Thursday November 15, 2012

License plate readers:
A threat to our privacy

Editor of the Reformer:

In the Oct. 18 Reformer, on Page 2, we read that the "Brattleboro Selectboard keeps meeting short." Possibly not short enough. Embedded in the article is the note that the board approved a $40,000 grant from the Vermont Homeland Security for the Brattleboro Police Department to purchase a license plate reader machine. This raises significant personnel privacy issues, not ever discussed townwide.

Many purchases by the Police Department do not need a townwide discussion -- new radio communications, new sidearms, better equipment for the patrol cars, etc. But license plate readers? Chief Wrinn, in the article, indicates that the reader will allow police to track drivers who have outstanding warrants or traffic infractions. Is that all?

Several questions need to be answered.

-- What will be done with this information?

-- How long will this information be kept on file and where?

-- Who will have access to this information?

-- If my license plate is photographed, will my identification (name, address etc.


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) be kept on file somewhere?

-- If a check of my plate number reveals no outstanding warrants or traffic infractions, will this information be immediately discarded?

-- Will this information be forwarded to a state/national database?

-- Will this information be cross-referenced with FBI/CIA surveillance databases?

One wonders at the possibilities -- suppose the following, in the absence of anything else to worry about:

1st officer: I’ve got 402-DFF in the Price Chopper parking lot; now we know where he shops.

2nd officer: I got him yesterday, downtown in Harmony, with his dog, going to the Hotel Pharmacy.

Central: No outstanding warrants or traffic infractions, but keep after him, you never know.

1st officer: Identified as Ken McCaffrey, Pine Street, dog’s name unknown; Central, check with town clerk -- dog licenses; we’ll get the ID of that dog yet.

2nd officer: Keep after him -- when picked up by license plate again, stop and search -- see if he has a doggie bag on his person.

1st officer: License plate reader machine, what a step forward in thwarting crime in this town.

Central: Over and out; FBI has nothing on him; CIA says there was a Ken MCullough executed in Ulan Bator in 1931, probably not the current person in question.

1st officer: I’ve got another one -- 2BT-4396, out of state plate, turned right off Main Street onto Elliot Street; (and so it goes).

Ken McCaffrey,

Brattleboro, Nov. 9

Guilford school
no longer economic

Editor of the Reformer:

The cost of educating the children in Guilford is something that is not often taken into account. Everyone wants the best possible education provided to our children. There is no doubt that moving the middle school children to Brattleboro Area Middle School is what is best for these children. The academic opportunities far exceed what is possible at Guilford Central School. The sports opportunities far exceed what is possible at Guilford. The social opportunities far exceed what is possible at Guilford.

Although it has been pointed out that floor votes taken at Town Meeting have always gone in favor of keeping these kids at Guilford, let’s not forget that the majority of the voters have been disenfranchised by these floor votes. When it comes to deciding what is best for our kids, it is to be hoped that, this time, the vote will be by Australian ballot so that every voter has a say in what happens.

Catherine L. Muscat,

Guilford, Nov. 6

Opposing view to
Reformer editorial on Windham wind issue

Editor of the Reformer:

In reply to your editorial of Oct. 18: It would seem, from your editorial stance on the town of Windham’s opposition to wind farms, that town plans are to be honored unless large corporations take exception to them. Either our votes count for something all the time, or our small towns’ self-governance is a sham.

You mention the "need for respect" for a huge Spanish development conglomerate. Since Iberdola’s (a.k.a.Atlantic Wind) initial position is that the express wishes of the town landowners are of no importance, there is no respect. There is no room for towns and landowners "to be involved with any decision" in the future. Iberdola’s exclusion of local points of view is clearly stated in their brief to the Public Service Board.

You further state that "communication" might be a good idea. Iberdola has no dialogue with adjacent landowners who don’t want the mountaintop removed for one company’s profit. Nor are they listening to those who live downstream who worry about the inevitable flooding that will result from a watershed that has lost its absorbent capacity because a 100 foot wide road has blasted through it. They also are not listening to those homeowners in the three-mile radius whose property values will decrease because of the noise of the turbines.

The removal of public resources for private gain is not allowed in our rivers or in our farmland. Why should we allow removal of our mountaintops for private gain? Oddly, we are all aware of Act 250 which protects natural resources and concerned neighbors when large developments are proposed. We are unaware that Act 248 protects industrial development from the same regulatory scrutiny. The abutting neighbors have no legal recourse against wind development.

Perhaps you think the wind turbines are renewable energy which will decrease our reliance on oil. Firstly, our green ridgelines are not renewable. Secondly, in order to operate, the turbines require our current electric grid’s full capacity. Not only that, Iberdola will sell "green credits" to coal and oil companies enabling them to avoid punitive taxes on their dirty production. No oil will be saved.

Perhaps you think wind will replace our dependence on Vermont Yankee. In the current plan for the state’s energy purchases, Vermont Yankee would have already been reduced to 2 percent of our energy usage by the time this project would come on line.

Finally, you state that there is no harm in putting up some test towers (MET towers). Why allow a testing tower on a site where you do not want to allow a wind project? Iberdola has no interest in putting up wind test towers for the fun of it. The test towers only go up where wind will possibly follow.

Please look into the destruction of Lowell Mountain, the harm caused to legally powerless abutters by the blasting, the adjoining towns’ reasoned opposition and reconsider your editorial stance.

Sally Warren,

Grafton, Oct. 19

Praise for editorial

Editor of the Reformer:

Your Nov. 8 editorial is excellent. It should be mentioned that few progressive changes can be made until the corporation corruption of Members of Congress is eliminated. If cooperation is not possible there will have to be many Republicans losing their seats in the 2014 election.

George Whitney,

Brattleboro, Nov. 9

On religious freedom

Editor of the Reformer:

Let’s pray to Mary Immaculate Patroness of Our Country to have Congress legalize the Constitution, so we can keep our religious freedom.

Georgette Savoy,

Bellows Falls, Nov. 8