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Eyman Files Suit Against City Over Camera Petition

The lawsuit asks the court to order Redmond City Clerk Michelle McGehee to hand in petition signatures to the county auditor—or provide reason for not doing so.

State initiative advocate Tim Eyman has asked a judge to order Redmond city clerk Michelle McGehee to hand over the regarding the city's traffic camera enforcement program.

In the motion and memorandum (attached to this story) filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court, Seattle attorney Daniel Quick asserted that state law requires the city to hand over the approximately 6,000 signatures turned over to the city on Sept. 14.

Specifically, he cited RCW 35.21.005, which states: "Within three working days after the filing of a petition, the officer with whom the petition is filed shall transmit the petition to the county auditor for petitions signed by registered voters, or to the county assessor for petitions signed by property owners for determination of sufficiency."

Redmond Mayor John Marchione and other city officials they were not handing over the signatures because they believe the petition is not legally subject to initiative.

Eyman said he is confident the judge will rule in his favor.

"It shouldn’t be necessary to ask a judge to ask our own government to follow the law, but that’s where we’re at," he said. "I don’t think they have a legal leg to stand on.”

The petition is the latest salvo in a battle between Redmond resident Scott Harlan, who began a , and city officials who say they are waiting until the end of the year to evaluate the pilot camera program and decide whether to renew their contact with their camera vendor, America Traffic Solutions.

The hearing on the motion will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle, Eyman said.

The mayor's office issued a statement in response to the litigation, which reads:

Following the City’s legal review, we are advised the proposed Redmond initiative is virtually identical to the City of Bellingham initiative deemed invalid by a recent Court of Appeals ruling and not subject to the initiative process. Despite the court’s ruling on the petition’s validity, the Council and Mayor have heard the perspective of our residents who signed it, and will consider this along with all the data and other feedback we have received as part of our pilot traffic/school zone safety program review at a study session scheduled for October 11. The City’s evaluation on whether or not to continue the pilot program will be completed by December, well before the proposed referendum can be held in February. 

Deputy city administrator Jane Christenson said earlier this afternoon that the city has yet to be offiically served with a notice of a court hearing. The city council's public safety committee is set to review the latest red-light and speed camera data at a meeting later this afternoon.

