City to 'Remain Neutral' in Red-Light Camera Lawsuit

Murrieta city council members voted 3-0 in closed session Tuesday to "remain neutral" in a pending lawsuit against the red-light camera initiative.

Despite prodding from several citizens, the city of Murrieta will not take sides in a red-light camera lawsuit that—among others—names its city council and city clerk.

Three Murrieta city council members voted to "remain neutral" after meeting in closed session following Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting, City Attorney Leslie Devaney reported.

Those who went into closed session included Mayor Doug McAllister and Council members Alan Long and Randon Lane; Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs and Councilwoman Kelly Bennett were absent from the meeting and therefore did not vote in the matter.

It took about 30 minutes for them to reach a decision.

Devaney said they were confident that attorneys on both sides of the case were well versed in Fifth Amendment rights.

is an attempt to discredit the and ultimately get it removed from the November ballot based on the argument that cities do not have authority to ban them.

Murrieta City Council, Murrieta City Clerk Kay Vinson, Riverside County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil and Riverside County Board of Supervisors are named as respondents in the court filing, while anti red-light camera petitioners Diana Serafin and Robin Nielson are named as the real persons of interest.

All parties were unrepresented, according to court records, but the nonprofit Pacific Justice Institute was reportedly going to take on the case on behalf of the Serafin and Nielson.

Attorney Charles H. Bell, Jr., of Sacramento-based Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk filed the suit June 5 on behalf of Murrieta resident Steve Flynn, who as a former Public Safety and Traffic Commissioner worked to initially bring the red-light cameras to Murrieta.

During public comments at Tuesday's meeting, several urged the city to defend the people's right to vote on the matter.

"Basically I am just here to ask you to ask you to honor our constitutional right to petition the government and let us vote on it," said resident Bob Russo.

Serafin, who garnered enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, urging the Registrar to take a stance for the people.

Ernie White, who serves on the Republican Party County Central Committee, told city council he believed American Traffic Solutions—the owner and operator of Murrieta's cameras—was behind the lawsuit.

"Why would a billion-dollar company sue two citizens of Murrieta?" White quizzed. "I want to say this to the citizen of Murrieta...You better wake up because American Traffic Solutions is coming for you...They want this off the ballot."

Murrieta resident Francis Burns urged the city to pay to defend its citizens.

"I would say if money is an issue you have found ways in the past," Burns said.

Another resident, Susan Kalina, questioned how much the city pays each month for the operation of the cameras located at Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood roads, Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita roads and Nutmeg Street and Clinton Keith Road.

"No city account should have the right to approve $20,000 per month for three cameras," Kalina said.

An ex-parte hearing—meant to show cause in the lawsuit—had been scheduled for June 15 but was continued to 9:30 a.m. today in Riverside.

