Washington Court: Public Should Not Be Allowed to Vote On Traffic Camera Bans
(MintPress) – The public should remain powerless and not be allowed to vote on whether or not red light cameras or speed cameras should be installed and used in cities across Washington state, at least according to a Feb. 19 ruling from Washington state’s second highest court.
While this decision may not reflect the opinion of the people, the Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 vote, upheld an initial decision by the Washington Supreme Court that city councils have the right to partner with private companies to install traffic cameras, even if the public protests. Meaning, these judges have used their supreme power and blocked the public from voting on the use of traffic cameras, allowing cities in Washington state to legally continue the use of the Big Brother-type traffic cameras for the foreseeable future.
According to a post on Lawyers.com, traffic cameras are seen as total surveillance by the government since the cameras are unmanned, and cities use automatic ticketing machines to enforce the traffic laws. “Drivers loathe these systems for being unfair, invasive to privacy and a violation of civil liberties” — fueling the fear that Big Brother is watching.
This latest ruling involved a case that first began in 2011, after Redmond City Clerk Michelle McGehee decided not to forward the some 6,050 signatures on a petition that sought to ban law enforcement from sending photos from the traffic cameras to the county auditor for verification. McGehee was required by state law to turn over the signatures, but chose not to because she was reportedly aware that if the public was able to decide the fate of the cameras, the cameras would lose.
According to TheNewspaper, Washington residents in the cities of Bellingham, Longview, Monroe and Mukilteo voted by as much as 71 percent to outlaw the use of automated ticketing machines or traffic cameras.
Tim Eyman was a co-sponsor of an initiative that sought for the use of traffic cameras to be approved by both the city council and the public before they could be installed. He called the Supreme Court’s ruling last March “arrogant.”
“The government’s going to decide which issues are OK for you to talk about and which issues are not OK for you to talk about,” Eyman told TheNewspaper. “Essentially the courts, the government and red light camera companies are saying, ‘Wait a minute, if you have a discussion and debate on this, you’re going to end up coming out against what we want and so therefore we have to shut down this discussion. There must not be any more votes on this topic because they don’t go our way.’ It’s Putin-esque.”
The Court’s ruling addressed McGehee’s failure to pass along the petition and ruled that she failed to “comply with her mandatory legal duty.” But the court upheld the state’s use of the cameras, saying that “the reasoning of a state Supreme Court ruling insisting camera bans were contrary to the state law, placing the decision on whether to use cameras in the hands of the ‘governing body,’ not the people.”
Though officials won the legal rights to use the traffic cameras, many of the cities stopped using traffic cameras in June 2012 because of public pressure. Washington voters will also have the chance to have their voice heard on a statewide initiative I-517, which would overturn the court precedent and force a vote on the issue.
A similar initiative appeared on the ballot in November 2010 in Mukilteo, Wash. Seventy-one percent of voters chose to vote in favor of the initiative, Proposition 1, which would outlaw the use of cameras unless they received approval from the electorate, but the Washington Supreme Court ruled this initiative went too far.
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