the US’ entry into either of the past World Wars). People, en masse, occasionally, need to be dragged kicking and screaming into something that mob conservatism would otherwise prevent. If it doesn’t work out, well, you can always vote someone in who to change it in a few years.

    In a direct democracy, this never happens. Admittedly you don’t get this often with representative democracies because many politicians are craven, but at least you get the occasional flash of leadership and forethought without risking totalitarianism.

    Churchill’s “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” really refers to representative democracy.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    Monty :
    October 1st, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Referendums are all well and good, but do you want your state to end up like California, where the populace has referendumed the state to near bankruptcy?

    The referendums didn’t bankrupt California, the politicians did. The anti-tax measures were an indirect way of the people telling the state to slow down the spending. The politicians didn’t listen and borrowed when they couldn’t raise taxes.

    Referendums happen when the population realises that neither major party listens to them. They then have to take measures into their own hands.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    psarhjinian,

    You fail to make the distinction between what Chillicothe voters want to do and what California referenda have done.

    Chillicothe want to VETO a stupid law. That’s different from a California-style referendum that says “give me goodies, and lower my auto insurance premiums by 10%.”

    There is no legitimate reason to oppose a popular veto. Even the Roman republic at its height respected the right of popular veto (via tribunes), and they were hardly a democratic form of government.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Call me an optimist, but I think a society that’s free to referrendum itself into bankruptcy will eventually learn from its mistakes and become an overall more responsible and enlightened society.
    Just like a child learning to ride a bike. Eventually you have to take the training wheels off, give them a push, and let them propel and balance themselves. Will they fall? Most likely, but that’s the only way they’ll learn. Society needs to be free to make it’s own mistakes AND suffer the consequences else we’ll just stagnate and become dependant on “leaders” that dictate their own version of “the common good”.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Chillicothe want to VETO a stupid law. That’s different from a California-style referendum that says “give me goodies, and lower my auto insurance premiums by 10%.”

    That’s a difference in your opinion of the referendum question, not the nature of referendums. If it were a vote for mandatory gay marriage, adoption of the metric system, praying toward Memphis or whatever it wouldn’t matter: you’re still short-circuiting representative democracy for the sake of populism.

    Not all—heck, not very many—of California’s referendums were goodie-grabs: many were simply socially-contentious issues that a cowardly-by-habit legislature did not want to take a stand on (gay marriage comes to mind, but there’s many others: eg, medical marijuana)

    Direct democracy is a symptom of a gutless legislature and an apathetic voter base, much like so-called “activist judges” are. If you want good government, you need to start taking an interest in your legislative branches and not allow them to slough off the tough questions.

  • avatar
    RichardD

    “That’s a difference in your opinion of the referendum question, not the nature of referendums”

    No, actually it’s a fundamental difference between two distinct types of referendum.

    You, and everyone else here against a referendum are only using examples where the public enacts positive laws that compel action as problematic — my favorite example is the California referendum demanding an across the board cut in auto insurance rates.

    That problem does NOT apply to a veto by initiative. You call it “short circuiting representative democracy”, but it’s really a perfect example of checks and balances. Far from being an instance of the people being “apathetic,” it’s the ultimate in getting involved because it takes a lot of leg work to get a petition going. Generally, the heads of the elected representatives roll along when initiatives like this are on the ballot because it opens peoples’ eyes. In other words, bye, bye mayor of Chillicothe.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Don’t know if this Mayor is able to run again or not, but if he is, it should not be too hard in this Internet age to organize petitions and a march to City Hall. Make the message clear: Lose the cameras or lose your job. Poster psarhjinian is correct that sometimes a politician must do things that are unpopular but needed. A tax hike or cut may fall into this category, but clearly setting up a system to fleece motorists does not fall into that category.

    Have to add the comment that the President Obama sign looks photoshopped to me…way to crisp…a not so subliminal message, perhaps, and one I don’t consider relevant…

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Make that “way too crisp”

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    wsn :
    October 1st, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    In the beginning, states are small. So, the 1000 citizens can have referendum on almost anything. That’s democracy.

    Then, there are more and more people in one state. The 300 million Americans cannot possibly hold one million referendums per month. Nor does it make sense to hold a $1B referendum to solve a $1M problem. So, they migrated from democracy to democratic representatives. (i.e. president, mayor, etc).

    Incorrect. Our country has never been a democracy – it’s a republic. We’ve always had elected legislators passing laws, not a nationwide referendum system.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Clearly, this is an issue that matters to the citizens of this town, and the mayor is on the wrong side of the issue.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    wsn :
    October 1st, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    What’s the big deal? There was no referendum on bailouts either.

    Actually, TARP, which was passed by Congress, gave the executive branch the authority to use federal funds to bail out failing banks. Bush decided to extend that authority to automakers by executive order.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    psarhjinian :
    October 1st, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Here’s another point Sometimes a leader needs to do something unpopular but necessary in order to fix a problem (example: the US’ entry into either of the past World Wars). People, en masse, occasionally, need to be dragged kicking and screaming into something that mob conservatism would otherwise prevent.

    Good point, but poor example: Congress overwhelmingly passed war declarations in both world wars. People were PISSED after Pearl Harbor.

  • avatar
    menno

    There are some really cool things around Chillicothe, that I simply won’t be bothering to come down and enjoy, now.

    Hey Mr Mayor, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

    I’ll spend my money elsewhere, on my next vacation, thanks.

    Someplace with values AND leadership that I can agree with. If I learn that Chillicothe “leadership” changes, then maybe I’ll change my mind.

    It’s my money – I can do that.

    Anyone else out there agree?

  • avatar
    BigKid

    For those of you who feel your local government should be allowed to ram red-light cameras down your throats, then ask yourself, would you be willing to “put up” with your city FALSELY issuing over a quarter of a million dollars worth of tickets for short yellows and no posted speed limit signs and NOT give REFUNDS.

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