Susan Marsh June 20, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Could you please show the proof that 1). the cameras work properly 2). the cameras increase safety, and 3) what the actual cost verses the revenue is on the cameras.
N1smo2go June 20, 2012 at 06:50 PM
I travel the Murrieta Hot springs road everyday and I would like to see a camera at Jefferson and Murrieta Hot springs, Jeffferson at Los Alamos, Los Alamos at Madison and Madison at Murrieta Springs Rd. I have witnessed enough people running clear through red lights and enough traffic collisions at those intersections over the last 12years to say they are warranted.
Sandra P June 20, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I travel Murrieta Hot Springs and go through both cameras two times each day. I also see, at least on a weekly basis, near collisions because drivers are so overly cautious due to the presence of the lights that they slam on their brakes nearly causing rear-end collisions. There are people running red lights throughout the city and there are much more dangerous intersections than these. Are we going to put lights throughout the city and let Big Brother film our every movement. It doesn't surprise me in the least that Steve Flynn has his finger on this law suit. And I have no doubt he has the backing of American Traffic Solutions who obviously don't want this on the ballot. Steve has a history of bad luck on ballots, he'll try to avoid this one.
B-Cat June 20, 2012 at 09:00 PM
When its evident that so many people are running these lights I think a different perspective on the matter should be mentioned. When governments do not hear the voices of the people, they will have different ways of shouting out to be heard. One may say that they are violations of the law, but if the law is wrong, just make the proper correction. In this case it seems a longer yellow light would solve the problem. Those who are opposing this [big brother] as its called, control network are just saying ,"Hey i can live with the cameras because they are not working against me. Is this not a good compromise? I unfortunately have read the personal attacks the parties involved have posted and it dosnt belong here. If there are doubts about this whole conundrum, have on the ballot a vote with the stipulation that this system is to be reviewed each year with an exit clause, I think that would make everyone happy--i hope, thank You
Kelly Richardson June 20, 2012 at 09:16 PM
I am amazed that in Murrieta & Temecula a RED light seems to mean eventually after say 7 cars you need to really stop?? You cant tell me if you live here that you don't see RED light offenses every light, except the ones where people know there is a camera? If you do not see this like I do your BLIND! I am AMAZED at the freaky things I see while driving, and I am out on out roads a lot. When friends visit from out of town, they are blown away with the way most people drive out here & the 90-100mph cruising on the 15!! As the parent of young driving adults I have versed them extensively on being a defensive driver & NEVER NEVER pulling away from a green light without looking for red light runners. Late at night our roads are filled with speeding drunks & idiots. I have NEVER anywhere I have traveled seen such stupidity with the drivers on the road. You don't get away with 7 cars running a RED in Orange County, but they have cops watching & A LOT of CAMERAS!! Our little community light on Margarita/Fordham has had at least 10+ major accidents in the past 5 years. Since the speed limit has been reduced on Margarita, I ave been honked at for going the speed limit, REALLY! Breath everyone & SLOW DOWN!
Bob June 20, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Red light camera's have always been about additional revenue under the false pretense of public safety. They are in general ineffective and likely cause as many rear end collisions as they prevent collisions. If law enforcement really wants to be effective and proactive about red light runners they could just as easy place a team of two motor officers to randomly monitor intersections and go after the scofflaws and issue the tickets. Motor cops are a much more highly effective deterrence and their costs are more than recovered by issuing those $500+ red light tickets. And yes, before you reply with how the revenue is shared, I am aware of it. The city stills receives a share large enough to adequately cover the costs of a motor officer.
Bob Russo June 21, 2012 at 12:50 AM
I personally oppose the use of red light cameras. However, my main concern is the lawsuit aimed at blocking the rights of Murrieta residents from voting on this issue. We have a Constitutional Right to petition the government. Any effort to stop this initiative from getting on the ballot is in direct violation of the Constitution. And, then what's nex?? You may be in favor of the red light cameras. That's your right and I respect that. But, if you have any respect for the rights of the citizen, then I urge you to encourage a vote on this issue and let the chips fall where they may. It's very imperative that we honor the Constitution for the great gift it is to all of us!
Eddie June 21, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I agree with Bob and Bob Russo. Gentlemen, I couldn't have said it any better!
N1smo2go June 21, 2012 at 03:41 AM
No Bob, Red lights don't cause collisions drivers without attention to details cause collisions. It is apparent that the drivers in this community like so many others feel and think they are the only one's on the road. In the absence of law enforcement, a deterrent is necessary. I would prefer a traffic immobilizer to pop up when the run it and crash into it if it were up to me, but it is not, however, the city has to do something to prevent the crazy drivers in this area. I have lived here since 1994 and let me tell you, it was a lot safer and quietier before it was over crowded and traffic was a nightmare. People are and always will be the problem. Currently there is a proposal to develop cell phone jamming technologies on the road ways that will only allow 911,411 and 511 calls. That can't be developed soon enough either, I am for adding more police but in the absence of a budget sustained enough to hire more, a deterrent is necessary. I'll even go for speed bumps if possible.
N1smo2go June 21, 2012 at 05:45 AM
I don't see how a red light camera violates the Constitution. If you are aiming at the privacy clause, there is none. When you travel on public roads there is no privacy albeit you are in your car but reasonable privacy wouldn't hold up in court. Illegal search and seizure, I don't think so either, that red light camera is no different than a police officer giving you a ticket. What bugs people I believe is that there is someone looking at you, when the physical presence of police is not there, and the fact that a ticket can be given without said officer, just pisses people off. I support law enforcement whole heartedly and yes they make alot of mistakes, they fall prey to the same temptations as normal people and criminals. They cannot be at every corner at every second of the day. The issue here is not whether red light cameras provide safety or revenue, but what we do about careless motorists. I believe our laws regarding driving are too lenient and the justification of licensing people not strict enough. No where in the Constitution that I read does it inexplicably say the municipalities can not create a deterrent against unlawful action. A vote on this to me is the whining kid at the party not getting his turn at pin the tail on the donkey, but I guess I will be one of the few casting a vote in favor of them and an increase if that needs to be done.
