August 23, 2011

Last year in my hometown of Mukilteo (just named the 9th best place to live in the U.S.), the city tried to bring red-light cameras and speed cameras to our community. We were knee-deep in collecting signatures for tougher-to-raise-taxes I-1053 (2/3 for tax increases, legislative approval for fee increases), but I made time to team up with a bunch of great people to sponsor the initiative. Long story short, we got the initiative on last November's ballot and voters here rejected the cameras with 71% of the vote. Wowza.

I was subsequently contacted by activists in other cities in Washington wanting to get public votes on ticketing cameras in their communities too. So last year, there was one initiative in Mukilteo -- this year there are five -- Bellingham, Longview, Monroe, Redmond, and Wenatchee. Every single one of them have been enormously fun, interesting, and important. Each one has its own soap opera associated with it. I could write a novel about each one, including glowing accounts of the local citizens who have done all the hard work to make them a success.

These campaigns haven't distracted me/us from our statewide initiatives. Last year's I-1053 and this year's "Son of 1053" I-1125 remain our primary focus.

Nonetheless, it's been an incredibly gratifying experience working on these local city initiatives with these local citizens. It turns out local initiatives are not utilized very often -- it was only the second initiative in Mukilteo city history to get enough signatures and the first to make it through the gauntlet for a public vote. It is Wenatchee Initiative #1, Redmond Initiative #1, and Longview Initiative #1 -- it is the second initiative in Monroe city history and the first initiative in 6 years in Bellingham.

To be clear, these initiatives don't prohibit automatic ticketing cameras, they simply let the voters decide. But after the 71% vote against the cameras in my hometown of Mukilteo, the efforts by cities and the red-light camera companies have been focused on blocking the people from voting.

Their adage is "since we won't win the vote, prevent the vote." It's really an obscene abuse of power.

Fortunately, we're having great success bulldozing through their anti-vote obstruction. Last week, a Bellingham judge not only dismissed the red-light camera company's motion to block the vote on the initiative, but the judge slapped the company with a huge a $10,000 fine for even bringing the lawsuit and forced them to pay the attorneys fees for the initiative campaign.

For cities, ticketing cameras are like crack cocaine, once they get hooked on them, they can't get off (newspapers are starting to illustrate this: Lynnwood chief: Police jobs depend on enforcement cameras -- Chief concedes his department relies on millions in ticket revenue, EVERETT HERALD, Thursday, August 18th, 2011). It's a policy based on a lie -- politicians claim it's not about the money when it clearly is. To me, ticketing cameras are taxation-through-citation, just another way for government to pick-pocket the taxpayers. Worst of all, the more lawbreakers there are, the more money they make, providing a perverse incentive for the cities and the camera companies to INCREASE, NOT DECREASE, the number of lawbreakers. But again, our initiatives aren't about whether cameras are good or bad, but they're about who should decide: the people or the politicians? We think politicians have a built-in conflict-of-interest: they're getting the money so they can't be objective. The people have no such conflict: they can weigh the sacrifice of their civil liberties and violation of their constitutional rights against the supposed safety benefits of cameras.

As long as our supporters continue to contribute to our statewide efforts, your support will allow Jack, Mike, and I to continue being activists for many different causes. There's nothing more gratifying to us than fighting for causes we believe in and letting the voters decide.

Posted by Tim Eyman at August 23, 2011 11:21 AM | Email This
1. Wouldn't it be Great, to have an Initiative drive to let the Voters decide on the matter of the disincorporation of the Municipality they reside in? Yeah, that's Right...The County and the State are fully capable of handling the needs of any Community and are doing so with other Communities throughout the State. Think of the Tax relief for the residents of that Municipality. You wouldn't have to pay for that extra heavy layer of expensive cost and duplicity of Government siphoning off your Liberty and disposable income. Yes, think of the increase of Liberty of reduced codes and the endless requirements of expensive permits for doing what you want with your own property. This includes things as simple as cutting down a tree on your property without asking permission and perhaps, being denied cutting your own tree down and or fined for doing so. Yeah...the prospects and advantages are endless.

