Iowa City traffic camera opponents file amended petition

Organizers aimed at outlawing automated traffic-enforcement cameras, drones file 1,240 more signatures

Jason Agne, a graduate student in electrical engineering from Illinois, signs a petition against traffic cameras and dro
Jason Agne, a graduate student in electrical engineering from Illinois, signs a petition against traffic cameras and drones in Iowa City at a pot legalization, traffic camera, and drone protest in College Green Park in Iowa City. (Kaitlyn Bernauer/The Gazette)

Foes of red-light and speed cameras believe they finally have enough signatures on a petition they hope will lead to the technology being banned in Iowa City.

Organizers of the petition drive, aimed at outlawing automated traffic-enforcement cameras and drones, filed 1,240 more signatures with the city Tuesday. If 394 of those are valid, that would put them over the 2,500 signatures of registered Iowa City voters needed to force the city to take up the issue.

The City Clerk’s Office has 15 days to verify the signatures.

A petition filed a month ago fell short of the requirement after more than 1,200 signatures were struck by the clerk’s office. Organizers were given one final chance and a Tuesday deadline to get more.

Martha Hampel of Iowa City, one of the leaders of the effort, said they did checks on some of the new signatures themselves and believe at least 400 of them are valid, but they got as many as possible to be safe.

“When I heard 400 were needed, I thought immediately, we need three times that,” she said.

The City Council voted 4-3 a year ago to allow traffic-enforcement cameras, although only red-light cameras have been discussed. But none are installed as city officials wait for the state to create rules for the use of cameras on state routes, a process that may take until next year. Many of the Iowa City intersections marked for cameras are state roads.

The petition proposes an ordinance that would outlaw traffic-enforcement cameras, drones and automatic license-plate recognition systems.

A successful petition could force the City Council to either adopt the ordinance to put it before voters.

But a dispute over what sort of action the petitioners are seeking would still need to be settled. They say they are proposing an initiative, which is defined as a measure for the City Council to consider.

But City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes has previously classified it as a referendum that asks the council to reconsider an existing law. A referendum petition must be filed within 60 days of the adoption of the measure in question or not until two years after adoption. The current petition would fall between those periods and not be timely.Dilkes said that if the petition is deemed sufficient, she expects to give a formal opinion to the council in time for its May 14 meeting.

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