Judge rules Mukilteo can vote on red-light cameras
A Snohomish County Superior Court ruled Friday that Mukilteo voters will have their say in November on red-light cameras.
Times Snohomish County reporter
Mukilteo residents will be the first in the state to vote on red-light cameras.
A Snohomish County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that voters can have their say in November on an initiative that requires the city to get voter approval any time it wants to install a traffic-enforcement camera.
Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, who gathered signatures for the initiative in Mukilteo, his hometown, applauded the judge's ruling. He predicted that Mukilteo residents would reject the controversial cameras.
"We're thrilled that the judge won't stop voters from voting," Eyman said.
Eyman and his supporters gathered 2,900 signatures earlier this year calling for a vote on the proposed red-light cameras. A 5-1 majority of the Mukilteo City Council also supported the initiative.
But a group called Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government sued the city, arguing that the council should be able to approve the cameras without going to voters. That group is represented by the Seattle law firm Stoel Rives, which also represents an Arizona firm that markets red-light cameras.
Judge Michael Downes ruled that a lawsuit to block a vote was premature.
"This is a unique situation where not only the citizens want to vote, but the city council also wants to hear from the electorate," Downes wrote. He said a legal challenge could be brought after the vote.
Eyman argued that red-light cameras are a moneymaking venture for cities, and not primarily a safety measure. If approved by voters, the initiative would require a two-thirds vote of the City Council and a majority vote of the residents any time the city wants to install an automatic-ticket camera.
Additionally, the fine for a violation could be no more than the least-expensive city parking ticket, $20.
Eyman suggested that residents of the 20 other Washington cities that have installed red-light cameras may now take up the initiative process to challenge the cameras. He said that 10 jurisdictions across the country have put the cameras to a vote and that all 10 rejected their use.
Lynnwood, the only Snohomish County city to operate red-light and speed cameras, expects them to bring in $4 million in revenue this year, said Patrick Dugan, interim city finance director. But Dugan said fewer people run the lights over time, and the city expects the income from fines to drop to about $2.5 million in 2011.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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