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Brooksville seeks court ruling on red-light camera petition

A petition seeks to change the city charter and ban red-light cameras, such as this one at U.S. 41 near Wiscon Road.
Published Jun. 12, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — What many people thought was a surefire measure to forever rid Brooksville of red-light cameras is now a question for a judge.

On Wednesday, the city filed a request with the Hernando County Circuit Court for a ruling about the validity of a grass roots petition that seeks to change the city charter and permanently ban cameras and other automated traffic-monitoring devices.

The City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to seek the judge's opinion. The special meeting had been called to decide whether to put the proposed ban to a vote of residents in November.

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."

Mayor Kevin Hohn and council members Joe Johnston and Lara Bradburn agreed, saying that while they could support a citizen-led referendum, they didn't favor anything that would be imprudent.

Two other council members who staunchly oppose the cameras said they hoped their fellow council members would agree that the initiative had gained enough steam to be worthy of an up-or-down nod from voters.

"Why are we trying to thwart the will of the people?" council member Joe Bernardini asked. "If the public wants to vote on it, we should let them decide."

Taylor's firm filed the request of a declaratory judgment on Wednesday. He said it asked for the ruling to be expedited so that if the language is rejected, proponents will still have time to change the wording and place the measure on the ballot.

Shirley Miketinac, who along with her husband, Pat, spent nine months collecting the 536 signatures needed to have the petition certified, said she is hopeful that a judicial review will keep the measure's existing wording. But if it doesn't, she believes a simple question asking people whether or not they support the cameras would serve the same purpose.

"We went into neighborhoods and stood on street corners to see what people think," she said. "The support was overwhelming. People want to get rid of the cameras."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@tampabay.com.

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