Washington Supreme Court Considers Anti-Camera Referendum Battle

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
washington supreme court considers anti camera referendum battle

Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court on Tuesday openly questioned whether it was proper for a city and a photo enforcement contractor to thwart the initiative process on the issue of traffic cameras. The question has become increasingly relevant as activists in the cities of Longview and Monroe on Monday turned in signatures they believe will be sufficient to call for a vote on banning red light cameras and speed cameras. Less than a week ago, a Chelan County Superior Court judge ruled that activists in the city of Wenatchee were forbidden from attempting to bring the question of cameras to the voters ( view ruling).

Justice James M. Johnson suggested the particular vote that took place last year in Mukilteo was protected by the state’s version of the First Amendment. Johnson even suggested that the initiative proponent’s lawyer was not going far enough in his legal arguments.

“I was surprised that you did not cite Article 1 Section 4 of the state constitution, reading as follows: ‘The right of petition and of the people peaceably to assemble… shall never be abridged,'” said Johnson. “The constitution says the right of petition shall never be abridged.”

Mukilteo city officials ultimately conceded that the petition could not be blocked ( especially after the high court weighed in), but they refused to concede that the question of red light cameras was a matter subject to the referendum process. So city attorney Angela Belbeck claimed there was no choice but to make the vote advisory only. Justice Gerry L. Alexander insisted that was a “debatable” point.

“I’m concerned the city can undercut the initiative process,” Alexander said. “When citizens come in with signatures for an initiative and the city just says, ‘we’ll just call this an advisory ballot.'”

Alexander went on to complain that “we don’t really have the adversarial process” in the case because an American Traffic Solutions front group sued the city of Mukilteo, and both sides are in favor of red light cameras. Other justices seemed concerned that the city pretended in the ballot language and in the voter guide that the vote was on an actual initiative. No material made mention that the vote was merely advisory in nature.

“I find it very puzzling that this was presented as an initiative,” Justice Charles K. Wiggins said. “Why didn’t it go on the ballot as an initiative? There was an initiative petition presented to the city council which could either enact the law or put it on the ballot. They didn’t do either one.”

Meanwhile, in the city of Longview activists Mike Wallin and Josh Sutinen turned in 3628 signatures (30 percent more than necessary) on an initiative petition to give voters the chance to decide whether to outlaw red light cameras and speed cameras. In Monroe, Ty Balascio and the group Seeds of Liberty handed in 1175 signatures on the first-ever initiative petition filed in the city. The groups initially thought it would take six months to gather the required support, but each reached the goal in just four. Signature collection is still active in Bellingham and Redmond.

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Jimal Jimal on May 25, 2011

    Interesting that these red light/speed camera stories are getting fewer and fewer comments from TB&B...

  • Wjtinfwb Memory lane... In '76, I got my full Florida D/L and started hogging my parents cars. That only lasted a year when it was decided I needed to take an additional class in school that started at 7am, before the bus ran and my friends went to school. Mom was not excited about driving me every day so I proposed a solution; I was a big dirt biker and floated out buying a street bike to ride to school, namely a new Honda XL350. Mom & Dad objected vehemently, they didn't want me dead on the road to school. And they know I'd be on that bike 24/7 and they'd never know where I was. Dad offered a car, stating if I'd put in the money I'd saved for the Honda, he'd match it and if needed throw in a bit more. Perfect! I started looking for a car, first candidate was a used Pontiac Formula 455. It was a '74, Automatic, an awful pea green but clean and on the front line at JM Pontiac. No way was Dad's instant answer. Too thirsty, too powerful, too expensive to insure. A Celica GT Liftback? Better but too expensive. Corolla SR-5? Warmer, but dad was uncertain of the safety of a Japanese car. Fiat 128? Why not just throw the money out the window. Dad's friend ran a leasing company and had a hook at the VW dealer, Rabbit? A Scirocco would be better, but lets look. Dealer offered a new, '77 Rabbit 2dr in Custom trim, 4-speed, factory A/C, AM/FM in Panama Brown (burnt Orange) with Brown "leatherette" for $3200 plus tax. One drive and I was in. Not fast, but peppy, '77 combined the '76 1.6L engine with Bosch Fuel Injection. Faster than the Corolla for sure and undoubtedly more reliable than the Fiat, right? Not so fast, my friend. The Rabbit was a nightmare, and VW dealers were stymied by the Fuel Injection, the A/C that while factory was clearly an afterthought and the leak from somewhere that filled the left rear footwell after ever rainstorm. A daily occurrence in S. Florida. It left me on the side of the road one evening due to a broken timing belt and ultimately succumbed to the bad valve guides that led to burning a quart of GTX every 200 miles. Sold at a fire sale price and replaced with a used Cutlass. A super fun car that was sold approximately 2/3 of the way through development. Two years later production moved to Westmoreland PA and those Rabbits were even more horrendous than my German built example. Great memory of a not very great car.
  • Fie on Fiasler "...he’s worried that the situation will interfere with his ability to pursue his goal of working in government."Well, thank Christ for Musk, then. Last thing we need is a punk kid that aspires to a government job. Sometimes action is needed to spare these idiots from themselves (and, more importantly, us.)
  • SCE to AUX This story could have been a lot shorter.I'll side with Cruise this time. If indeed the pedestrian was thrown into the AV's path while ricocheting from another impact, that's an unavoidable accident. No human could do any better in that case.Seems more like the Cruise AV was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Paul Alexander Public relations nightmare? Why are we supposed to sympathize with the company exactly? I feel as if this incident should spark a conversation on whether AV's make any sense or if perhaps we should stop this experiment before it goes any further. But that won't happen as it seems everyone is convinced that all 'progress' is somehow good.
  • FreedMike These are the ULTIMATE stealth speed weapons, provided their owners keep them stock.