Saturday, December 16, 2006

Candid Camera

I haven't been to a Wilkes-Barre city council meeting since I moved out of the city a few years ago but I may start attending again for the entertainment.

WILKES-BARRE – A city man’s apparent attempt Thursday to give city officials a taste of their own medicine by photographing and videotaping them got council members a bit irritated.
But when Tim Grier, a frequent city critic, questioned a city employee’s credibility and referred to city officials as “rats,” their anger really showed.

Before the meeting, Grier took photos of city officials and videotaped the meeting, as he has done in the past. During the public comment portion, he criticized the city for placing cameras around City Hall and in other areas.

“This is not Russia,” he said. “You’re going to get yourselves in trouble.”

The rats comment came when he questioned the credibility of a city employee. Back to the cameras. The councilors didn't like being videotaped because they don't know what will be done with the footage. The point Tim was making is that there is no policy about how to protect people's privacy and managing the footage. Fair enough.

Video cameras are all the rage in law enforcement but I don't know how many crimes are solved by them. Maybe our city fathers can put a few people on the job to evaluate their usefulness and address the privacy issues. Many questions arise. Do you spend more money for a video room in police HQ to monitor them or let them just tape everything until you get a complaint? How long to you hold on to the tapes?

Now a rant. I'm sick and tired of being treated like a criminal as go about my daily business. When I walk into a store that says there is video surveilance I've been warned and it's my choice to enter. No warnings are given as I walk down the street. When you apply for a job you're subjected to a drug test. My phone calls can be tapped and finances examined without any oversite. An American citizen can be declared an "enemy combatant" and be held indefinately without recourse to the courts. The Constituition has been described as "quaint" and "just a goddamn piece of paper."

The Constitution and Bill of Rights say something else.

Article I, Section 9

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

Admendent IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Reads Tim's take on the whole thing at Un-American Luzerne County.


Anonymous said...

Why does the Wilkes-Barre City Council feel it is OK to video tape us as we walk around the square and the city, but it is not OK for someone to tape their meeting? Does the "do as I say, not as I do" saying come into play here? I like my privacy, and it seems like the council does, too. Why do they feel it's right to invade YOUR privacy? Do the laws of our forefathers mean nothing? What does "home of the free" really mean? Our government is taking all of this away. I guess I'll have to let them know the next time I have to take a leak, unless they're monitoring me and already know.

Anonymous said...

Oh, they know more about us all they we want to believe.

The feed for the videocameras on the square goes to where... the police station? Nope. It goes to the Mayor's office. Interesting, as he has no ability to enforce the law. The cameras are there for political reasons and to protect corporate assests belonging to friends of the administration.

Come one, come all to the City Council meetings, PLEASE, and you will see some of the dumbest folks ever elected stonewalling those they were elected to serve.

It was interesting that in the Times Leader article, they quoted chairman Thomas as saying," He came in here and didn't know anything at all". Well the first half of that arguement that didn't get reported is that I repeatedly have asked about Mr. Frati in writing and have gotten no response from the administration. They keep everything secret, make you guess, and then when you are wrong, they mock you. Quite professional, huh?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, G. With the things I get up to, I often have to step back and check to be sure what I am doing is making a positive impact. The good feedback when I get my face in the paper is most positive, because these are issues near and dear to me that I believe need to be discuused more often by all, and because, if the folks that are running the show had their way, we would all only be allowed out of our cages to go to work for them.

thanks/peace - t.g.

Anonymous said...

dEAR t.g.
Check every newspaper article that is ever written about Butch Frati and he is always referenced as "Director of Planning and Community Development" also check with Christine Jensen...the Director of Human Resources in City Hall...the payroll states that
Butch Frati is in fact the Director of Planning and not William Harris like you were told...

D.B. Echo said...

One of the more fun stories to come out of the trouncing of American ideals known as Guantanamo Bay (a place where enemy conbatants are held on foreign soil and thus exist outside the reach of any of that silly "constitution" crap) involves a man who was snatched off the street somewhere in Euroe (I forget where), whisked off to Gitmo, subjected to torture, dehumanizing treatment, the whole yadda yadda, and then suddenly whisked back to Europe and left blindfolded on a hilltop in some random country - neither his home country nor the country from which he was snatched - without so much as a "Gluck Auf". Turns out that there was some surveillance video from England (the most heavily surveilled country in the world) that showed him walking down the street on a day when the American government said he was actually in Afghanistan trying to kill Americans. Oopsie.

There was another case where a guy was caught on camera at a baseball game - I think it was, like, the filming of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond at a Yankees game - at the same time he was accused of being somewhere else committing a murder. Fortunately he was probably just beaten, tasered and sodomized a few times before being released.

The moral? Sometimes, randomly appearing on surveillance video can be a good thing.

Survellance cameras for everyone! X10's on hats!

Anonymous said...

There's something to be said as far as televised Council meetings are concerned. Scranton has been televising its meetings for the past few years and although I am not a citizen the meetings are a great mix of drama, intrigue and mostly comedy--the best unheard of show on the tube. I would encourage all WB residents to cite Scranton's example and petition to have WB meetings aired.

Anonymous said...

We could petition to air the Wilkes-Barre meetings, but nobody would do it. They say it costs too much. I have been videotaping the meetings of late and am looking into how to get them online.