Archive for the ‘City government’ Category

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Ouch!

December 10, 2015

Yep… I think we should rename it the Screw-Me State.

Nick Gillespie at Reason writes about a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Show-Me State Suckers Shell Out Super-Subsidies For NFL Rams

Let’s say you want to build a new house for yourself. Otherwise, you tell your neighbors and your city council, you’ll leave town, taking your money, tax payments, jobs, and prestige elsewhere.

What are the odds that legislators will cover at least 40 percent of your new house’s costs?

And maybe throw another 15 percent your way too on naming rights to your deluxe manor and also let you collect all revenue from nights when you rent out the house to strangers for parties or other accomodations?

The odds are pretty low in most cities in America.

But if you own the NFL’s Rams (who started out in Cleveland before heading to Los Angeles and then to St. Louis), you’re in luck. Despite generally sucking—the Rams won two NFL titles back in the old days and just one Super Bowl, in 1999—St. Louis and the entire state of Missouri is so desperate to keep the team that they are ponying up at least 40 percent of the $1 billion-plus cost of a new stadium. […]

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Dear John

November 28, 2015

As I’ve mentioned earlier it’s not privacy that the government should respect: it’s anonymity. Your public actions & speech can’t be private, of course, but the government should treat them anonymously (unless you’re committing a crime).

Here’s some nasty news about Los Angeles and its license plate database which is a wonderful illustration of why anonymity’s important.

Because who knows what the next politician or bureaucrat will come up with?

Los Angeles Just Proposed the Worst Use of License Plate Reader Data in History.

Last month, when I spoke on a panel called “Spying in Public: Policy and Practice” at the 25th Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference in Washington, DC, we were embroiled in a discussion of license plate readers. As a law enforcement technologist, and a working police detective, I generally support the use of license plate readers. I discussed at the conference a child pornography case in which the suspect (now indicted) had fled the city and the police located him using the technology.

From the back of the room came the comment, “The issue is the potentially chilling effect that this technology has on freedom of association and freedom of transportation.”

That’s literally the phrase that leapt into my mind when I read the monumentally over-reaching idea posed by Nury Martinez, a 6th district Los Angeles city councilwoman, to access a database of license plates captured in certain places around the city, translate these license plates to obtain the name and address of each owner, and send to that owner a letter explaining that the vehicle was seen in, “an area known for prostitution.” […]

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to ask the office of the District Attorney for their help implementing the plan.

Have Ms. Martinez and the Los Angeles City Council taken leave of their senses? This scheme makes, literally, a state issue out of legal travel to arbitrary places deemed by some — but not by a court, and without due process — to be “related” to crime in general, not to any specific crime.

There isn’t “potential” for abuse here, this is a legislated abuse of technology that is already controversial when it’s used by police for the purpose of seeking stolen vehicles, tracking down fugitives and solving specific crimes. […]

All your license plate numbers are belong to them.

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A memorial to property rights?

June 22, 2015

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal (behind its paywall).

Lessons from a little pink house, 10 years later.

June 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Kelo v. City of New London, when the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 ruling that government could use eminent domain to take private property for “economic development.” At issue in the case were 15 homes, including a little pink house owned by Susette Kelo, in the city of New London, Conn., which wanted to transfer the properties to a private nonprofit with plans to revitalize the area. But after the court ruled and the houses were razed (with the exception of Ms. Kelo’s, which was moved at private expense), those plans fell through.

The condemned land remains empty, housing only a few feral cats. After Hurricane Irene in 2011, the city used it as a dumping ground for debris. Yet the first real development since the Supreme Court’s controversial decision might now be on its way: New London Mayor Daryl Finizio, who was elected in 2011 as a critic of the government taking, recently announced a plan to turn the former site of Ms. Kelo’s house into a park that will “serve as a memorial to all those adversely affected by the city’s use of eminent domain.”

It would be a fitting tribute. Although the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo was consistent with precedent, it was nonetheless a serious error.

How touching that the mayor of New London wants to make a park as a "memorial to all those adversely affected by the city’s use of eminent domain."

