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Hernando judge says red-light referendum cannot go on ballot

A Hernando County judge has struck down a referendum that would have allowed voters to ban the city’s red-light cameras.
Published Nov. 4, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — Siding with the city of Brooksville, a Hernando County judge has struck down a referendum that would have allowed voters to ban the city's red-light cameras.

The measure sought to change the city's charter to prohibit current and future city councils from installing red-light cameras, which was one of the reasons for Circuit Judge Thomas Eineman's ruling.

It was too broad, he ruled, because the changes to the charter would have eliminated the city's power of self-rule that is guaranteed by state law and therefore "violates the Municipal Home Powers Act," Eineman wrote.

He based his decision on a written motion the city filed in September, which challenged the legal basis of the amendment, as well as a counter-argument from the group that had collected signatures to put the measure on the ballot. The two sides argued their positions at a hearing on Oct. 14. The referendum had not been scheduled to appear on a specific election ballot.

Eineman's ruling also cited the state law that gave local governments the right to create red-light camera programs.

This meant, he ruled, that the group behind the ballot initiative was taking a local approach to changing a state law.

The state law, Eineman's ruling noted, also "provides that it is unlawful for any local authority to pass or attempt to enforce any ordinance in conflict with the provisions of this chapter."

Assistant city attorney Cliff Taylor said the ruling confirms the city's position, that the group trying to change the charter had "overreached."

Shirley Miketenac, who along with her husband, Pat, and other activists had collected the more than 500 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, declined to comment to the Tampa Bay Times on Monday.

In an earlier message about Eineman's ruling, the Miketinacs wrote that they were considering strategies to continue to fight the cameras.

"It's not that we're giving up or are tired of the whole situation," they wrote. "We just may need some new strategies that are winnable."

Contact Dan DeWitt at dewitt@tampabay.com or (352) 754-6116.

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