Longview City Red Light Camera Advisory Question (November 2011)

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

This measure was an advisory question only and asked residents if they thought red light cameras should remain in the city.

Election results

See also: 2011 ballot measure election results and Local ballot measure elections in 2011
Longview City Red Light Camera Advisory Question
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 5,624 58.66%
No3,96441.34%

Source: Cowlitz County Elections, Current Election Results

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Statement of Subject: Initiative Measure No. 1 concerns advisory votes on City ordinances authorizing automatic traffic safety cameras. Concise Description: This Measure would require a City ordinance authorizing the use of automated traffic safety cameras, enacted after January 1, 2007, be subject to advisory vote at the next general election after ordinance enactment.Should this measure be enacted into law?[1][2]

Background

Residents petitioned for a vote on the red light camera program in the city, turning in 3,628 signatures on May 23. The City council then decided that the red light camera program was not legally up for a referendum vote and instead just put it up for an advisory vote. The council members stated that under State law, the petition on the program was not legal. Tim Eyman, who had spearheaded the petition process, voiced his outrage to the council for not allowing the citizens to exercise their right of initiative petitioning. Council members also pointed out that the current program is just a one year trial and if a vote was held against them, the city could be sued by the camera operators for breach of contract when the cameras were removed.[3]

Prior to the council meeting held on May 25, supporters of the petition including Tim Eyman had held a media blitz, trying to force the council to allow the issue to be binding on the ballot. By posting flyers, radio adds and newspaper adds he had hoped to show the city residents what the council was trying to do to undermine their initiative rights.[4]

Lawsuit

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2011

A lawsuit was to be filed against the city in order to force the vote on cameras to be binding and not just advisory. The suit was filed by those who headed the petition drive. They argue in favor of a binding vote is that the state requires it. They collected the needed signatures and now the city is obliged to put forth a binding vote on the issue. The leader of the petition drive collected $2,720 to help pay for the costs of filing the lawsuit.[5] The fact that the city also did not turn over the signatures to the county clerk to be verified but instead held a session to decide on the issue, was also considered illegal according to lawyers for the petitioners. There was no open session to hear public opinion. Instead the decision was made solely by council members, an issue which is reportedly illegal.[6]

City officials decided to take the submitted petition to the county auditor in order to get the signatures verified. Those who had submitted the petition had argued that the city failed to get the signatures validated and were using this argument against the city's actions. The lawyer in charge of the case for the city, Marilyn Nitteberg-Haan, stated that the fact that the city has submitted the petition to the county auditor to get it verified does not mean the city agrees that red light cameras are a legal item which can be put to a referendum vote, but rather they want to take the argument away from petitioners that the city acted illegally in not getting the signatures verified in the first place. A judge of the Cowlitz County Superior Court is set to hear the case on June 27.[7]

On June 20 supporters of the measure submitted signatures. However, the county auditor revealed that supporters had an insufficient number of signatures. Petitioners were given 10 extra days. However, if the measure still fails to collect enough valid signatures, according to reports, the lawsuit will be dropped.[8]

Opponents to the cameras had taken the offensive and attempted to sue the city for violating the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) law. The law sets up a fine for those seen as exploiting the legal process so stop a petition drive. The lawyer for the opponents noted that it is a hard task to even get the required amount of signatures for the petition and the city had no grounds for suing as it had not suffered any tangible harm from the petitioners. This issue had been expedited through the court and a judge heard the issue on July 11.[9] The judge then made the decision to dismiss this suit against the city and also issued the opinion that the city is likely right in their proposal to stop the camera petition. But a final decision has still not been made on the issue.[10]

Path to the ballot

On June 20 supporters of the measure submitted an estimated 3,628 signatures. According to reports, a minimum of 2,830 were required. The county auditor, however, noted that they threw out nearly 1,400 signatures that they deemed invalid. As a result, the petition did not have enough valid signatures to gain approval for the ballot. The petitioners were given 10 more days to collect the rest of the signatures, but if they are unable to do so then the lawsuit will be dropped because the petition will not be considered valid.[8]

The city council approved putting two advisory questions on to the ballot in November, one would ask if red light cameras should stay in school zones and the other if they should remain in various intersections around the city. Some council members noted that putting these two questions on the ballot was too hasty as the result of the referendum drive is still unknown; others saw it as a way to get around the issue. Petitioners are still able to gather signatures and the lawsuit is still pending. Though it was noted that if the petition fails then the lawsuit would be dropped.[11]

Petitioners submitted 1,800 additional signatures, 890 valid ones are needed to have the petition approved. Petitioners feel confident that they have acquired the needed signatures but the county auditor still needs to verify the additional signatures.[12]

Editorial

The Daily News has given its editorial position on this measure, noting that they are opposed to it. Noting that they are not sure the measure is actually needed and that this could provide future ideas for other measures wanting to stop other issues and always needed to have a vote beforehand.[13]

See also

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