If I were one of the victims, I think I’d prefer to have my house and land back.

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The dog that didn’t bark?

June 5, 2015

News from the Riverfront Times.

St. Louis County SWAT Team Killed Family Dog Over Code Violation, Suit Says

A St. Louis County woman claims a police tactical unit killed her dog while investigating whether her home had natural gas.

On Tuesday, a South County woman filed a federal lawsuit that dog lovers should read with caution — the allegations are pretty disturbing.

In the lawsuit, Angela Zorich claims that St. Louis County Police tactical officers — aka the department’s SWAT team — raided her house in April 2014 and killed Kiya, her four-year-old pit bull.

The reason for the raid: to check if her home had electricity and natural gas service.

“This is an example of police overreaching and using excessive force to get a family out of their house,” said Kenneth Chackes, the attorney who represents Zorich.

Online court records suggest that Zorich and relatives have had various landlord actions and complaints filed against them since 2005 at two separate addresses in south St. Louis County.

Chackes preferred not to elaborate on the complaint, which is already 24 pages long. The St. Louis County Police Department declined to comment since the lawsuit is pending. […]

I don’t know the merits of this woman’s suit so I have no opinion about whether she deserves to win it. She might be a lowlife just trying to cash in.

The County police aren’t commenting so I suppose we’ll have to wait until it goes to trial to hear their side.

On the other hand, if the county police really did send ‘tactical officers’ on a visit about code compliance then What The Hell?

When did that become operating procedure? It takes a person armed with a gun to tell me that not all of my electrical outlets are grounded, that my house needs painting, or that my yard needs mowing?

And if those officers really did shoot her dog in the course of that compliance-checking visit then I hope she wins her suit and cleans the county’s clock – even though I’d be helping to pay whatever damages she’s awarded.

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Smoke ’em if you got ’em

November 15, 2014

I’ve been smoking for 45 years (nearly as long as I’ve been paying FICA, now that I think about it). And I get the externalities of smoking, so I don’t feel aggrieved when people or organizations prohibit smoking on their property. No problem: I’ll respect their air and grounds.

I’ve got tenants who are heavy smokers and, yep, that house has a definite stink to it. We’ll need a few gallons of KILZ when they move out. Again, no problem. It’s their home and we knew they smoked when they signed the lease. The clean-up is a very minor cost, all things considered.

What I do have a problem with, though, is when the Nicotine Nazis get their hands on the levers of power and start proposing regulations like the one described below. Banning tobacco sales is just another form of Prohibition, after all, and we know how well prohibitions work.

What we learn from history is that we never learn from history (said whomever you want to credit with that adage).

Raucous hearing on tobacco sales in Westminster halted

WESTMINSTER — An unruly public hearing on a proposal to prohibit the sale of tobacco products came to a sudden and rowdy halt Wednesday evening after shouting and clapping opponents of the ban repeatedly refused the chairwoman’s request to come to order.

The ban, proposed by the Board of Health in this Central Massachusetts town, would be the first of its kind in the state. It has led to angry reactions from residents who worry that it will hurt the local economy and allow government too much discretion in controlling private conduct.

“This is about freedom; it’s my body and it’s my choice to smoke,” said Nate Johnson, 32, a Westminster farmer and auto body worker. He was puffing on a cigarette at a rally before the hearing where opponents held signs saying “It’s not about tobacco — it’s about control” and “Smoke ’em if you got them.” […]

The ban would cover sales of products containing tobacco or nicotine, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes, which use batteries to heat nicotine-laced liquid, producing a vapor that is inhaled.

The proposal, made public Oct. 27, touched off an intense reaction from opponents. More than 1,000 of the town’s 7,400 residents signed a petition against the ban.

I was tickled to read about the residents of Westminster raising hell about this proposal. Evidently there were even non-smokers upset about the proposal — as they should have been since it’s the kind of idea that reminds you of Mark Twain’s comment about school board members.

whats-next-in-westminster-massCJ GUNTHER/EPA

“What’s next?” is a very good question. It’s one we ought to be asking ourselves about practically everything the government plans or does.

