NOPD Finally has a Policy on License Plate Tracking Technology Use

In December 2012 I noted that NOPD had no stated policy regarding its use or retention of data gathered through license plate scanners. Then, in July 2013, I noted that the ACLU had released a nationwide study on law enforcement use of the technology. The results of the study were not very encouraging if you are concerned about privacy and transparency.

Well, I am happy to announce that I recently discovered that NOPD finally has a policy! Policy 462 of the New Orleans Police Department Policy Manual of December 15, 2014 covers Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR). The policy begins on page 376 of the PDF if you want to read the entire policy, and also picks back up on page 891.

Some highlights:

  • The technology can only be used for official and legitimate law enforcement purposes.
  • In the event of any real-time alerts generated by the technology, officers are urged to verify the validity of the alert before taking enforcement actions.
  • Access to data gathered by the system is controlled.

Some concerns:

  1. Under the policy, data is allowed to remain on the reader for 30 days, and once downloaded to the main server it is retained for up to 180 days (6 months) unless the data is identified as evidence or subject to records requests.
  2. The policy allows for all data to be shared with other law enforcement agencies.
  3. The policy also mentions that images are gathered but treats them the same as other license plate-only data that is gathered.
  4. The policy does not include any public reporting of the use of the technology beyond what is mentioned in the policy.

I am concerned about #1 because data could be stored for 7 months under this policy. It is impossible to know if this is too long of a retention period absent further information from NOPD that retaining info for up to 7 months is necessary. I am of the opinion that the shortest possible retention periods are to be preferred.

Number 2 concerns me because the policy does not specify any limitations on sharing data with other agencies other than the requirement that it be for legitimate law enforcement purposes. The policy should require that the agency shared with also maintain a policy of short retention periods and controlled access.

Concern #3 could be addressed by a clarification of how images are stored, what they are used for, and the extent of detail included in images. Are we talking headshots of drivers and passengers, or just images of the vehicle surrounding the license plate?

Finally, #4 concerns me because while the policy requires regular internal audits, it does not allow the public to know how much data is gathered, how many crimes are solved with the data, how long data should be stored for, how many false alerts are generated, or primary neighborhoods the technology is deployed in, etc.. The ACLU recommends at least an annual public reporting, and I’m happy to agree with that at the moment.

In any event, I am pleased to finally see a written policy on the use of license plate scanners. This is a good first step in transparency and privacy, but it should be just that: a first step.

The “Truth” About Tech and Libertarians?

Yesterday, Salon published what amounts to a hit piece on Uber. Since I recently spent a weekend in Miami using Uber and taxis to get around, and I’m a libertarian, I noticed several things in the article that need a response.

The article begins by generally disparaging Uber for implementing “surge” pricing during the recent hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. According to the author, Uber should be faulted for not acting in a “civic” manner and provide rides free of charge to people looking to flee the area. To the author, this callous disregard for people’s safety is an example of Uber’s lack of altruism and mindless self-interest. Also, this is why Uber is like Ayn Rand, or something.

Following up this cliche invocation of Rand to accompany any critique of libertarianism (even though I’m not yet sure why libertarianism is being mentioned), the article continues with the example-free assertion that “[t]here was once a time when we might have read of “hero cabdrivers” or “hero bus drivers” placing themselves in harm’s way to rescue their fellow citizens.” For some reason it’s Uber’s fault that there weren’t cabdrivers or bus drivers selflessly hauling people out of the area. Is it also Uber’s fault that people who drive their own car for Uber, or some other service weren’t practicing pure altruism? What about random citizens? Did Uber prevent them from jumping in their own car to help?

Obviously, Uber has nothing to do with that. As much as taxis, buses, and private cars could get into the area, they were doing so. The issue is that because of the crush of demand, there was only so much supply of rides available on public transportation and in taxis. Therefore, to encourage (keep in mind that people who drive for Uber choose their hours) drivers to go to a dangerous area and haul people out, Uber raised prices. If you happened to be a person wanting to get out and couldn’t get a cab, bus, train, or walk, you had an additional option to pay extra to get a seat in someone’s private car. “Surging” prices did nothing to take away any other options people had. Why should Uber be faulted for charging more to create something where without the extra cost, nothing would exist? In other words, imagine Uber didn’t operate in Sydney on the day in question. People would have had to rely on fewer, traditional modes of travel to escape. Fortunately though, Uber did exist and because of it’s ability to entice drivers to the area by raising prices (until people complained), more people were able to get a ride than they otherwise would have. That is a good thing.

Next, the author claims that the above is merely an example of how the poor and middle class will get priced out of needed services. What that attitude is actually saying is that in order to properly value lives, services that increase the available options for rides during a crisis should at least be forced to charge the same as the existing options, or even better, make them available for free. Well, that attitude assumes that everyone will react to a dangerous situation with pure altruism and come rushing to assist their fellow citizens. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to risk that assumption. It is far safer to allow available options to materialize during needed times. Granted, doing that may require paying more. The horror!

Following that, I agree with the author that classifying services like Uber as part of the “sharing economy” is inaccurate. True, it’s a business, not just “sharing.” However, Uber is not an “under-regulated taxi company.” Uber is a technology company that provides a platform for people to find a ride and for drivers to find passengers.

At the heart of the article’s next line of argument is the underlying message that people, especially those not in the upper class, are entitled to transportation in other people’s cars at a rate the passenger believes to be affordable enough. Well, there is no “right” to transportation. Instead, businesses and individuals have a right to attract passengers by charging fares people are willing to pay to ride in vehicles the passenger is willing to ride in. If the passenger doesn’t like the available options and public transportation or cabs aren’t available, they are free to walk, bike, call a friend or family member, or ask for the kindness of a stranger.

