The debate surrounding the constitutionality of red light cameras in Murrieta has continued to grow after a hearing held June 15 in Riverside Superior Court considered a Murrieta resident’s suit to remove the red light initiative from Novembers’ ballot.
If passed by voters in November, the measure would ban red light cameras in the city.
But, a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Steve Flynn who is represented by the Sacramento-based law firm Bell, McAndrew and Hiltachk, would take the matter out of voters’ hands altogether.
Murrieta has three red light cameras — one at the intersection of Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood roads, one on Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita roads, and another at Clinton Keith Road and Nutmeg Street.
Flynn was instrumental in getting the red light cameras in place when he worked as a Public Safety and Traffic commissioner.
Murrieta resident Diana Serafin opposes the red light cameras and initially filed the petition to have the measure placed on November’s ballot banning red light cameras in the city, citing the expense of operation and a violation of civil rights.
Local residents are also torn between Flynn and Serafin’s complaints.
Murrieta resident Alex Pena said, “If the lights make people more cautious I support them. I tend to be more cautious at the intersection of Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita.”
“I had one of those red light tickets,” said Wendey Kimberling. “I felt the light was still yellow when I got ticketed.”
Kimberling said she does not trust the red light cameras for accuracy.
“I think we need to get rid of them or only have them at large intersections,” said Tina Goodwin.
U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, wrote a letter last week urging Riverside County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil to defend voters’ rights.
“The voter initiative process has a long and proud tradition in our form of government,” Calvert wrote. “Any efforts to disenfranchise or limit the democratic rights of our citizens must not and cannot be allowed to stand.”
The law firm Bell, McAndrew and Hiltachk alleges the city is overextending its powers and would violate the California Constitution.
The red light issue continues to grow. Bob Kowell, who led the 2010 effort for Murrieta Measures C, D and E, filed complaint last week with the California Fair Political Practices Commission against Flynn and his attorney.
The complaint accuses Flynn and his lawyer of violating the Political Reform Act by failing to form a political action committee to get the initiative stopped.
Where do you stand on this issue? Are red light cameras a necessary safety measure or a constitutional hazard? Tell us in the comments section below.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.