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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 10, 2012 7:36 AM. The previous post in this blog was Of course!. The next post in this blog is Another alternative to business as usual at Portland City Hall. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In the smoke-filled back rooms of Portland City Hall

Here's a deeply disturbing story about Portland city government. In it we find the mayor appearing to make a sweetheart deal with Cisco Systems, a private company that wants a mega-contract to put security cameras on the city streets. If the company would agree to sign up to be a tenant in the Mark Edlen white elephant project known as the "sustainability center" (or maybe just act interested), the city would give it a "pilot project" to start putting up the cameras at selected locations.

This is troubling on two different levels. First, it shows the desperation the city is experiencing in getting any business into the absurd super-"green" office building. But more importantly, it shows that the city has learned nothing from the ill-fated "pilot project" involving its "smart" parking meters. That deal has landed the city's former parking meter manager under federal indictment on bribery charges, and it's a twisting, if not an outright breaking, of the public bidding laws.

This is exactly the way business is done in East Coast cities, where the corruption is openly acknowledged. Naive Portlanders who think their city is free of such evils need to wake up and smell the food compost.

Sadly, the daily newspaper doesn't seem to want to do much with this story. So there's a Pulitzer that reporter Beth Slovic won't be allowed to get.

Comments (18)

What's equally galling is that all of this is justified by Adams's vague survey stating that Portlanders want the surveillance cameras. If the wording is as vague as on other Sam initiatives, I'm not surprised that specially selected subjects thought that the cameras would be a good idea...as a vague concept. Amazingly, though, nobody ever runs these sorts of surveys with the question "would you support this at any cost, including an increase on taxes, to pay for it?"

It appears this story of internal mischief was only revealed through a public disclosure request.

Wasn't the Mayor's promise one of "transparancy in government?"

"I lied." Mayor Sam Adams

It is amazing that this story has surfaced at all!
The only thing transparent in Sam's world are the medicine containers in his bathroom cabinet!

If getting rid of Adams was really going to make much of a difference, why do all 3 major replacement candidates and for that matter the entire current city council waddle and quack the same way?

There may have been more going on with the 2008 elections, both locally and nationally, than we realized at the time.

If Portlanders are as progressive as they would like to believe, then subjecting themselves to 24/7 video surveillance is unlikely to rank high on their to do list for City Hall.

Many will see it as a violation of their civil rights. Others will simply shoot at the cameras with a BB gun.

Otherw will object to enriching Cisco with a no-bid contract (oops..."pilot project") simply as a quid pro quo for Sammy's Unsustainable Center.

I wonder if Mayor Adams has ever heard of Governor Blago?

2008?

This shipload goes back much further than that.

Where the Germans failed, the Americans will triumph- fascism 2.0 brought to you by CISCO, GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, TSA, NSA, ....

Sam Adams is the perfect f/tool - an ego so large that it can be easily twisted around his eyes and his heart.

It is no wonder he often appears incoherent and emotionless.

Leftists have always been totalitarian, despite any attractive or popular ideas they may have on their agenda. In the end, it's always about control and silencing dissent.

"Leftists have always been totalitarian, despite any attractive or popular ideas they may have on their agenda. In the end, it's always about control and silencing dissent."

You make it sound like it's bad or something.

It's a feature, not a bug!

Besides, Portland gets what Portland wants. For proof, see the next election (the real one) or the past one concluded yesterday (the fake one).

Mr. Grumpy, I'll dispute that a bit (I'm barely to the right of Abbie Hoffman, and I'll fight to the death for freedom of all sorts), but I also offer an alternative. This isn't a left/right issue so much as a vague safety issue. Does anybody remember that incident 15 years ago with the couple injured when some dolt threw cinder blocks off a bridge near downtown, going through their windshield? I remember reading the story, with it finishing with the couple complaining how police didn't have enough cameras underneath bridges through the city, on the offhand chance that the camera might have caught the guy in question as he was chucking those cinder blocks.

Okay, here's where it gets interesting. In 1997, I laughed and went on to read the rest of the paper, because I figured that nobody was dumb enough to wire all of Portland with those cameras. "It's too expensive, yah yah yah." Well, now it's almost affordable, and you'll see the same people thinking that those cameras are a great idea...so long as they don't have to worry their little heads about cost and so long as they don't get caught by those same cameras. (A libertarian acquaintance of mine during my writing days constantly wrote essays on how he was thrilled with the concept of no privacy existing anywhere, with hanging and flying cameras viewing everything we said and did, because that would make us all police our own actions. Well, for him, "us" really meant "everyone else", because he suddenly shut the hell up about the end of privacy after he was busted for serving alcohol to under-agers at a party thanks to concealable cameras.) Like most stupid ideas, this almost sounds like a good idea, to people more worried about that vague chance that they might need this tool than on the likelihood that it'll be abused while they're waiting for that vague chance.

Most people who call themselves libertarians aren't, they just want drug prohibition to end, which I agree with, but then they are idiots about every other issue.

Privacy is imperative to human development and happiness. Sad day when cameras dominate, especially at the hands of tyrannical government.

TTR,

Consider the example of Richmond CA, c. 2008:

"There are 34 Internet Protocol cameras monitoring high-crime areas of Richmond, which has a population of nearly 101,000, covers 56 square miles, and is located about 15 miles northeast of San Francisco. The price tag for that installation is about $1.8 million. It is expected to be completed next month.