Oh...The question of being robbed by Red-Light Cameras would not even be on the horizon.

Posted by: Daniel on August 23, 2011 04:24 PM
2. work of the lord, here. A friend of mine was just rear-ended & badly hurt at a cam intersection in Auburn. She braked hard, knowing there was a cam, and the guy behind her, perhaps not knowing, kept going. Her axle was in her back seat after the wreck.

This is no different from the guy who lies in wait & hits people over the head to rob them. It's the same thing.

Posted by: travis t on August 23, 2011 04:43 PM
3. Travis- Sorry to hear about your friend. But if she couldn't stop safely, she was going too fast in the first place (assuming she was paying attention to the light). I suspect far more people are seriously injured because of people running red lights than because of people stopping for them, so anything that encourages people to stop improves safety overall.

Posted by: Bruce on August 23, 2011 07:18 PM
4. I'm 100% with you, Tim! For the sake of more accountable, more responsive government, let the people vote on this issue.

There are times when overpaid bureacrats, arrogant experts, social engineering elites, and entrenched elected officials think they know better than the people. And that often is exactly when liberty is threatened.

As a result of the tea party movement, a big part of the new political atmosphere sweeping the nation is opposition to the arrogance of big government advocates, and an insistence that government must serve people - not the other way around! ("We The People!")

In another thread, one SoundPolitics writer actually (and astonishingly!) went 100% counter to this concept - to the idea that the people know better than the liberal bureaucrats. He wrote, as part of an argument in favor of the votes of Lambert and Hague in favor of $20 car tabs, and blocking a vote of the people:

"If Lambert and Hague hadn't voted for this measure it would have gone to the vote of the people and it would have failed."

I don't know if it would have passed or failed. But when there is an assumption that the people are solidly opposed to something is advanced as part of the argument blocking a vote of the people, watch out!

If votes are blocked whenever the elites are worried that the people aren't being fooled, it could be applied to anything - including the issue of red light cameras.

Posted by: Steve Beren on August 23, 2011 07:41 PM
5. Bruce,

Studies have shown that RLCs at best offer a slight improvement in safety, and may make it worse.

Here is one such study:

if she couldn't stop safely, she was going too fast in the first place

Reading comprehension failure on your part. Getting rear-ended is not generally evidence that the driver was going too fast.

Posted by: Dishman on August 23, 2011 07:51 PM
6. Yeah, Brucy we all want to be Safe. So, Safe that we want to be highly penalized for any risky behavior on our part. We want all Freedom of discretion removed and replaced by a myriad of laws with strict penalties for disobeyance. We want to live in a Prison Society where we hand over our paychecks to our keepers. Yeah, we are more than, wiling to give up our Liberty and Substance just, to be Safe. We want to be good Liberals and we all know Government knows what's best for us. We, in no way, want Government to be our servants and do our bidding but, we want only to be the slaves of Government. Wouldn't the World be a better place if we were all slaves? Wouldn't Life be more pleasing and much more happier and above all...SAFER?

Didn't some awful person say; "Those who would give up their Liberty for Safety deserve Neither"?

Posted by: Daniel on August 23, 2011 08:16 PM
7. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

Posted by: Tim Eyman on August 23, 2011 08:29 PM
8. Daniel, are you seriously suggesting the majority of counties are better run and more responsive than the majority of cities in this state? Riiiiight.

Posted by: kb on August 23, 2011 09:16 PM
9. What I'm saying that Municipalities are an unnecessary Duplicity of Government that causes a Great unnecessary Burden weighing upon the Liberty and Purse of the Governed. That there is no need, in this day of age, for a separate layer of expensive Liberty stealing Government called Municipalities/City Governments. The County and State are more than, enough to deal with needs of the People and their Communities and have been doing so with unincorporated Communities for many, many years. Those who live in unincorporated Communities have lower Taxes, less regulations/codes, more Liberty and more property rights. Municipalities are nothing more than, a Con, a Rip-Off and Theft by the Hustlers and Parasites of this World of Liberty and Purse on those who are residents of the Municipalities. Get it? Not if you're a Liberal.

