Union Hill man leads effort to ban traffic enforcement cameras: Harlan teams up with Tim Eyman to gather signatures for initiative
March 29, 2011 · Updated 12:05 PM
Union Hill resident Scott Harlan, with the help of initiative guru Tim Eyman, is leading a charge to put the traffic enforcement camera debate on the November ballot — and let the people decide.
Harlan, along with Nick Sherwood, Alex Rion and Eyman are the co-sponsors of Redmond Initiative No. 1 — "Let The People Decide on Red Light Cameras in Redmond." If the initiative is put on the ballot and passed, it would ban the use of cameras to catch traffic violators and fine them unless approved by the City Council and voters.
Harlan and his co-sponsors were at the Safeway at Bear Creek Village on Saturday to begin collecting the 3,845 valid signatures needed by June 1 to get a city initiative on the ballot.
Harlan said about 150 signatures were collected on Saturday and he is working to build a team of volunteers to continue the signature drive.
Harlan said he disagrees with the camera enforcement, claiming the cameras are intrusive, distracting, and could evolve into an unethical form of policing and money making by the city.
“In my mind, this is an issue of such import that citizens should decide if they want this, yes or no,” Harlan said. “This issue clearly touches a nerve. I think it’s appropriate the community has a say in this issue.”
The City Council approved the use of a 10-month traffic enforcement camera pilot program last September. The program, which features red-light cameras at three busy intersections and a speed camera in a school zone, began March 3 and has already generated more than 1,500 citations in the first two weeks, along with a heated debate among residents and city officials.
Eyman is the notorious political activist who has sponsored or worked on several initiatives at the state level. He has also gotten involved with initiatives at the local level. Most recently, he helped with an initiative in Mukilteo that required a public vote before any traffic enforcement cameras are installed in that city and lowered the $124 fine to $20. The initiative passed 71 percent to 29 percent.
Eyman and company are hoping to pass the same initiative in Redmond.
“It’s a perverse incentive for the government to make more money based on maximizing the number of law breakers,” Eyman said. “We think it should be the people that decide this. … It’s taxation through citation, another way to pick the pocket of the tax payers.”
Harlan is a Redmond businessman with connections to several community groups. He was the past president of the Lake Washington Schools Foundation and currently sits on the board of the Together Center, a Redmond-based human services group.
Sherwood, a Puyallup resident, is an activist for BanCams.com, a group dedicated to outlawing traffic cameras across the state.
Rion is the interim state coordinator for Washington's Campaign for Liberty, a grass-roots political activism group.
The co-sponsors sent the initiative, along with a letter to Mayor John Marchione and all seven City Council members — Richard Cole, Pat Vache, Kimberley Allen, David Carson, Hank Margeson, Hank Myers and John Stilin — on Friday, announcing their intentions to put this issue on the ballot.
"We intend to have a civil debate on the merits of this program and putting the issue before the voters will determine whether Redmond citizens accept or reject the automatic ticketing cameras advocated by the city," the letter said.
Marchione issued a statement Friday afternoon after learning of the group's efforts.
“This initiative is the wrong process at the wrong time," he stated. "We carefully and thoughtfully implemented a one-year pilot program to create and evaluate traffic safety cameras,” stated Marchione. “We have a process already established where we will evaluate the data and determine at the end of the year whether or not to continue the program."
Marchione continued, “Our program is unique in that any revenue generated over the cost of the program can only be spent on traffic and pedestrian safety programs and capital improvements not already budgeted for in our current 2011-2012 budget.”
Traffic safety programs that could be implemented with additional revenue include implementing crosswalks where none exists, painting crosswalks or lines at intersections to be more visible, installing flashing yellow beacons at school zones that indicate a school speed zone limit is in effect and installing additional street lighting, according to the press release.
“The Council and I are certainly aware of the public’s interest in traffic safety cameras and therefore we undertook a prolonged and intensive public awareness campaign that began four months before the cameras were installed,” stated Mayor Marchione. “It is interesting to note that we received very little negative feedback from residents during these outreach efforts.”
The public outreach program began in September 2010 and included a utility bill stuffer sent to all water users (including non-residents on Redmond Ridge), a brochure sent to employees of large employers and distributed through all public buildings, articles in the Redmond Reporter and the city’s online newsletter, posters and information on the city’s website at www.redmond.gov/safetycameras.
Marchione called the Redmond Reporter Friday morning and said the initiative effort is a "temper tantrum in the middle of the government process."
Eyman responded, saying, “most people don’t believe the First Amendment is a temper tantrum. Basically (the mayor) is attacking a constitutional right.”
The initiative will not cost the city any extra money — except for possibly some extra printing costs for the ballot and voters' pamphlet — because there are already Redmond races on the November ballot, according to Michelle McGehee, Redmond city clerk.
If there were no city races on the ballot and the initiative called for a special election, then the city would have to pay for that expense, McGehee explained.
During the one-month warning period in February, the Redmond Police Department (RPD) issued 2,562 warnings at the three intersections and one school zone, Police Chief Ron Gibson told the City Council's public safety committee at a meeting Tuesday evening at City Hall council chambers.
The number of camera-enforced citations is on pace to exceed that amount this month as RPD issued a combined 1,586 citations between March 3 and 16 — an average of about 113 violations per day.
The cameras are located eastbound on Redmond Way at 148th Avenue Northeast, eastbound and westbound on Northeast 40th Street at 156th Avenue Northeast, and westbound on Union Hill Road and northbound on Avondale Road where those two roads intersect. A speed zone camera is also located at Einstein Elementary, 18025 N.E. 116th St. If caught on camera, violators will receive a $124 fine, the same amount if an a patrol officer caught someone running a red light or speeding in a school zone.
For more information about Redmond Initiative No. 1, visit www.BanCams.com/Redmond