Sue K June 21, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Although it sounds heroic enough to sum this up in a tidy little compassionate package of live saving , let's leave the philosophic tantrums off the table and discuss the city councils job. They are supposed to run the city, without a deficit I might add. Their 'other duties as assigned' do not include saving lives, and they are not qualified! Someone needs to get off their high horse!
N1smo2go June 21, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Alot of people do not know that these camera's are manned by people usually 2 or 3 at a remote computer terminal with multiple screens providing video of the intersection in a undisclosed location to the public. I have personally seen them.
Bob Russo June 21, 2012 at 12:58 PM
No, the issue is with regards to the Constitutional right of the residents of Murrieta to vote on a legal initiative. That's it! Let them vote on it. If they vote in favor of the red light cameras, they stay, against them, and they're gone.
Roy T Tatar June 21, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Profiles in courage from Murrieta's elected officials. They were elected to remain neutral? Pathetic politicians.
James C. Walker June 21, 2012 at 07:01 PM
It is virtually certain that safer, longer yellows would prevent MORE violations than the ticket cameras. Cities avoid the safer solution because safety is NOT profitable. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI
James C. Walker June 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
As above, It is virtually certain that safer, longer yellows would prevent MORE violations than the ticket cameras. Cities avoid the safer solution because safety is NOT profitable. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI
James C. Walker June 21, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Let me give N1smo2go a ridiculous example of traffic enforcement abuse and see if it would be OK in principle. Suppose the city set all the posted speed limits at 10 mph. The compliance rate would be essentially zero, and virtually every driver could be ticketed, often with big tickets for "20 over" or "30 over" while driving perfectly safely on the main roads. Would those tickets be OK? The drivers would be clearly breaking the law. I think most people would call this enforcement abuse and feel it was wrong. The same thing is true for red light cameras enforcing traffic lights where the yellow intervals are .4 seconds or .9 seconds or 1.3 seconds too short for the actual traffic speeds. The split second differences seem insignificant to many people, but it is how the scam works. Set the yellows just a bit too short and the money rolls in, most of it taken from safe drivers tricked into making split second fouls because the yellows were deliberately and maliciously set too short to set up predatory red light cash registers. It is not moral, but it IS wildly profitable to do this. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI
James C. Walker June 21, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Murietta stays "neutral" because they hope the suit will succeed and they won't have to see a vote where the citizens are clearly telling the city they believe the cameras are wrong and should be removed. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI
James C. Walker June 21, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Governments oppose letting the people vote on red light and speed cameras because the cameras lost 96% of the 24 votes so far (23 of 24). When the government wants the revenue from the cameras, they try to do everything possible to prevent a public vote, because it will be NO to cameras. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor, MI
Sue K June 22, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Mr. James C. Walker of the National Motorists Association,Ann Arbor,Mi (above) sure seems to knw whathe's talking about. Make sure to read his response and example above. Thank you sir for your commitment to motorists rights!
A-Patriot June 22, 2012 at 06:50 PM
In the meeting where the topic originally was presented, the police admitted that these lights cause MORE rear-end collisions. No amount of cameras will prevent people who are drunk from running lights, nor will it make the people in the area "better drivers." We are a descent sized city now, so the increase in population translates to an increase in stupid drivers. We have bars, open venues and a casino in the area, all contribute to the "drunk driver" issue, but none of which forces people to drink and drive. People need to take more responsibility for their actions, but these cameras will NOT stop the most heinous accidents from occurring and WILL cause more accidents over all, which causes more injuries and more stress more frequently. original article: http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/murrieta/article_9860c4be-ed06-5fc0-a482-428093584682.html
James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:26 PM
The first vote would have a 96% chance to have the cameras taken down, as cameras have lost 23 of the 24 votes so far. Jim Walker, NMA
James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:28 PM
The people of Marietta need to vote out all the officials who either supported the cameras or remained "neutral" (pro-camera) about the suit. Jim Walker, NMA
James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:32 PM
A-Patriot is correct. Almost all of the people punished with the cameras are safe drivers tricked into split second violations with yellows deliberately and maliciously set too short. They are NOT the drivers who are DUI, distracted, failed to see the police vehicle, etc. and entered the intersection two to five or more seconds into the red when the cross traffic was already in the intersection. Red light cameras are a revenue scam, falsely portrayed to stop the t-bone crashes but actually a money grab from safe drivers. Jim Walker, NMA
James C. Walker June 23, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Thanks, Sue K. I hope everyone goes to our website and reads all the research and articles about red light cameras. You might also want to read about speed cameras and speed limits, issues where similar government abuses of proper traffic safety engineering lead to predatory ticketing for revenue - at the expense of less safety. We would like more people to join us in these fights to get ALL traffic laws and ALL enforcement practices based on safety, NEVER on revenue. Jim Walker, NMA
Jim June 25, 2012 at 07:09 AM
I finally had a chance to watch the tape of the council meeting. I can understand why the council didn't want to spend city money to defend the initiative, but I cannot understand why the mayor went way out of his way to eject the guy who was in the back of the room clapping. There was no evidence it was interfering with the meeting.
James C. Walker June 25, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Adding one second to the yellow intervals normally drops the violation rates by 60% to 90+% without the need to pick the pockets of residents and visitors at $476 a pop. The problem with this simple solution is that it is NOT profitable for the city. Georgia passed a law requiring an "extra" second of yellow" at all camera intersections and violations dropped by 70% to 80%, enough that most cameras were removed. There is one, and only one, reason to use cameras instead of safer, longer yellows and that reason is $$$$$$$$$$. Jim Walker, NMA


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