Posted by: Daniel on August 23, 2011 10:12 PM
10. Dishman#5 writes, "Getting rear-ended is not generally evidence that the driver was going too fast."

Of course. But Travis blamed his friend's accident on having to "brake hard" because she knew there was a camera; he was clearly blaming the camera for leading her to brake unsafely. That wouldn't have been necessary if she had been driving more slowly.

Tim@7 writes, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Sorry, I value my safety on the highways over your "liberty" to break the law -- especially the law about stopping at red lights, which is one of the most important for safety. You've made some reasonable arguments against RLCs, but this is one of your most absurd.

Posted by: Bruce on August 23, 2011 10:32 PM
11. the problem is the cameras are not profitable unless they game the system, for red light cameras, if you make what they consider a bad right turn on red, how many people will take the time off work to fight the ticket.

Posted by: Ron K on August 24, 2011 01:55 AM
12. Bruce I have no idea whether she was speeding, nor do you. It's entirely possible that she was just close to the intersection when the light turned yellow. Close enough that, under normal circumstances she would have gone thru, but because she was worried about the cam, she decided to stop. I don't even know how hard she braked. We don't know whether it was a panic stop or just a little-quicker-than-normal stop. The point is, the accident would have been unlikely but for the cameras. And the main function of the cameras is not safety, but revenue.

Posted by: travis t on August 24, 2011 01:55 AM
13. Tim, How about a state wide initiative to set the fine for a red light camera to the lowest cost parking ticket or $5.00 which ever is lower!

Posted by: fjt on August 24, 2011 06:18 AM
14. I dont shop where they have red light cameras.
Problem solved. The greedy bastards dont
deserve my money. They should focus on handing
out tickets to drivers going under the speed
limit. They must be Obama voters.

Posted by: mark on August 24, 2011 06:38 AM
15. The far Greater need is to break the slavish mindset that living under the fiefdom of a Municipality is more of a service than, a disservice. The reality is that a Municipality always provides more of a disservice by providing more interference in our Right to Liberty and pursuit of Happiness. This is done by placing more restrictions to our Life's Choices/Freedoms through higher Taxes and more Regulations. After all, Municipalities are run by a gang of Criminals living off your Liberty and Substance.

Posted by: Danield on August 24, 2011 08:09 AM
16. Post #15 should be Daniel and not /Danield

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 08:15 AM
17. Thanks Tim. Anything we can do to starve government is a good thing. We knew there was a problem when government went from being small, humble and service related in the 1980s, to massively expanding in to brand new buildings and talking about new forms of "revenue" in the 1990s and 2000s. You hear government types speak as if ticketing, taxing, permitting, etc. is actually raising revenue as a business raises revenue.

Government is like a child. The only thing it understands is a hand slap and the word NO. Take away their ticketing toys so they have to learn to do with less, just like the rest of the real world.

Posted by: Jeff B. on August 24, 2011 08:53 AM
18. 1) Tim's getting involved in helping others to do Initiatives is a plus. So few are done there is not a lot of jungle knowledge how to proceed. Cities like Longview do everything they can to derail them. Tim to the rescue.

2) The FHWA MUTCD K&F formula for traffic signal timing allows the driver to ELECTIVELY choose to stop safely (no panic braking) or continue safely through the intersection. When this timing is violated, which it always is to create camera profitability, THERE IS NO SPEED, FASTER OR SLOWER, YOU CAN GO TO RE-GAIN THAT OPTION. Enough already with the uninformed comment "going too fast".

3) It is counter-intuitive, but even the FHWA has studies showing gaming the light timing trades less injurious, less costly side crashes for more costly, more serious injury rear-end crashes. These studies have withstood rigorous review.

4) Force the city to follow the federal safety guidelines and safety goes up, cameras go away.

Posted by: SeenItBefore on August 24, 2011 10:06 AM
19. Here's an interesting quote:

One of the penalties of not participating in politics is that you will be governed by your inferiors.

-- Plato

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 10:22 AM
20. SeenItBefore@18 writes "When this timing is violated, which it always is to create camera profitability..."