Robert September 28, 2011 at 03:33 AM
I don't think that Harlan is a Redmond resident. At least I have read several articles quoting him as admitting he is not.
Caitlin Moran September 28, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Hi Robert, he lives in unincorporated Redmond outside the city limits.
Catherine Wittel September 28, 2011 at 06:46 PM
I was not aware Harlan was not a resident within the city limits. If he lives in unincorporated Redmond, he does not pay Redmond city taxes on his property tax and is not qualified to vote in any Redmpond City election. Am I right?
Caitlin Moran September 28, 2011 at 06:52 PM
You are correct. We've mentioned before that he is not a city resident, including in the story we wrote about the beginning of his petition drive: http://patch.com/A-ghWS.
Ken September 29, 2011 at 12:06 AM
I too live in unincorporated King Country with a Redmond address and don't get to vote in Redmond elections. These red light cameras impact me because I drive past them everyday. Even though I do not live in downtown Redmond, most of my shopping, food, and entertainment money is spent in Redmond. BTW -- my tax dollars go to fund the Lake Washington School District. So I too care about what happens in Redmond.
Catherine Wittel September 29, 2011 at 12:24 AM
@Ken - I agree. People who live and work in Redmond are impacted by the red light cameras and certainly should be considered in this decision. I also drive past these red light cameras every day, and many of us have chimed in with a differing opinion. It seems that most of us are fine with a vote, just not a $70-$80k special election vote, especially when the vote would not change the outcome. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars to create a special election. The City Council members have stated they will take into account the 6000+ petition signers when making a decision, and I believe they will. There was no need for a petition supporting the red light cameras, but I have a feeling it would have done as well, based on the average person's concern for pedestrian and bicycle safety. I think the majority of people are satisfied with waiting for the results of the trial period. An election isn't necessary. I think the city council is doing a good job.
Luke B September 29, 2011 at 01:26 PM
@Caitlin - your article states that Harlan is a "Redmond resident". It seems wrong to hear that a Redmond resident is suing his own City. I think he styles himself as a "Redmond activist". @Ken - Every day, many of us frequently cross the street walking to work in one of the red-light camera intersections. Although many of my friends are not Redmond residents, they appreciate that cars seem to be paying more attention to the traffic lights now and it is easier and feels safer to cross the street. I think the City Council is very aware that traffic cameras impact Redmond and non-Redmond residents alike, and they make many decisions that support Redmond's many workers who represent the life blood of this community. @Catherine - I would sign your petition of support of the City Council.
Ken September 29, 2011 at 02:45 PM
First, good discussion. The petition that was presented to Redmond was one to ask for a vote for or against red light cameras, not to ban them. But we all know and it has been seen by other cities, when left to the voters it usually bans the cameras. I agree with Caitlin, spending 70k for a vote in these times seems a bit out of line and would hope that all parties can come to a solution without this added cost. The recent data that came out saying traffic accidents have increased from 14 to 19 makes me wonder are they actually making it safer at these intersections. Only having 14 accidents for that period of time makes me ask the question did we really have a safety problem to begin with? I was a daily bike commuter for three years crossing two of these intersections and felt safe. With the data and input I'll be interested to see what the city decides for the pilot program. Maybe everyone can back off the lawyers until that time.
Caitlin Moran September 29, 2011 at 06:08 PM
A few quick thoughts. First, thank you to everyone once again for sharing your thoughts on this story. Regarding Luke B's point about the term "Redmond resident"--Mr. Harlan has a Redmond address, which is why I feel it's acceptable to call him a resident (and it's often less clunky to just say "Redmond resident" than "unincorporated Redmond resident," "lives just outside the city limits," etc.). I understand, however, that the nature of his political activities makes the distinction relevant to readers, and that not everyone has read the previous stories that give his full background. I will try to be more specific from here on out. Finally, I just wanted to clarify that I believe Ken's above comment "I agree with Caitlin..." was intended to be addressed to Catherine. I've never stated an opinion on the city's decisions regarding the petition, and I will not be doing so in the future. Thanks again to everyone for reading and joining in the discussion.
Ken September 30, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Sorry, the comment was meant for Catherine, thanks.
Malia Kawaguchi September 30, 2011 at 12:56 AM
I just want to comment about how civilized this discussion has been, even when viewpoints have differed, and how much I've enjoyed that. Thanks to all who've maintained civility!
CJ September 30, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Are you serious Ms. Kawaguchi? You are going to applaud others for maintaining civility when you openly laughed at other people's opinions regarding this topic? You are letting your emotions take over where reason and the law should prevail.
Malia Kawaguchi October 01, 2011 at 02:36 PM
I certainly never intended to laugh at other people's opinions. I did laugh at the implication that I - who, if you click on my name, you can see works here at Patch, writes a column on an unrelated topic, and comments frequently and diversely on other articles - was a paid "troll" for a red light company. I still find that amusing. I do think there are well intentioned people on the other side of the red light cameras from me, and there are interesting arguments on both sides. I do not, however, find the consistent maligning of our public servants to be an interesting argument, and I agree with you that it makes me more emotional than reasonable. And I do continue to applaud any who maintain civility, even when acknowledging that I did not manage to.
Douglas October 02, 2011 at 04:34 PM
red light cameras are an abhorrent violation of fundamental human rights. they should be eradicated forever.
