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ACLU praises Oakland for rejecting surveillance

under-the-watchful-eye.jpgOakland got a shout-out from the American Civil Liberties Union’s California affiliates this week with the issuance of their report, “Under the Watchful Eye: The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California.”

The report finds that “(p)ublic video surveillance systems threaten privacy and, especially in combination with other technologies, have a real potential to radically change the relationship between the public and the government. Despite that risk, cities and agencies throughout California are increasingly deploying surveillance camera systems with little public debate or consideration of potential consequences. This is a serious mistake.”

As for Oakland, it says:

There is a Better Way: Oakland Rejects Video Surveilance Twice
While many California cities rush to roll out video surveillance programs, one city considered and rejected them—twice. The Oakland city council, in both 1997 and 1999, rejected proposals to spend between $500,000 and $1 million on a video surveillance system.
Council members fully evaluated both privacy concerns and evidence of the systems’ effectiveness. Council member Henry Chang, an immigrant from China, reflected on his decision to come to the United States, saying, “We came because we don’t want to be watched by Big Brother all the time.” Council member Nancy Nadel rejected the monetary tradeoffs, arguing
that “it made me feel physical pain — the idea that we would spend public dollars on cameras before spending money to fight illiteracy.”
Council member Ignacio De La Fuente cast the deciding vote, citing a lack of evidence that cameras are effective in reducing crime and concluding that the program was not “worth the risk of violating people’s privacy rights.”
Then-Mayor Jerry Brown concurred, saying that “reducing crime is something the community and police must work on together. Installing a few or a few dozen surveillance cameras will not make us safe. It should also not be forgotten that the intrusive powers of the state are growing with each passing decade.”
While the city has rejected a broad city-run camera system, it has allowed some public money to be used to fund cameras for businesses in public-private partnerships.

Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
Under: Civil liberties, Henry Chang, Ignacio De La Fuente, Jerry Brown, Nancy Nadel, Oakland | No Comments »

Don’t like Arnold’s budget? Write your own.

So you think you’ve got a better plan for the state budget than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature?

Well, it’s time to put the state taxpayers’ money where your mouth is.

Next Ten, a Palo Alto-based, nonpartisan group trying to engage Californians in their state’s future, will hold a town hall meeting from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Oakland Museum, 100 Oak St., at which participants can develop their own state budget.

Participants will use keypads to vote on state policies including education, taxes, healthcare, the environment, the criminal justice system and more, factoring them all through Next Ten’s Budget Challenge online tool. The resulting budget plan will be delivered to the Legislature as it grapples with the governor’s May budget revision, providing lawmakers with insight into voters’ priorities.

Those at the meeting also will hear from speakers including former state Finance Department Director Tim Gage; Oakland Vice Mayor Jane Brunner; Oakland City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel; and Next Ten founder and venture capitalist F. Noel Perry. League of Women Voters members, educators, civic organization leaders, local politicians and community members have been invited, but it’s open to the public.

To RSVP and reserve a seat, e-mail rsvp@nextten.org or call 650-321-5417.

Posted on Friday, May 25th, 2007
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, General, Jane Brunner, Nancy Nadel, Oakland, Oakland City Council, Sacramento | No Comments »