I agree that yellow light timing is critical, but your statement just makes no sense. You literally say the the timing standard is "always" violated, which of course is untrue. You may be trying to say that it's always violated when there are cameras, or that whenever it's violated, the reason is to create profitability. Those statements are also provably untrue. (Hint: It's easy to disprove a claim that involves the word "always".) Slightly more plausible is the claim that cities are more likely to violate the timing standard if they have cameras, but the only data I've seen on that was anecdotal and statistically weak.

In any case, we can agree that yellow light timing should comply with intelligent safety standards, regardless of enforcement mechanism. But this is separate from the question of what's the better way to enforce one of the most important rules of traffic safety: require a trained, taxpayer-supported law enforcement officer to sit around watching and then trust his recollection, or use inexpensive modern technology that provides incontyrovertible proof of what happened. Why do you support wasting taxpayer funds, preventing cops from stopping real crime, and convicting drivers based on unreliable testimony?

Posted by: Bruce on August 24, 2011 11:08 AM
21. But this is separate from the question of what's the better way to enforce

No, it's not 'separate.' It's entirely integral, because it's the use of the cams that incentivizes the fudging of yellow light timing. With the cams, it becomes like a license to print money.

When enforcement of traffic laws is driven by maximizing revenue instead of safety, we're bound to get more revenue and less safety. Bruce, why do you support less safety?

Posted by: travis t on August 24, 2011 12:17 PM
22. Hey Bruce...The are more things involved with the misused of Red Light Cameras than, the yellow light timing. One of them is that the RLC breaches a very serious component of the Law that protects Society from abuses of the Law and that is the Spirit of the Law. There are two factors of the Law and both must be satisfied before the force of the law is applied. Those two factors are the Spirit of the Law and the Letter of the Law. The Spirit of the Law, which in this case is Traffic Safety, must be violated First before the Letter of the Law can be applied.

In dealing with RLCs, there is no scrutiny at all as to whether, the Spirit of the Law has indeed been violated. Yes, that's Right! You need a Witness to the scene as to whether, any Safety issues have been violated. With RLCs, there is no Witness to cover fully the event. Was anybody at risk whatsoever by the running of the red light? Could it be that the intersection was completely empty and there was no reason in the World to come to a Stop? The same with a Stop Sign. If there is no immediate traffic in the area, do you need to slavishly come to a complete stop before proceeding? Of course NOT! However, if you are an unthinking Liberal you probably will.

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 12:38 PM
23. Daniel, you are seriously confused if you think you can't be convicted of a traffic offense without "a Witness to the scene as to whether, any Safety issues have been violated". There's simply no basis for your view in our country. You may wish we had such a system, but we don't. That's not a liberal or conservative position, it's a fact.

Posted by: Bruce Terence Burger on August 24, 2011 01:39 PM
24. Bruce T or is it just, plain Bruce/Brucy...You're full of CRAP! You can be convicted of all kinds of things if you don't know the law or lacking a good lawyer and are unable to know and stand up for your Rights. What else is new? For you to say that there is no basis for my view in our Country is completely misguided, Wrong and a LIE! The Law provides the Right to a Witness dealing with the circumstances of such activities. Yes, they have to prove that you have violated the Spirit of the Law first, before they can apply the Letter of the Law. The Spirit of the Law is a basic foundation stone that protects us from the Law being abusive rather than, serving Society. In fact, you can just, say that you were not the driver of the car when, the Red Light violation occurred and since they can't prove who was behind the wheel, the case would be dismissed. You can Blab all you want saying no they can't but then, you're a Liberal who doesn't know up from down. No surprise. What a DOLT!

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 02:08 PM
25. Daniel blathers, "The Spirit of the Law is a basic foundation stone that protects us from the Law being abusive..."

Of course police and prosecutors have the discretion to assess the spirit of the law, but courts convict (and appeals courts uphold) based on the letter of the law. Your claim that you can run a stop sign if there's no safety danger is ludicrous, and I challenge you to find a single legal citation supporting your view.