And just as a matter of curiosity, doesn’t it strike anyone else as curious that several states are now allowing the sale of marijuana to be smoked – Massachusetts itself may allow it – and this Board of Health wants to ban the sale of tobacco?


Here’s some commentary about a topic related to my question above. It’s from Kevin Williamson at National Review (1/28/15).

A Lifestyle So Good, It’s Mandatory

California has effectively decriminalized marijuana (possession of less than an ounce is a civil matter roughly equivalent to a speeding ticket — a rarely written speeding ticket), and the state has a medical (ahem) marijuana program that is, for the moment, largely unregulated. At the same time, the state is launching a progressive jihad against “vaping,” the use of so-called e-cigarettes that deliver nicotine in the form of vapor. The state public-health department says that this is justified by the presence of certain carcinogens — benzene, formaldehyde, nickel, and lead—in e-cigarette vapor. But by California’s own account, all of those chemicals are present in marijuana smoke, too, along with 29 other carcinogens.

If that seems inconsistent to you, you are thinking about it the wrong way: For all of its scientific pretensions and empirical posturing, progressivism is not about evidence, and at its heart it is not even about public policy at all: It is about aesthetics.

The goal of progressivism is not to make the world rational; it’s to make the world Portland.

Vaping is, from the point of view of your average organic-quinoa and hot-yoga enthusiast, a lowlife thing. It is not the same thing as smoking, but it looks too much like smoking for their tastes. Indeed, California cites the possibility of vaping’s “re-normalizing smoking behavior” as a principal cause of concern. Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, says that vaping should be treated like “other important outbreaks or epidemics.”

But epidemics of what? Prole tastes?

In addition to regularly writing incisive opinion pieces, Mr. Williamson was also a cell phone vigilante a couple of years ago.

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The same old same old

October 26, 2014

Via Instapundit, I came across this article by Kevin Williams at NRO. He talks about several other cases in addition to Joseph Adams’.

Meet the New Serfs: You
Accountability is only for the little people.

The New Haven SWAT team must have been pretty amped up: It was midnight, and they were getting ready to bust down the door of a man wanted on charges involving weapons violations, robbery — and murder. They were not sure how many people were in the house, or how they’d react. After a volley of flash grenades that set fire to the carpet and a sofa, they moved in, guns drawn. A minute later, they had their man zip-tied on the floor.

If only they’d double-checked the address first.

Bobby Griffin Jr. was wanted on murder charges. His next-door neighbor on Peck Street, Joseph Adams, wasn’t. But that didn’t stop the SWAT team from knocking down his door, setting his home on fire, roughing him up, keeping him tied up in his underwear for nearly three hours, and treating the New Haven man, who is gay, to a nance show as officers taunted him with flamboyantly effeminate mannerisms. […]

And when Mr. Adams showed up at the New Haven police department the next day to fill out paperwork requesting that the authorities reimburse him for the wanton destruction of his property — never mind the gross violation of his rights — the story turned Kafkaesque, as interactions with American government agencies at all levels tend to do. The police — who that same night had managed to take in the murder suspect next door without the use of flash grenades or other theatrics after his mother suggested that they were probably there for her son — denied having any record of the incident at Mr. Adams’s home ever having happened. […]

In a sane world, the New Haven authorities would have shown up at Adams’s house with a check, flowers, and an apology, and a certificate exempting him from taxes for the rest of his life. In this world, people in his situation get treated by the government like they are the ones who have screwed up. And of course they’d say they had no record of the episode — getting information about your situation from any government agency, especially from one that is persecuting you, requires an agonizing effort.

In the same vein, here’s an interesting essay by Frank Serpico at Politico. (Tip o’ the hat to Paul.) Mr. Serpico describes a lot of the corruption and egregious violence he saw during his career as a policeman. He ends his essay with a list of recommendations for reining in out-of-control police forces, the most important one being independent review boards.

The Police Are Still Out of Control
I should know.

