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Longview, Washington Anti-Photo Ticket Referendum Effort Underway

May 19, 2009

Longview, Washington Anti-Photo Ticket Referendum Effort Underway
Community activists in Longview, Washington seek 2786 signatures for referendum on red light and speed cameras.  

Longview, WashingtonResidents fed up with the promotion of red light cameras and speed cameras in Longview, Washington are looking to cut off the ability of city council members to impose the technology. Local activists Mike Wallin and Dave Grumbois last week announced a drive to collect the 2786 signatures needed to give voters a chance at the ballot box to block the expected installation of automated ticketing machines in the community of 35,000.

“We have heard enough from The Daily News, city staff and the city council, so we are inviting the community to listen to our perspective of the use of traffic cameras,” Wallin said in a statement. “We can’t sit idly by and let the city’s desire for more revenue trump common sense and conventional wisdom. We the people must act now.”

Although a photo enforcement program is not active in Longview, city officials set in motion the process needed to start one last summer. This effort stalled only after Initiative 985 threatened to seize the financial proceeds from traffic cameras and devote them to traffic reduction purposes. After the statewide traffic initiative failed to gather the needed votes, the Longview City Council voted 6-1 on December 11 to proceed with setting up a contract with a for-profit vendor to operate a camera program.

A city-funded study of the community’s opinion of the Longview Police Department (LPD) suggests this move may not meet with popular approval.

“One issue that appeared to have consensus is that the department places too much emphasis on traffic enforcement instead of crime control and does so as a means of generating revenue,” the January 2009 LPD assessment stated. “Increases in crime and longer response times are said to be a result of this philosophy.”

Wallin and Grumbois agree that city officials appear to be sacrificing safety for revenue by installing cameras. In December, Wallin presented the city council with alternatives to reduce red light running at intersections. Only Councilman Andy Busack was interested in the possibility of lengthening the timing of yellow lights which the Texas Transportation Institute showed could reduce accidents by forty percent (view study).

Once placed on the ballot, the public has never supported a photo enforcement program. Most recently, 86 percent of voters in Sulphur, Louisiana rejected speed cameras. Last November, residents in Cincinnati, Ohio rejected red light cameras. Seventy-six percent of Steubenville, Ohio voters rejected photo radar in 2006. In the mid-1990s, speed cameras lost by a two-to-one margin in Peoria, Arizona and Batavia, Illinois. Anchorage, Alaska also rejected a photo radar program in 1997.

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