"you can just, say that you were not the driver of the car when, the Red Light violation occurred and since they can't prove who was behind the wheel, the case would be dismissed"

Sure, accused people lie about all sorts of things, and courts do their best to assess their credibility. But in the case of RLCs I believe cities treat them as infractions against the vehicle owner, not moving violations against the driver, in order to get around this problem.

Posted by: Bruce on August 24, 2011 02:34 PM
26. Bruce, I've been involved in the safety vs. revenue push-pull for over two years. I stand behind every word I have written.

Show me a red-light camera and I'll show you a traffic signal with clipped green and yellow light times. Cameras are a business; This is how you implement the camera business model.

Cameras are sited where there is enough traffic to make money, not where there is a problem. The FHWA has booklets showing how to reduce RLVs. It's telling that cameras are not on that list.

A camera company getting a split of the citation revenue would never agree to safe and sane signal timing. To do so would dramatically slash income. In Virginia, violations dropped 91% and 94% when the signals were properly re-timed under court order.

The operative lesson here is if the camera is making money, the signal light timing does not meet the FHWA MUTCD safety guidelines. This is a universal truth you can take to the bank.

Posted by: SeenItBefore on August 24, 2011 02:55 PM
27. Oh...are you back to using your name again with out the additions? What a Laugh! The whole idea of bringing the matter to the Court is to examine the two factors of the Law and the application to the circumstances thereof. Naturally, if you are unwilling to defend yourself in a Court of Law then, you simply pay up, rightfully or wrongfully.

In the matter of the RLCs the Court does not bother to go after the vehicle owner, they simply dismiss the case...PERIOD! The vehicle owner is in no way responsible for the actions of another capable legal driver of said vehicle...PERIOD! But, you being a Liberal and lacking Common Sense in dealing in depth and with any extrapolations of events will blindly follow the letter of the Law no matter what the circumstances.

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 02:57 PM
28. SeenItBefore, if your concern is that light timing isn't safe, why not push for laws or initiatives that require following safe standards? I would think you'd want that to save lives and prevent unfair ticketing by real live police officers as well as by cameras. That would make more sense than preventing cities from using technology for law enforcement.

Posted by: Bruce on August 24, 2011 03:20 PM
29. Bruce@28, I hate to admit it, but your point is well taken. The cams are just an enforcement tool, an implement. It would be better to focus on the principle, namely that traffic rules should be geared to safe & efficient travel, not to revenue.

So how about this: instead of passing laws on yellow light timing, which is a technical matter best left to engineers, not legislators, what about a law that forbids cities (and private companies) from keeping any of the fine revenue? Instead the fine revenue could be passed on to random charities, or maybe just rebated back to taxpayers? That would get rid of the incentive to fudge the light timing.

The cams & enforcement then could be funded from general revenue like anything else. If they're really worthwhile safety-wise, cities would keep them. If not, they'd be dropped.

Posted by: travis t on August 24, 2011 03:49 PM
30. Get Real...Bruce! You still don't get it and you probably never will. It has been explained to you, ad nauseam, over and over again about the complaint and what's wrong in the City's jepardizing of Safety and fairness in their use of RLCs. The Cities Know the standards that are set for the traffic lights and they have ignored and are purposely not complying with the standards in order to rob/mug the public. Have a Clue! Naah...Forget it, you're a Liberal.

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 03:53 PM
31. Travis@29, those are good ideas that I would heartily endorse.

Posted by: Bruce on August 24, 2011 03:54 PM
32. Wow. I agree with Bruce. The problem is that the cities have turned that camera in to "revenue" sources. If the cameras were only used to implement safety in truly dangerous and oft-violated intersections, they would be welcome. Disconnect the incentive from the camera, problem solved. Another big part of the problem is that although Bruce calls these cameras inexpensive, they are anything but. The only way cities can afford them is to allow the RLC companies to install them for free in exchange for a cut of every infraction.

If the tax per ticket was removed, then the RLC companies would be forced to move them to somewhere else, ultimately going out of business when enough Americans realized that bounties and government funded bounty companies are not a reasonable way for a government to behave towards its citizens.

Posted by: Jeff B. on August 24, 2011 04:11 PM
33. "If your concern is that light timing isn't
safe, why not push for laws or initiatives
that require following safe standards?"

