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Published: Friday, December 16, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

In Monroe, traffic-camera plans were transparent

I spent much of the summer sifting through giant stacks of public records regarding traffic-enforcement cameras.

Some of those public records requests yielded documents rich with news stories.

Emails gleaned from city halls in Lynnwood and Mukilteo both turned into front-page stories that raised questions about how traffic-camera companies were communicating with local officials.

In Lynnwood, some of the questions raised still haven't been answered. I know. I keep asking.

Over the past few months, I also was quietly working through a similar records bundle regarding red-light camera contracts in the city of Monroe. I read thousands of emails, memos and other responsive records.

It was a total snore.

Everything in the records we received regarding Monroe's camera program, including emails between police officers, points to a straightforward, honest dialogue.

We shouldn't have to single out a government agency for being honest, but when it comes to traffic-cameras, honesty hasn't exactly been in overabundance.

Emails going back through 2007 in Monroe appear to show that profit from the cameras was never explored as a motive. The concerns raised by Monroe leaders were about addressing traffic issues. (Whether cameras actually do bring safety is another question and one worthy of debate.)

A few things in Monroe that did stand out were more campy than newsworthy. Emails between Monroe officials and the traffic-camera company, Redflex Traffic Systems, show some poking fun at the state transportation department, jokingly calling it "WS-DOM" and "WA-SNOT" instead of WSDOT. Monroe needed state approval to put cameras up at intersections along U.S. 2, the main drag through town.

Also, some city officials and anti-camera advocates stooped to low-blow blustering and name-calling in their feuds over the future of cameras in the city. But we already knew that. Reading those emails is embarrassing if you hold civil discourse in much regard -- embarrassing, but not particularly newsworthy.

Meanwhile, voters in Monroe made clear in November that most would like to see the cameras go away. City officials also have said they are unhappy with the quality of the services provided by the vendor. The current contract with Redflex expires in 2013.

In other news, our friend Bill Kroske did make an appearance in the Monroe records, too. You might remember Kroske as the former American Traffic Solutions exec who was fired after The Herald revealed his undercover commenting account on our website. Several other papers soon made similar discoveries.

At least twice in the Monroe emails, Kroske sent police officials links to news stories about cameras, urging them to read the comments. At least one of the links was a Herald story he had commented on in favor of red-light cameras -- anonymously, of course.
Story tags » MonroeLawsPoliceTraffic SafetyU.S. 2

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