At the Port of Richmond, there are 82 IP cameras monitoring the port's 15 square miles of perimeter and facilities, where the city runs five terminals and 10 more are privately owned. About 19 million short tons pass through the port every year, mostly noncontainerized liquids, dry bulk products, and automobiles, making it the third-largest volume of tonnage among California ports.

The cost for the port installation, $2.3 million, was paid for by a Department of Homeland Security grant. The project was completed in March."
http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9944742-7.html

But,

"While Richmond city and port officials were showing off their new systems, the city council in Washington, D.C., rejected funding for a video surveillance system there, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Real-time video surveillance raises privacy questions, such as who has access to the data and for what purpose, he said.

'You can pan into peoples' living rooms and bedrooms. Board operators are zooming in on attractive young women. It's not a pretty picture,' Rotenberg said, adding that real-time surveillance also hasn't been proven to reduce crime.

There have been recent reports that surveillance cameras don't do much to deter crime and instead have been used to investigate minor things like littering and misuse of disabled parking passes."

Returning to a small segment of Richmond CA:

"Atchison Village is located in the Iron Triangle. Although this area is known as the highest crime area of Richmond, within Atchison Village the crime rate is actually fairly low. This is partly due to traffic control gates that separate it from the greater Iron Triangle community, with only one vehicle entrance/exit. In addition, there is a very active citizenry, some of whom have lived in the village for over fifty years and an excellent Crime Watch and citizen patrol in the evenings.

The Richmond police chief, Chris Magnus, has been very helpful in increasing police reaction speed to reports of suspicious activity and patrol officers are frequent drop-ins to Atchison Village meetings.

The Mayor Gayle McLaughlin endorsed the idea of a "beat cop" to be assigned to the Village at a subsequent resident meeting about violence in the neighborhood. The Village itself has acted to control unlawful behavior, since it does have the power to expel residents by cancelling their membership for gross violations of their share contract with AVMHC.

Recent placement of powerful security cameras at the outside of the village and installation of a gunshot locating systems in Richmond's high-crime areas has increased policing effectiveness and lowered crime. Prospects are good for continued low crime, since the current wave of home desertions is not affecting Atchison Village, which promptly repairs and auctions empty units."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atchison_Village,_Richmond,_California#Crime

It would appear that surveillance cameras can be useful to a city's residents. I surely would support something that would reduce gunfire in this city's neighborhoods, and I'd certainly like to know who's helping himself to the tulips, roses, and other ephemeral fruits of my year-long exertions. It would be helpful, that is, were residents to have direct access to images gathered by city cameras. But surveillance systems cannot be a substitute for other instruments of public safety.

The current city government, as did those before them, has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear regarding the social consequences of its commitment to ever-increasing population density. It has, in its single-minded transportation and housing priorities, encouraged the isolation and anonymity that makes total surveillance an attractive option for both rulers and ruled.

The divisive, venal, alleged mayor has shown himself especially inept in matters of public safety; the other four councillors have shown themselves especially capable of voting "Me, too." The people who live in this city have no reason to trust their governing personnel with such a potentially powerful instrument of social control.

Meanwhile, has anyone forwarded Ms Slovic's investigative piece to the US Attorney?

Triffid Rancher,
I agree the safety issue does sound like a good idea on the surface, but like many radical ideas that sound good at first, the opportunity for abuse by those in control of it is often not far behind.

I was actually ranting a bit historically, but still believe it to be true.

On a related note, drones are next.

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/10/the_drones_are_coming_to_america/singleton/?mobile.html

Give Sam credit; he was able to recognize that "The City That Works" is a crappy motto, so he at least gave us a new one:

We Put The Stain In "Sustainable"!

The only place that ought to have one of these spy cameras is in Sammyboy's office. Then make sure every TV set in Portland can tune in and shazam, instant conspiracy transparency

Take a drive around Washington County -- Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin areas -- and note all the cameras atop the traffic lights in intersections. Of course, they are there to aid with traffic congestion....

My mind goes back to the expensive and predictable failure that was municipal wi-fi. The city understands nothing about technical matters (see also: New payroll system)

England is festooned with cameras, but violent crime still goes up. Was it worth the subjects' loss of freedom and privacy? How many public employees does it take to monitor thousands of cameras anyways?

As a thought experiment, I wonder what the city would do if they already had the cameras, and the Occupiers infest the parks again. Would they leverage them, or look the other way?

Such judgement calls become insidious, and inevitably will favor the "core constituency" while leaning on those lawful folks who will actually pay their fines.

I don't understand how the City could or would go to Cisco for camera installations. They already have a full fiber optic network and twisted pair network providing many cameras through out the City of Portland. PDOT has been installing cameras in the CBD and East Side Industrial district for at least 7 years, and around the Rose Garden since it was built, along with assisting in the installation of the ODOT traffic cameras within the City. The cameras in the CBD and East Side only cost around $800.00 each to install. Cisco can't come close to that low of a cost, nor can they compete with the cost of the network gear used to transport the video. The public views the result as the “Traffic Cameras” in every TV station's traffic reports. One other thing that would be an issue for the Cisco system to be installed is that the Transportation's network was funded by General Transportation Revenue.

As to privacy, it is firmly established that in the public right of way, there is no such thing. At best it is anonymity, not privacy. Currently the video is not recorded. When you walk down the road, anyone looking in your direction can see your actions. The camera's are not aimed into your windows, but on the right of way.


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