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Originally published Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Bruce Ramsey / Times editorial columnist

Democracy in action: Mukilteo's success gives green light to efforts to stop traffic cameras

Seattle Times Columnist Bruce Ramsey writes of the movements in six Washington cities to take down automated traffic cameras.

Seattle Times editorial columnist

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A year ago, Tim Eyman and his allies were collecting signatures for an initiative to stop the traffic cameras in Mukilteo. On Nov. 2, their effort, Mukilteo Initiative 2, won 71 percent of the vote.

The fight has moved to other cities.

In Longview, it is led by Michael Wallin, 27, a real-estate broker, and in Monroe, by Ty Balascio, 37, a program manager at Microsoft.

In Wenatchee the enemy of cameras is Matt Erickson, 49, who dresses in Revolutionary garb and sells "Freedom Franks" from a sidewalk cart.

In Redmond it's Scott Harlan, 49, a former executive with First Mutual Bank.

In Bellingham, the effort is led by Johnny Weaver, 27, a student at Whatcom Community College and Ron Paul supporter who fancies a career as a community organizer.

All of these men lean right. All say, however, that their issue cuts across political lines. Weaver wins support in lefty Bellingham by noting that the municipality is joining forces with a for-profit corporation (bad!), American Traffic Solutions, which is based in Arizona (bad!) and partly owned by Goldman Sachs (really bad!).

Longview doorbeller Josh Sutinen, 17, says folks in tonier neighborhoods are divided over machines that send out $124 tickets, "but in poorer neighborhoods, almost 100 percent of the people are against them."

In most Washington cities, voters have never used the initiative power. Now they discover how much their leaders hate it. Several cities have tried to keep the measure off the ballot, and the rest of them might.

In Wenatchee, the city sued Erickson, the hot-dog vendor, who didn't have an attorney. American Traffic Solutions' attorney, Vanessa Power of Stoel, Rives in Seattle, intervened and won a ruling from Judge John Bridges of Chelan County Superior Court that Initiative 1 was "beyond the scope of the initiative power" and could not be on the ballot.

In Longview, the City Council voted not to turn over the signatures for Initiative 1 to the county auditor for verification. The activists sued and last week the city turned in the signatures. It continues to claim in Cowlitz County Superior Court that the measure is "beyond the scope of the initiative power." Meanwhile Wallin and several allies are running for City Council.

In Monroe, Initiative 1 was certified for the ballot Friday. At press time, the City Council was about to decide what to do about it.

In Bellingham, the signatures were turned in Monday. Mayor Dan Pike has signed a contract that allows American Traffic Solutions to sue for a declaration that the measure is illegal. Pike is in a re-election contest with former state Rep. Kelli Linville, Democrat, who has said the initiative should be allowed to proceed.

In Redmond, Harlan is collecting signatures.

Meanwhile, on May 24, Mukilteo was at the Washington Supreme Court, where Vanessa Power was arguing against the city on behalf of "Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government," a group nobody had ever heard of, and that Justice Jim Johnson suggested might be shielding "a hidden client."

Mukilteo's law against red-light cameras is invalid, Power argued, because it is beyond the scope, etc. The city, which never wanted the law but is obliged to defend it, argued that Mukilteo Initiative 2 is valid because it was not really an initiative, but only an advisory measure.

And democracy rolls on.

Bruce Ramsey's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is bramsey@seattletimes.com




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