Scott Harlan October 03, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Boy.... my ears were burning. Now I know why! This debate should not be about my ability to vote in Redmond because it misdirects attention away from the 6,000+ residents of Redmond that signed the petition. However, to put this issue to rest (hopefully)... I lived inside the Redmond city limits for 20 years. I now live outside the city line but would be thrilled to be annexed to Redmond. I do own three houses inside the city limits and pay about $10,000 in annual property tax to the city. I have been involved in a number of non-profit organizations based in Redmond. I just sent my youngest child to college last month and purchased a new home inside Redmond two weeks ago. If there is any question about why I am spending the thousands of hours that I am on this project, let me answer that. I have seen these programs do horrible things to cities. Redmond has/had a great thing going with its citizens. This program changes that relationship and creates a needless adversarial relationship with its citizens, workers, and visitors. I'm doing this because I care about the city I consider to be my hometown. You will not see my fighting this battle in Lynnwood or Seattle. It's up to their citizens to stand up and fight for their town like others have in 5 cities in Washington this year. To Malia's comment above, I have been commited to conduct our side of this debate cilvilly to see if it that was even possible these days. So far, I think we've been successful.
Catherine Wittel October 03, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Thanks for the clarification Scott. Regardless of where you live, you are within your rights to pursue your efforts and I am always pleased when we Americans exercise our rights. It's good for everyone. Civility has been lacking from time to time, though I don't think it is representative of people on either side of the issue. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( the people who deal with statistics and risk assessment) provides different information. "A 2011 Institute survey in 14 big cities with longstanding red light camera programs found that two-thirds of drivers support their use. A 2002 nationwide survey sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 75 percent of drivers support red light cameras." I'm not sure in what way the cameras would do "horrible things to cities," but I have made a concerted effort over the last 3 weeks to personally observe two cameras -- one at 156th & 40th and the other at 148th & Redmond Way -- I travel through both several times a day, but went and stood there to watch on 3 different occasions. It is not possible for anyone to not notice that cars are being more careful. If that is the goal of the red light camers, mission accomplished (I think). A good debate is not a terrible thing, and I think it creates a winning situation in the end.
Catherine Wittel October 03, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Sorry -- mistake above. It should say: "The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( the people who deal with statistics and risk assessment) disagrees with you."
Catherine Wittel October 03, 2011 at 05:00 PM
This is a Sept 2011 FAQ link for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/rlr.html
Scott Harlan October 03, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Catherine, Thank you for your comments. You have unwittingly tapped in to a whole series of studies that have been proven false by independent sources. I hate the "my study is right and your study is wrong" debate, but since you are interested in the topic, I can send you the two page "debunking" of the Insurance Institue studies that I just sent the council last week. If interested, send me your email address at scott.harlan@redmondfunding.com or maybe I can send the PDF over Facebook. To make our point, look at the circumstantial evidence. Cities across the country are dumping the program. Cash-starved LA's city council voted 13-0 to kill the program. Before that, their POLICE COMMISSION, voted unanimously to kill the program. In theory, the program should work, but does not.
Scott Harlan October 03, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Sorry... you got me on a roll..... To further show how goofy those "driver's like red light cameras" statistics are from IIHS studies, every single time this issue has been on the ballot, voters vote to kill the camera programs. There is no better scientific poll than an election and in 16 out of 16 votes the camera programs are voted down by a wide margin (in Mukilteo 71%-29%). I point this out not to debate your excellent post above but to show how skewed and partial that particular organization is.
Catherine Wittel October 03, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Thanks for the input Scott. The 16 out of 16 camera votes that you cite sounds low to me. Since there are around 1300 cities with red light cameras (maybe more?), I would read that to mean that only 16 have inspired a vote. Usually these issues, like the one in Redmond, are fueled by a small dedicated group of very passionate people, and I respect that. I realize it was a small dedicated group of passionate people who inspired the Revolutionary War, so I am thankful for small groups of passionate people. I am are very sure the people against red light cameras see it as a terrible invasion of privacy and basic rights. I just don't see it that way and can list ad nauseum multiple areas in our life where we sacrifice a perceived privacy for the overall good of the community (in this case, safety). I can glean off the internet the same information available to everyone, and will do that. I realize figures can be interpreted and skewed in any direction, and I'm sure there is some of that on both sides of the issue. For now, I am not at all opposed to the red light cameras, and I have a feeling we will be voting on this one day. I do stand by my personal observation that the drivers at the red light camera intersections are not speeding up to race through the lights, and I think that is good, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians. That being said, for now, we disagree and I honestly respect the amount of work you are putting into this. Thanks Scott.
CJ October 04, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Thanks for your response Scott. It's frustrating that you've had to reveal personal interests and property holdings in order to get this issue the attention it deserves. It's clear you know this issue inside and out and I hope the will of the people can be realized without a huge legal nightmare.

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