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Court Gives Temporary Green Light to Murrieta Red-Light Ballot

An appellate court allowed the ballot to proceed while the battle continues over its legality

An appellate court judge has allowed a voter initiative in Murrieta to proceed, at least temporarily.

A proposed ban on traffic-light cameras was headed for the ballot after a successful petition drive by Murrieta residents Diana Serafin and Robin Nielson.
But then Steve Flynn, a former Public Safety and Traffic Commissioner largely responsible for implementing the cameras in 2006, sued.

The court battle over whether Murrieta voters can control the cameras on city traffic lights began in Riverside County Superior Court, where a judge ruled last week that the voter initiative could not be placed on the ballot.

An attorney for those who support the initiative reported Wednesday that he'd asked the California Supreme Court to issue a stay of the Riverside County court ruling by Thursday, Aug. 9.

The San Diego-based attorney, Pete Lepiscopo, also filed legal challenges asking the state’s highest court to toss out the court ruling and dismiss the case.

The California Supreme Court, without comment, then transferred Murrieta's ballot battle to the Court of Appeal, Fourth District, in Riverside.

Acting Presiding Judge Art McKinster on Friday issued a stay of the Superior Court ruling, essentially allowing the ballot to proceed while its legal fate is decided. He asked opponents to file their response by Aug. 15.

Lepiscopo, the attorney representing the proponents, said the stay allows Riverside County and Murrieta officials to meet their deadlines for preparing for the election, and put the initiative on the Murrieta ballot.

However whichever side loses the appellate court battle could appeal to the state's highest court, so the battle is far from over.

The cameras on traffic lights at three Murrieta intersections catch those running red lights; the errant drivers are mailed tickets. The intersections are Murrieta Hot Springs and Whitewood roads, Murrieta Hot Springs and Margarita roads, and Clinton Keith Road and Nutmeg Street.

Murrieta city council to renew its five-year contract with American Traffic Solutions for the cameras, plus add two more. However, another long-term contract and the addition of more cameras was being delayed until after the November election.

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