Murrieta Ban on Red-Light Enforcement Cameras, Measure N (November 2012)

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Ballot measures about red light cameras
A Murrieta Ban on Red-Light Enforcement Cameras, Measure N ballot question was on the November 6, 2012 ballot for voters in the City of Murrieta in Riverside County, where it was approved.[1]

Measure N banned the use of red-light enforcement cameras in Murrieta. There are four such cameras in the city, at these intersections:

  • One camera at Clinton Keith Road and Nutmeg Street
  • Two cameras at Murrieta Hot Springs Road and Whitewood Avenue
  • One camera at Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita Road

Those three intersections were supposed to have been chosen from among Murrieta's 15 most "collision-prone" intersections, but an analysis of the California Highway Patrol's Statewide Collision Database determined that very few red light running collisions had occurred at those locations in the 5 years prior to camera installation.[2] Murrieta's police department proposed the addition of two more red-light cameras at other intersections in early 2011. Their desire to add more red-light cameras is what sparked the campaign to collect signatures to ban the cameras in Murrieta.[3]

Election results

Measure N
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 19,344 57.26%
No14,43642.74%
Final certified results from the Riverside County elections office.

Support

Supporters

The official voter guide arguments in favor of Measure N were signed by:

  • Diana M. Serafin, Ban the Cams Author
  • Robin R. Nielson, Proponent
  • Ernest White
  • Jamie R. White, Candidate for Temecula City Council
  • Jay Beeber, Executive Director, Safer Streets L.A.

Arguments in favor

The official voter guide arguments in favor of Measure N included:

  • "When Red Light Cameras were brought to Murrieta in 2006, we were promised that they would improve safety on our roadways. They haven’t. In fact, the opposite has occurred. According to the CHP collision database and the Murrieta Police Department’s own data, red light related collisions, rear end collisions, and broadside collisions have all dramatically increased at camera enforced intersections. Comparing five years before the cameras were installed with five years after, red light related collisions increased 120%, broadside collisions in the intersections increased 117%, and rear end collisions increased 285%."
  • "And while the cameras increased accidents, by the time of this election, Murrieta will have issued almost 12,000 tickets at almost $500 each, removing millions of dollars from our local economy and wasting thousands of valuable police man hours. And the vast majority of these tickets go to drivers who miss the end of the yellow phase by a fraction of a second due to the city intentionally setting the yellow signal time at the absolute minimum required. These blink of an eye violations, while legally citable, are virtually indistinguishable from non-violations occurring a fraction of a second earlier. Meanwhile, ATS, the out of state camera company, has raked in over $1.5 million. No wonder they sued to keep you from voting on whether to remove their ticketing machines."
  • "The unfortunate truth is that red light ticketing cameras can’t improve safety because they cannot prevent the serious collisions caused by motorists who are impaired, distracted, or fatigued and enter the intersection long after the light has turned red."

Opposition

Opponents

The measure was opposed by Murrieta resident Steve Flynn. Flynn was once the chairman of Murrieta's Public Safety and Traffic Commission. In that capacity, he led the effort to install red-light cameras in the city. He believes that red-light cameras save lives.[4]

The official voter guide arguments opposing Measure N were signed by:

  • Rick Gibbs, a member of the Murrieta City Council
  • Alan Long, a member of the Murrieta City Council

Arguments against

The arguments in the official voter guide arguments opposing Measure N included:

  • "California ranks number 1 in fatalities caused by red light running. A death occurs every 4 days, but camera use in Murrieta has REDUCED BROADSIDE COLLISIONS BY 66 %."
  • "The presence of a camera at one intersection in Murrieta REDUCED THE NUMBER OF RED LIGHT RUNNERS FROM 3150 PER MONTH TO 113."
  • "72 % of the red light violations were written to drivers who do not live in Murrieta. It is people passing through our town who put your life in danger."
  • "Camera coverage is the equivalent of 15 additional motor officers working 24/7."

Path to the ballot

See also: 2012 ballot measure litigation

The measure was an initiated city ordinance. The signature-gathering campaign to collect the signatures required to earn a spot on the ballot was led by Diana Serafin and Robin Nielson. 4,470 signatures were gathered.[4]

Lawsuits

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

A lawsuit was filed to remove the measure from the ballot. Steve Flynn was the lawsuit's plaintiff. He argued that voters in cities do not have the right to change traffic laws.[4]

The lawsuit was against putting the measure on the ballot was successful at the Superior (trial) court level, but an appellate court overturned that lower court ruling in early September and ordered that the measure appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot. Superior Court judge Daniel Ottolia removed the item from the ballot, saying that traffic laws are of statewide concern in a way that prevents local jurisdictions from taking their own specific position on traffic issues. Acting Presiding Justice Art McKinster of the Fourth District Court of Appeal wrote the opinion that overturned Judge Ottolia's decision. McKinster wrote, "it is usually more appropriate to review constitutional and other challenges to ballot propositions or initiative measures after an election rather than to disrupt the electoral process by preventing the exercise of the people’s franchise, in the absence of some clear showing of invalidity.”[5]

Although Flynn was the plaintiff, he acknowledged to local reporters that he was not paying the legal fees for the lawsuit. Charles Bell, Jr., is the attorney who filed the lawsuit. He declined to say who paid him. Some residents in Murrieta believe that American Traffic Solutions paid the legal fees. They are the company that maintains the four red-light cameras in Murrieta. They declined to say whether or not they paid the legal fees.[6]

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