An initiative to remove red-light cameras from Murrieta shall remain on the November ballot, a Riverside appeals court panel ruled Tuesday.
A three-justice panel from the 4th Appellate District Division 2 reversed Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia’s Aug. 3 decision. Ottolia had struck down the initiative, saying traffic laws are a matter of statewide concern.
Murrieta residents Diana Serafin and Robin Nielson brought the initiative forth. It was challenged in June with a lawsuit from former Murrieta traffic commissioner Steve Flynn, who along with the Murrieta Police Department was instrumental in bringing the cameras to the city in 2006.
Working on behalf of the initiative backers, Attorney Peter Lepiscopo argued after Ottolia’s decision that “the judge has skipped over the requirement that this challenge happen promptly. It should have happened in November 2011 when the City Council approved the initiative."
Lepiscopo submitted the case to the California Supreme Court, which redirected it to appeals court.
On Tuesday, the appellate panel released its opinion to reverse Ottolia’s decision based on the timing of lawauit.
“The Supreme Court has stated that ‘it is usually more appropriate to review constitutional and other challenges to ballot propositions or initiative measures after an election rather than to disrupt the electoral process by preventing the exercise of the people’s franchise, in the absence of some clear showing of invalidity,’” wrote Justice Art. W. McKinster.
The panel’s opinion stated that Flynn “delayed several months before bringing a legal action to remove the proposal from the ballot, and this delay, combined with the fact that the measure can be challenged after the election if it is approved, are decisive factors in persuading this court to order that the proposal remain on the ballot.”
The Riverside County Registrar of Voters Office confirmed Wednesday that the measure would be on the November ballot.
Measure backer Serafin has begun walking neighborhoods passing out campaign signs.
"I am just excited that this is on the ballot, that the people will have the chance to vote," Serafin told Patch Wednesday.
"We are pleased with the court of appeal's decision placing the initiative back on the ballot for November," Lepiscopo said. "The three-judge panel agreed with our arguments that the will of the people should decide whether to approve the initiative. Now it's up to the people to decide."
As for Flynn, he said he respects the panel’s decision but still firmly believes in the cameras.
“It doesn’t mean the battle is over…we are still going to take it to the people,” Flynn told Patch. “If the cameras save one life, isn’t it worth it? We have gotten our voice out there and we are going to keep getting our voice out there.”