You CAN fight City Hall- and get sued

Government_lawsuit_VS_WTP

Something very bad is happening in Brooksville, Florida USA. A couple of citizens there are opposed to the red light camera scheme that small city (about 7,700 people) uses, so they filed a citizen referendum and are now being sued by their own city (as well as a camera scheme vendor front group). They did not pick up torches or saws and cut down the cameras. They didn’t set them on fire as some in England have done.


I really like the sticker by the way. That’s something they learned from us circa 1776.

Instead, the Miketinacs followed the law and organized a petition drive in order to allow their fellow citizens to vote on the issue after the city council turned a deaf ear to their grievance and refused to do away with the massively unpopular camera scheme. To see how “bad” things were for crashes in this small town, read my 2012 analysis here. Not being wealthy (they are retirees) the Miketinacs were fortunate to find a lawyer that would help them draft the referendum language for free- they did not just pull it out of thin air. Until today I had not read the language. What I had read was this, regarding city attorney Cliff Taylor, from this June 11 story:
“In a chamber packed with camera opponents, Assistant City Attorney Cliff Taylor laid out several problems he found with the ballot question: its language was overreaching; some parts of it appeared to conflict with established state laws; and it was too vague in its additional ban of other traffic-infraction recording technology.

Specifically, Taylor said, this could be interpreted to forbid radar guns currently used by the city Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.

Taylor also said that if the measure passes, supporting a charter amendment based on a flawed ballot question could make the city legally vulnerable.

“To me,” he said, “it is not a proper measure for the ballot.”

Here is the ballot referendum exact language:

PROHIBITION OF AUTOMATED TRAFFIC INFRACTION DETECTORS (RED LIGHT CAMERAS)

(1) No ordinance shall be adopted by the City Council which would permit or authorize any red light camera or other automated infraction detector system in the City of Brooksville. Any ordinance adopted by the City Council in violation of this section shall be null and void. Neither the City Council, nor any officer or employee of the City when acting in his or her official capacity, shall
(i) take any action which would directly of indirectly result in the authorization, approval or installation of any red light camera or other automated traffic infraction detector system in the City of Brooksville; or

(ii) acquiesce or concur in any action or decision of any other governmental agency or governmental official having jurisdiction concerning such red light cameras where a protest or objection procedure is available to the City and where failure to so protest or object could result in the authorization, approval, or installation of any red light camera or other automated traffic infraction detector system in the City of Brooksville; or

(iii) approve, authorize, execute or enter into any agreement or understanding, or take any other action of any nature whatsoever, which would authorize, approve, or in any way facilitate or result in the installation of any red light camera or other automated traffic infraction detector system in the City of Brooksville, including, but not limited to, any agreement or understanding relating to the installation of any red light camera or automated traffic infraction detector system which would result in the receipt by the City of any revenue of any kind from such cameras or automated system.

(2) The term “traffic infraction detector” as used in the section shall mean and include any automated traffic infraction detector as that term is used in 316.003, Florida Statutes, or any successor legislation thereto, which is used to enforce any provision of the “Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law.”

(3) This Amendment shall be effective immediately.

 

That’s it. So here are the questions-
In what way is this overreaching? It deals with one issue- we should be so lucky if Congress operated like that.

Conflict with what state laws? The camera scheme? That’s the sole purpose of the referendum. Fortunately the camera scheme is OPTIONAL , not MANDATORY.

Too vague on other traffic-infraction recording technology? If the recording is not done in an automated function for ENFORCEMENT, then there is no conflict. If for example the city DOT wants to count cars passing on a road using an automated counter, that’s perfectly OK. Maybe he’s worried about automated license plate readers that read every passing tag. I know I am. The thing is, I oppose them and I have no doubt he supports them.

Forbid radar guns currently used by the city Police Department? How does this in any way affect police using speed-measuring devices such as laser or radar? If the officer is operating it, then the prohibition on AUTOMATED enforcement does not apply. Someone that graduated from law school should know that.

Make the city legally vulnerable? In what way? In this September 11 story, attorney Taylor is concerned that the language may be too restrictive in banning an activity that is clearly allowable under state law. See OPTIONAL vs. MANDATORY above. There is no state law that says any city MUST operate a camera scheme.

Here’s the solution for attorney Taylor- and why his argument is truly moot. If at some point in the future greedy politicians and sketchy camera scheme vendor front groups want to use the camera scheme again, repeal this amendment. That worked for prohibition, and it can work in Brooksville as well.

What troubles me the most about this is what this says about America. We have a First Amendment that gives us the RIGHT to seek redress of our grievances with our government. I’ve written at length on that topic due to another issue I’m lobbying against- REAL ID, which requires a national ID card just to get in a federal government building. What will happen to future citizens that may have a grievance and are fearful of being sued by their own government? What message does this action send? The old phrase you can’t fight city hall rings true now more than ever. It’s up to us to stand up and make our voices heard that abuses of power by corrupt politicians will not be tolerated.

This is normally the part where I ask you to help the Liberty First Network. Today, I’m instead asking you to help Pat & Shirley Miketinac. I have Pat’s email address, and if you’d like to help, please contact me through the site and I’ll forward your info to Pat.

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