Eyman continues legal battle to ban all traffic-enforcement cameras in Redmond

Tim Eyman - Courtesy photo
Tim Eyman
— image credit: Courtesy photo

As long as traffic-enforcement cameras — of any kind — remain in Redmond, Tim Eyman will continue his legal battle to get the issue on an upcoming ballot.

Eyman's attorney filed an opening argument to a Washington state appeals court last Friday morning in hopes of reversing a county court decision that blocked a citizen-driven effort to put the issue of traffic-enforcement cameras on the ballot.

Eyman, a state-initiative advocate who lives in Mukilteo, along with Union Hill resident Scott Harlan, are co-sponsors of a proposed initiative that would ban the use of traffic-enforcement cameras unless approved by the City Council and Redmond voters.

Last October, a King County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city when it chose not to forward the petition — filed by Eyman and Harlan — to King County elections for verification.

Judge Laura C. Inveen ruled that Redmond city clerk Michelle McGehee does have a "clear duty to transmit the petition to the county auditor" within three days of receiving the petition according to state law. But Inveen concluded that it would be a "useless act" for the city to turn in the petition to the county for signature validation, saying the issue concerning traffic-enforcement cameras falls under the power of city legislature rather than the initiative process, based on a September 2011 appeals court ruling in Bellingham.

Last November, the city filed a cross-appeal to the appeals court, concerning Inveen's decision that McGehee had a clear duty to turn in the petition, according to city attorney Jim Haney. Then last month, Eyman's attorney, Daniel Quick, filed a motion to reconsider to Inveen, but that was denied, according to Eyman.

Now, Eyman is hopeful the Division I Washington State Appeals Court will reverse the county court's decision.

Quick's opening brief, which he filed last Friday, argues the city is ignoring the 6,050 signatures collected by Harlan and his local volunteer group by not turning in the petition.

"The claim that processing of Redmond Initiative No. 1 would be a useless act fails to recognize that the initiative is a valid expression of political speech," the opening brief states. "The Redmond voters who signed petitions were sending a message to the city that they want their voices heard on the issue of automatic ticketing cameras. Validation of the initiative would have a political impact and lobbying effect on the city on this issue, just as the submission of signatures did."

Quick said the initiative is "an expression of the people," and that the city leaders should not be able to determine which initiatives get turned in.

"That takes significant power away from the people," Quick said.

The petition needs to have at least 3,845 valid signatures by certified Redmond voters, which needs to be verified by King County elections. But city officials did not forward the petition, sparking Eyman to take legal action.

"Let's find out if we got enough signatures," Eyman said of the five-month, signature-gathering effort. "There's no harm in letting this proceed."

The city has 30 days to respond to Quick's opening brief to the appeals court, according to Redmond Mayor John Marchione. After that, Quick has 30 days to provide a response — if he chooses to do so. From there, the appeals court will then set a date for oral argument and then a written decision would be released several weeks after that.  The city's cross-appeal will be heard and decided at the same time as Eyman’s appeal, according to Haney.

The mayor said he believes Eyman's original lawsuit and appeal is a waste of time and money.

"I think it's an incredible waste of taxpayer money for (Eyman) to continue this when the City Council has already decided what to do with red-light cameras," Marchione said.

Last November, Redmond City Council voted to terminate its contract with its traffic camera vendor, American Traffic Solutions (ATS). The contract, which features five red-light cameras at three intersections and two speed cameras at one school zone, is set to expire at the end of the month. But Council is expected to approve a new contract with ATS to continue the speed cameras near Einstein Elementary School through the end of the school year, which will be late June.

City officials are also working on a long-range, comprehensive traffic enforcement plan, which could call for more speed cameras in school zones in the future as city officials look to improve safety near Redmond schools. The city is also considering adding speed indicator signs to school zones, which Eyman says is an effective alternative to "those obnoxious ticketing cameras."

So far, the city has spent more than $13,000 on litigation concerning traffic enforcement cameras, according to an email from McGehee, the city clerk, sent to Eyman on Monday.

"We firmly believe that the court of appeals will follow its holding in American Traffic Solutions v. Bellingham and reach the same conclusion in Mr. Eyman's case against Redmond," Haney wrote in an email to the Redmond Reporter.

Eyman said he will continue his legal battle to ban traffic enforcement cameras as he is convinced Redmond residents don't want cameras of any sort — even speed cameras in school zones — in their city.

"You want me to go away?" Eyman said. "Take down the ticketing cameras. It's not about me anymore, it's not about Scott (Harlan) anymore, it's for those 6,000 people who are against those ticketing cameras."

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