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Bellingham City Red Light Camera Question (November 2011)

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A Bellingham City Red Light Camera Question was on the November 8, 2011 ballot in the city of Bellingham which is in Whatcom County.

This measure asked residents if they want to allow red light traffic cameras as well as school speeding zone cameras. The initiative will also require a vote by residents if the city were to re-install them. Any fine given under the speed cameras would also be limited to the cheapest parking ticket, $10.[1]

This issue was non-binding, the city council noted that they would use it as a means to gauge the public's opinion on red light cameras in the city.[2]

Aftermath

Though the measure was non-binding and the city did not have to enforce the vote, on March 26, 2012 the city council voted to terminate their contract with ATS and remove the red light and speeding cameras in the city. ATS will be given $100,000 to break the contract, 1 member voted against termination noting that he did not feel that the city just had $100,000 to give away. Tim Eyman, a strong sponsor for red light removal, praised the city's decision and said that he hoped that the cities of Monroe and Longview would follow suit as they also have pending red light lawsuits.[3]

Election results

See also: 2011 ballot measure election results and Local ballot measure elections in 2011
Bellingham City Red Light Camera Question
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 15,279 67.69%
No7,29232.31%

Source: Whatcom County Elections, Unofficial Election Results

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

City of Bellingham Initiative No. 2011 -01 concerns automated traffic safety cameras. This measure would require the removal of any automated cameras used to issue tickets for stoplight, railroad crossing and school zone violations installed under a 2010 ordinance and prohibit the installation of such cameras to issue tickets, unless approved by City Council and a majority of voters at an election, and limit the penalty to the lowest parking ticket fine. Should this measure be enacted into law?[4]

Lawsuit

The company, American Traffic Solutions, had filed a lawsuit with the Whatcom County Superior Court, seeking to stop the issue from being on the ballot. City officials noted their neutrality on the issue, stating that they would not side with ATS or the people one way or the other. As with their other lawsuits pending, ATS claims that red light cameras are not within the initiative scope as well as the measure would force the city to quite its contract with the company which would be illegal. The group who filed the initiative stated that they would not back down and would fight ATS in court if they had to. The judge is set to hear arguments on August 17.[5]

The judge had denied the request of ATS, noting that by letting the question be on the ballot ATS could not prove it would suffer immediate damages. ATS commented that it would try again on August 17, noting that they did not agree with the ruling and believed in the later court date the judge would agree with their side of the argument.[6]

The judge ruled again against ATS, allowing the measure to be on the November ballot though ATS again stated it would appeal. In addition to ruling against ATS, judge Ira Uhrig issued a $10,000 fee to the company as well as making them pay the legal fees of the defendants. Proponents of this measure were elated at the decision and commented that the judge stood up for the people and for the right of initiative. Tim Eyman joined the group of supporters outside the courtroom who cheered in response to the ruling.[7]

The State Court of Appeals had then agreed to accept the appeal made by ATS against the recent ruling on August 17, their decision was expected by September 7. The city agreed to not put up any red light cameras until the legal issues of the case had been decided.[8] On September 6 the Court of Appeals sided with ATS and ruled that the measure was not valid as an initiative. The proponents of the measure could have appealed if they wanted to. It was undecided if this measure would be removed from the ballot.[9]

The ruling stated that the measure could remain on the ballot, if they city wanted, but that it would not be legally binding. Though if there was a strong results against the cameras, political pressure could still be put on the City Council. Proponents of this measure noted that although the vote will not be legally binding they were still pleased that the issue will still be voted on by residents.[10] The ATS was still seeking to remove the issue from the ballot, even though the measure would not have any effect on them, but they were not successful.[11]

Path to the ballot

The issue of red light cameras was brought to the ballot via a petition drive by residents. In January, residents had initiated the petition drive which sought to stop the city from installing cameras throughout the city. The city mayor had noted that the implementation of the cameras would not be slowed down by the measure and they were expected to be installed in April.[12] On June 20, petitioners submitted 6,775 signatures to the county Auditor for verification. A total of 3,880 valid signatures were needed to get approval of the petition.[13] On June 30 the county Auditor verified that needed amount of signatures was achieved by the petitioners, 3,981 signatures were validated. The coalition which led the petition effort noted that they were happy about the outcome and that many residents had been eager to sign the petitions. The Mayor of the city also had called the traffic camera company urging them not to sue because that would just upset residents.[14]

See also

Additional reading

External links

References