August 29, 2011 in Region

Eyman, red-light-camera foes push for city bans

Ballot-measure king finds an issue with broad support
By Emily Heffter The Seattle Times
How they work in Washington
• When a sensor embedded in the road detects a red-light runner, a camera at the intersection shoots photographs and a 20-second video of the car and its license plate.

• The photos are reviewed in Arizona, where scores of technicians in cubicles determine whether there was a violation. They send suspected red-light runners’ photos to local police, who tell the red-light company where to send the tickets.

• The $124 ticket arrives in the mail a couple of weeks later. Cities are raking in millions of dollars.

Tim Eyman’s anti-tax initiatives have developed, he admits, “a partisan tinge” over the years. But Washington’s ballot-measure king says he finally has found an issue that unites voters across the aisle: red-light cameras.

An Eyman-led backlash against the cameras is sweeping the state and raising ethical and legal questions about their use for public safety and revenue.

Last year, 71 percent of Mukilteo voters said they wanted to ban the cameras, which snap photos of cars running red lights, and tickets are mailed to their owners. Camera measures are headed for the November ballot in Longview, Bellingham and Monroe, and signature-gathering is under way in Redmond and Wenatchee.

All but the Redmond effort have gone to court. The state Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether state law allows voters to ban the cameras, so the measures are moving forward without much legal clarity.

“Washington is kind of becoming a battleground state, because I think the red-light-camera companies know that if they lose Washington, they’ll probably lose the rest of the country,” said state Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, a former police officer who says the camera revenue has become “crack cocaine” for cities.

Read the full story here.

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