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Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig didn't just rule against American Traffic Solutions and its effort to stop the residents of Bellingham from voting

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Tim Eyman Claims Red-Light-Camera Victory in Bellingham; Aims for Statewide Win Next

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Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig didn't just rule against American Traffic Solutions and its effort to stop the residents of Bellingham from voting whether to keep red-light cameras in town--he made the company pay its opponent's attorney fees and fined it $10,000.

The ruling on Wednesday marked initiative breeder Tim Eyman's perhaps biggest victory in his ongoing fight against red-light and speed cameras.

He hopes now to replicate his success on a statewide level.

"I think there's gonna be a big ripple effect from this ruling," he tells Seattle Weekly. "We had a judge that was able to punish a company that brought this lawsuit. Companies and cities might now say 'hey, I might lose some money for this if I do this whole deny-the-voters thing.'"

As we've reported before, ATS is a Phoenix-based, Goldman Sachs-funded company that contracts with cities around the country (including Seattle, Monroe, Bellevue, Spokane and others) to set up red-light cameras that take photos of, and send fines to, drivers who run red lights.

In Bellingham, Eyman and Co. had successfully put a ballot measure on the November election that would let voters decide whether to keep the red-light cameras in town. ATS, meanwhile, sued to keep the keep that measure off the ballot.

Wednesday's ruling clears the way for the measure to proceed and in the process dings ATS for filing what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit.

The $10,000 fine and attorneys' fees, however, is likely to be the least of ATS' financial woes since every time voters have been asked whether to keep red light cameras, they've voted "no" overwhelmingly.

Besides Bellingham, Eyman has similar efforts under way in Monroe, Longview, Redmond and Wenatchee.

But his holy grail, he says, is a statewide bill that either bans or severely limits cities and counties from setting up red-light cameras in the first place.

"The next step is to take this to Olympia," Eyman says excitedly.

For that Eyman has state Rep. Chris Hurst (D-Enumclaw) who already has two pending bills (HB 1098, HB 1099) that would make it very hard, if not impossible, for red-light cameras to be set up (at least through any kind of profit-oriented company).

Of course the argument for keeping the cameras is that they bring in a awful lot of money for cities (though if you ask ATS or elected officials who support the cameras, they'll say the argument for keeping them is because they save lives).

Rep. Hurst has called the cameras "like crack cocaine for cities," arguing that once cities start depending on red-light-camera cash, they can't quit.

Hurst's bills should be picked up again once the new legislative session gets under way.

It's unclear how much support they have though.

Regardless, Eyman is happy to take the "delicious win" over a company he calls "total sleazeballs"--a mantle that fits pretty well if one looks closely at how it operates.

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