WENATCHEE — Wenatchee’s red-light cameras will go out of focus if Tim Eyman and a small group of civic activists have their way.
The group told city officials Thursday that it aims to collect enough signatures to ask voters if they want to keep three red-light cameras currently operating.
A news release stated that 2,273 signatures will be necessary to get the measure on the ballot. One of the promoters, Matt Erickson of Wenatchee, said Thursday that the group has until May 24 to gather the signatures, which would place the measure on the Aug. 16 ballot.
Wenatchee is one of four cities targeted this week by Eyman. The others are Bellingham, Monroe and Longview, which all operate or seek to operate red-light cameras. In November, 71 percent of the voters in Mukilteo approved an initiative to require a public vote on red-light cameras.
“We firmly believe that Wenatchee’s citizens oppose this Big Brother, profit-making policy and oppose the process by which it was adopted,” a news release from Eyman and the group stated.
The initiative, called Wenatchee Initiative No. 1, would repeal the city ordinance allowing the red-light cameras and would require city officials to get voter approval if they want to try to reinstate red-light cameras in the future. It also would limit the amount of fines if red-light cameras are approved to no more than the least expensive parking ticket imposed in the city. That is a fine of $30.
The fine for running a red light is $124.
If voters approved the use of the cameras, the initiative also would require a two-thirds vote of the City Council for them to operate.
Wenatchee Mayor Dennis Johnson declined to comment on the proposed initiative.
The news release was signed by Eyman of Mukilteo, Erickson, Nick Sherwood of Puyallup and Alex Rion of Kirkland. Erickson said he is not involved with the initiatives in the other cities but Eyman, Sherwood and Rion are.
Erickson said he planned to be at Wenatchee City Hall at noon today to tell city officials of the plan to seek signatures for the initiative. He did not know if the others would be there also.
About 700 people per month are finding tickets in their mailboxes for running red lights in the city, officials reported in December. That has been the average for August, September, October and November, said Capt. Doug Jones, a spokesman for the Wenatchee Police Department.
The red-light cameras are at three intersections: Kittitas and Mission streets, Chelan and Orondo avenues, and Chelan Avenue and Fifth Street.
The cameras were installed in June.
If everyone paid their $124 ticket, that would mean revenue of about $72,400 per month for the city. Jones said, however, that about 60 percent are being paid outright. The rest are going to collection, are being dismissed, deferred, “or otherwise adjudicated,” he said.
City officials have said the money from red-light tickets is going into the city’s general fund. Mayor Dennis Johnson said in August that he expects the money will help defray the cost of operating the criminal justice system. That system includes the police department, public defenders and prosecutors, and jail bed rentals. Those make up the single largest expense in the city’s annual budget.
Dee Riggs: 664-7147