The cities are ignoring their own codes. For example, in Longview, LMC 11.20.030 states the lights are to be set using the K&F Formula. Does the Longview Public Works do so? No. Did informing the top three layers of Longview government the code was NOT being followed in the camera-ed intersection result in any change? No.

Cities can ignore existing laws with impunity. Step one would be to criminalize such failure to follow the law and start jailing those responsible. Until that comes about, cities effectively flip off the traveling public and do whatever the hell they want, the public be damned.

Posted by: SeenItBefore on August 24, 2011 06:06 PM
34. Travis, the engineering in question has been on the books for 30 years, with the latest refinement in 1998 when Kell and Fullerton added a bit to account for grade. It's there, it's the law, and it works.

The problem is cities refuse to follow it when it interferes with revenue generation. They have a variety of excuses, all bogus.

The only people the city has to fear are trial lawyers who eat them for lunch when a driver stops believing it is their fault, hires an lawyer, and cleans out the city treasury after proving the timing is unsafe according to federal standards and in violation of the city's own code.

You've seen the headlines: "Driver runs red light, crashes into another car, sues the city for millions and wins." I am really, really surprised Lynnwood isn't buried in lawsuits for the racket they have going. What they have going is not sustainable.

Posted by: SeenItBefore on August 24, 2011 06:20 PM
35. Welcome to Sound Politics...SeenItBefore. I appreciate your input. Thank you.

Posted by: Daniel on August 24, 2011 08:39 PM
36. I know that when I'm driving in Bellevue, I keep my foot ready for the brakes. I slow down approaching a green light, just waiting for it to turn yellow so I don't get nailed by a "safety" camera.

It's my form of tax protest.

Posted by: Tomas de Torquemada on August 25, 2011 02:17 PM
37. Good Point...Tomas. Yeah, with the RLCs threatening all drivers, drivers are now, so gun-shy that they slow down much more then, was ever necessary when approaching an intersection. Yeah, that excess of slowing down really helps the smooth and expeditious flow of traffic. But, do the Cities care? Naah...Revenue enhancement aka robbing the Citizenry is far more important than, the resulting traffic congestion and slower flow through on Cities' streets.

Posted by: Daniel on August 25, 2011 02:48 PM
38. @34 thank you, you're a wealth of info. The lawsuit angle is interesting--I had not thought of it. I will pass it on to my friend who was rear-ended and injured at a cam. intersection.

Of course the problem with this kind of lawsuit is that the wrong person ends up being held accountable--the taxpayer. City gov't just keeps on keepin on. And the hypothetical answer that I suggested above (and Bruce actually agreed) will never, ever be adopted by a city gov't.

Thus I still think that Eyman's approach is the most practical, and most likely to yield results.

Posted by: travis t on August 25, 2011 04:17 PM
39. Daniel @ post 19:

Well said. Or as my Momma (an El Paso Texan) once said:

"If you didn't vote, don't bitch."

Posted by: ERNurse on August 26, 2011 01:48 AM
40. The State should just ban the damned stupid cameras. It's a backdoor tax to support bloated city bureaucracies and public employee unions.

Of course, given the one party nature of this particular State, I wouldn't be surprised if the State decided to get in on the action and put speed cameras up and down I-5 and I-90, Bellingham to Vancouver, Seattle to Spokane.

In fact, I predict this is exactly what will happen when Jay Inslee is elected Governor.

Posted by: Kato on August 26, 2011 11:14 PM
41. How about something new on this site before we all grow old and die? This was posted on the 23rd.

Posted by: Jeff on August 27, 2011 05:57 PM
42. It's a fact that rlc's alter behavior. I arrived at one turning yellow and sped up. The dude in front of me braked hard for a stop. I hope he appreciates being alive in a situation that was contrived by the Goobermint strictly for profit.

Posted by: carter on August 29, 2011 12:21 AM
43. @41, How about something new on this site before we all grow old and die?

How about you start your own useless blog for right wing losers to post their pointless comments about stupid things other loser right wing losers post?

And what gave you the impression anybody was going to let YOU grow old?

- Stefan

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