Traffic camera opponents denied again

Pair say they'll keep fighting Iowa City ordinance

IOWA CITY — A pair of Iowa City residents’ efforts to repeal an ordinance allowing the use of red-light cameras has hit another roadblock after the city attorney this week issued a finding that the issue, as it has been presented, couldn’t go back before the City Council or voters for two years.

Aleksey Gurtovoy and Martha Hampel, who began their efforts June 22 to repeal the city’s Automated Traffic Enforcement ordinance, told The Gazette on Thursday that they disagree with the city attorney’s findings and don’t plan to stop pushing to repeal the ordinance.

“We think she’s wrong, and we are definitely going to keep going with this,” Gurtovoy said.

After the pair filed their first affidavit to start an initiative in June, City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes issued a finding that the affidavit’s wording made it a referendum rather than an initiative.

An initiative proposes a measure for the City Council’s consideration. A referendum requires the council to reconsider an existing measure. A referendum petition must be filed within 60 days of the final adoption of the measure or more than two years after adoption.

In both an initiative and a referendum, if the council doesn’t take the requested action, the proposal goes to a public vote.

Because the deadline for seeking a referendum on the red-light cameras had passed, Dilkes said, citizens would have to wait two years after the ordinance’s adoption in February to file a petition to put the issue back before council members or to a vote.

Gurtovoy and Hampel revised their initial affidavit and resubmitted it on July 27 with different language, but Dilkes this week issued a finding that, according to the City Code, what they’re seeking is still a referendum. She said that based on the deadlines outlined in the City Code, the soonest an affidavit could be filed seeking a referendum is Aug. 22, 2013.

Gurtovoy said he and Hampel had a private attorney review the case, and the attorney agreed that the affidavit was requesting an initiative. Therefore, Gurtovoy said, he has no intention of giving up on the issue because he doesn’t want to set a precedent that would prohibit future grass-roots initiatives like the one he has helped launch.

“We do not want traffic surveillance in our city, and her interpretation of the City Code sets a dangerous precedent of what citizens can do,” Gurtovoy said.The City Council still needs to approve a contract with a camera vendor, but the cameras could be up by this fall.