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The city of Longview on Monday filed court papers reasserting its position that state laws protect its ability to set traffic regulations from challenge by ballot initiatives.

Filed in Cowlitz Superior Court, the city's motion contends allowing petitioners their request for a vote on red-light and speed-zone traffic cameras would represent the denial of a grant of legislative power to the City Council.

"That grant of power is exclusive and precludes local initiatives and referenda on the subject matter," the city papers assert.

"The city's position is unchanged," said City Attorney Marilyn Nitteburg-Haan said by phone Monday afternoon. Traffic cameras, she said, "are not subject to the initiative process."

Nitteburg-Haan said the city still intends to hold a non-binding advisory vote on the matter this fall, but camera initiative sponsors scoffed at that Monday.

An advisory vote "is not the same thing. This is the initiative people wanted to vote on. It is what we got the signatures for," said Tim Sutinen, one of organizers behind the initiative.

The city's decision to continue fighting the initiative in court "is very disappointing. They are being advocates for the light camera company instead of the citizens," Sutinen added.

Initiative sponsors gathered 3,235 valid signatures — 405 more than needed — to qualify their initiative petition for the ballot. The initiative, if approved by voters, would bar the city from installing cameras without a vote of the people.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning issued an opinion — not a final decision  stating that the citizens' initiative petition to revoke red-light and speed cameras probably is invalid. No court date has been set to decide the issue.

Monday's court filing did nothing to change the essential legal standing of the matter. However, Sutinen said he hopes it will give impetus to a second initiative petition camera opponents are circulating that would stop the city from suing its citizens for "doing initiatives" and spending public money on legal battles with petitioners.

The city's traffic camera program has been nabbing red-light runners at three Ocean Beach Highway intersections and speeders at two school zones since March. From Feb. 14 through May 31, the city issued 1,604 red light violations and 1,387 school speed-zone violations, according to the police department. All revenues from the program are funneled into a dedicated traffic safety fund.


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