Auburn Mayor Lewis defends red light photo enforcement

The purpose of one part of Monday’s agenda of the Municipal Services Committee called for Auburn Police to brief committee members on the latest statistics from red light photo enforcement cameras.

But resentment over District 31 Rep. Chris Hurst’s renewed calls for strict limits on cities’ ability to use red light photo enforcement spilled over into pointed criticism from one staunch defender of the system since it went live in Auburn in July 2006 – Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis.

The Association of Washington Cities, taking into account the reduction in deaths, serious accidents and violations at camera-controlled intersections, Lewis noted, not only defends the use of red light camera but also supports expanding their use throughout the state of Washington.

“You know how

I feel about it. Nobody (here) has died in a T-bone accident, and we have not had one single death from major accident at any red-light-camera-controlled intersections,” Lewis said.

“And I am flat-out offended by these politicians who are just doing this to get their names in the paper,” Lewis said of Hurst. “The most direct way I can say it is that it flat pisses me off.”

Calls to Hurst were not returned for this article.

But on his campaign Website, Hurst explained why he supports a measure that would place strict limits on how local jurisdictions can use photo-enforcement devices like red-light cameras.

“I have heard from countless people around the state about how upset the abuse of these systems makes them, and after seeing how other cities in other states have used these cameras to balance their budgets on the backs of drivers while shortening yellow light times, I am committed to seeing reforms passed. I was able to get this bill a hearing last session and will continue to work until it’s passed,” Hurst wrote.

Auburn leaders say the City’s policy is to spend any money received above and beyond what it pays per contract to the system’s owner, Red Flex Traffic Systems of Arizona, on traffic calming devices like medians and speed bumps.

Red light photo enforcement violations rose 8.4 percent (from 890 to 965) between June and September of 2010 even as school zone camera violations dropped 40 percent – from 2203 to 1323 – during the summer break period.

A similar comparison of the third quarter of 2009 and third quarter of 2010 shows red light violations dropped 26.4 percent while school violations decreased 22 percent.

Red light cameras can be found at the following three locations within the city of Auburn:

• Fourth and Auburn Way South, northbound and southbound;

• Eighth and Harvey Road (Southbound)

•Auburn Way south and M Street Southeast.

Current school speed zones can be found at the following locations:

• Chinook Elementary

• Dick Scobee Elementary

• Lea Hill Elementary

• Arthur Jacobsen Elementary/Mountain View High

• Mt. Baker Middle School/Gildo Rey Elementary

Lakeland Hills Elementary is the only other school zone under consideration.

“We surveyed several other school zones and several other intersections, and that was the only one where the violation numbers look potential for a camera in the future,” said Assistant Auburn Police Chief Bob Karnofski.

Councilman and committee member John Partridge said Auburn was, “in my opinion, one of the weakest cities” in terms of signs warning motorists that they are approaching a controlled intersection.

Lewis said he would talk to the AWC about designing some universally recognized symbol for the signs.

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