In the opening scene of the 1973 movie “Serpico,” I am shot in the face—or to be more accurate, the character of Frank Serpico, played by Al Pacino, is shot in the face. Even today it’s very difficult for me to watch those scenes, which depict in a very realistic and terrifying way what actually happened to me on Feb. 3, 1971. I had recently been transferred to the Narcotics division of the New York City Police Department, and we were moving in on a drug dealer on the fourth floor of a walk-up tenement in a Hispanic section of Brooklyn. The police officer backing me up instructed me (since I spoke Spanish) to just get the apartment door open “and leave the rest to us.”

One officer was standing to my left on the landing no more than eight feet away, with his gun drawn; the other officer was to my right rear on the stairwell, also with his gun drawn. When the door opened, I pushed my way in and snapped the chain. The suspect slammed the door closed on me, wedging in my head and right shoulder and arm. I couldn’t move, but I aimed my snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver at the perp (the movie version unfortunately goes a little Hollywood here, and has Pacino struggling and failing to raise a much-larger 9-millimeter automatic). From behind me no help came. At that moment my anger got the better of me. I made the almost fatal mistake of taking my eye off the perp and screaming to the officer on my left: “What the hell you waiting for? Give me a hand!” I turned back to face a gun blast in my face. I had cocked my weapon and fired back at him almost in the same instant, probably as reflex action, striking him. (He was later captured.)

When I regained consciousness, I was on my back in a pool of blood trying to assess the damage from the gunshot wound in my cheek. Was this a case of small entry, big exit, as often happens with bullets? Was the back of my head missing? I heard a voice saying, “Don’ worry, you be all right, you be all right,” and when I opened my eyes I saw an old Hispanic man looking down at me like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan. My “backup” was nowhere in sight. They hadn’t even called for assistance—I never heard the famed “Code 1013,” meaning “Officer Down.” They didn’t call an ambulance either, I later learned; the old man did. One patrol car responded to investigate, and realizing I was a narcotics officer rushed me to a nearby hospital (one of the officers who drove me that night said, “If I knew it was him, I would have left him there to bleed to death,” I learned later). […]

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All your license plate numbers are belong to us

April 5, 2014

In the EFF article quoted below, the Los Angeles Police Department makes an interesting claim that all vehicle license plates that are imaged by their ALPR systems are ‘under investigation’… on the principle that those plates might someday be under investigation.

I’m tempted to ridicule that idea by suggesting that the LAPD should take fingerprints and mugshots of all Los Angeles citizens… on the principle that those people might someday be under investigation.

But I won’t make that reductio ad absurdum argument because if the LAPD gets away with secrecy in its ALPR system, the sequel might easily be fingerprints and mugshots for everyone.

If some surveillance is good, then more is better. Right?

Los Angeles Cops Argue All Cars in LA Are Under Investigation

Do you drive a car in the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area? According to the L.A. Police Department and L.A. Sheriff’s Department, your car is part of a vast criminal investigation.

The agencies took a novel approach in the briefs they filed in EFF and the ACLU of Southern California’s California Public Records Act lawsuit seeking a week’s worth of Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data. They have argued that “All [license plate] data is investigatory.” The fact that it may never be associated with a specific crime doesn’t matter.

This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity. In fact, the Fourth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution exactly to prevent law enforcement from conducting mass, suspicionless investigations under “general warrants” that targeted no specific person or place and never expired.

Just for clarity, I think anyone who expects privacy while he’s in public hasn’t really thought things through. To talk of privacy while driving a public road or while speaking or meeting in public is a very imprecise way of speaking.

What we expect in public is anonymity, not privacy. We expect our actions & conversations to be ignored by the state unless it has good reason to suspect us of criminal activity — just as we expect passers-by not to eavesdrop on our conversation, even though our speech may be plainly audible to them.

So while we may act and speak in public, those actions and that speech are no concern of the state’s unless it can show good cause for actively monitoring one or both of them.

In other words, it ain’t nobody’s business buy my own.

H.T. Paul

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