Expanding the argument to focus on Uber’s hiring and pay practices, the article then asserts that Uber underpays drivers and fails to provide benefits because there are government programs that drivers can take advantage of. My first response is to inquire into taxi driver’s pay and benefits. It appears that taxi drivers would like to be paid more and the vast majority also lack benefits. So why does the author only target Uber?

Nevertheless, even assuming that Uber does as accused, the natural response to that is “OF COURSE!” Companies provide benefits as a means of attracting talented candidates because they know if they don’t, their competitors will, and other things being equal, they’ll lose the potential hire. Well, this general rule supposes that employers are competing for talent. What the lack of benefits and lower wages suggest is that Uber has a glut of people wanting to drive, so they don’t need to offer them because enough people are willing to drive without having higher wages or benefits provided.

Further, since when has it been the role of businesses, that can’t exist without profiting, to provide people who CHOOSE to work there with a wage that is “adequate” (whatever that means) and with benefits? The author seems to think that people are just inherently entitled to have these things given to them. Richly, the author then complains that taxpayers have to provide these entitlements to people other than the companies that they work for. So what you’re saying is you want people to have them except when you have to pay for them? What seems to get missed is that the more a business will have to give its employees, the fewer employees businesses will hire, thus resulting in the government having to provide more.

Next, the article makes a tragic assumption about regulations. Ignoring the realities of public choice theory and regulatory capture, the author states that “[r]egulations were created because they serve a social purpose, ensuring the free and fair exchange of services and resources among all segments of society.” Having actually studied legislation and the forces behind it, that is a naive statement at best. The reality is that frequently, regulations actually function to benefit a well-connected organized industry at the expense of the public and consumers.

And, to then add on another layer of dangerous assumptions about regulations, the article assumes that “we” can somehow “streamline sclerotic city regulators, upgrade taxi fleets and even provide users with fancy apps that make it easier to call a cab.” What the author wants is Uber, only worse.

Essentially, the author holds Uber to an impossible standard. Where taxi companies are excused for mistakes because they are subject to government regulations, Uber is villified. An Uber driver misbehaving is somehow worse than a taxi driver misbehaving just because the taxi company played by the rules. That’s just “because the law says so!” stated a different way.

No, whether an Uber driver or a taxi driver misbehaves is equally bad. Both drivers should be held accountable. If Uber’s system of protecting passengers isn’t working, then Uber should be accountable for that. Same goes for taxi companies. Just because taxis operate under older laws doesn’t mean they are sacrosanct. What is good is that we are seeing alternatives created so that we will actually know which system best accomplishes what passengers want. Competitive approaches will actually benefit us instead of just assuming that what taxi companies use is better because its the law.

Next, the author, and the cite used, mischaracterize Uber’s auto loan referral program. Advertising an additional source for obtaining an auto loan is a far cry from “pushing” drivers into sub-prime loans. Additionally, it’s quite a leap to imply that the mere advertising of the lending option means that relatively many drivers are getting involved with economy-crashing sub-prime loans rather than acquiring auto loans through the numerous other traditional means.

Nonetheless, the author is correct to point out troublesome activities that Uber does engage in regarding passenger information, espionage, and deceptive practices. While I use Uber whenever I can because, in my experience, it is FAR superior to the regular taxi experience that I am forced to use if I want to hire a driver in New Orleans, I am not blindly going to defend Uber. However, the proper way of dealing with bad business practices is for members of the public or the press to make the public aware. If Uber doesn’t respond and their customers or drivers are sufficiently displeased, Uber will eventually pay for their ways in decreased profit or even business failure. Unfortunately, this mechanism isn’t as neatly available to punish taxi companies for engaging in bad behavior because governments support them through existing regulation. Therefore, what should be called for is deregulation of the taxi industry so that the public can hold all companies responsible for bad business practices.

Finally, the article also says “[p]eople who work hard deserve to make a decent living. Society at large deserves access to safe and affordable transportation.” While I won’t repeat myself about the harmful attitude of entitlement, I will add important clarifications to these sentences:

People who work hard deserve to make the living that reflects the value they created or added through their hard work. All hard work is not equal.

Society at large deserves access to transportation options they are willing to pay for. That access does not entitle one person or group of persons (i.e. government) to require another person to provide that access for less than they could get from a voluntary exchange.

While I certainly cannot speak for all libertarians, after reading the article I’m not sure the author has ever really talked with any of us. At a minimum, the author seems to misunderstand what we stand for. Hopefully I have been helpful in clarifying what the “truth” is.

The Cost of Voting

This afternoon on, Jarvis DeBerry has a piece complaining about the length of yesterday’s ballot in New Orleans. Secretary of State, Tom Schedler has also complained about this. Well, I respectfully disagree.

First, it’s not like the ballot and its contents were published just this week. The races, amendments, and other ballot measures have been available to review for months. There are numerous sources online and offline that explain them, and in case you somehow managed to avoid all the campaign ads, the date for the election has been known for more than a year. So, that yesterday was an election should not have come as a surprise to anyone unless they suddenly awoke from a coma.

Second, elections are how we decide our overlords and choose whether or not to change our state constitution and local laws. As a result, voters should be expected to put some effort and thought into who or what they’re going to vote for. Thinking you can just show up on election day and figure it out is certainly one strategy, but it is certainly not a good strategy for making any kind of educated choice. I do not think it’s too much to ask for voters to be expected to make a decision before they get in the voting booth. That way, it’s pretty quick to make your selections once you actually get in front of a ballot.

I also find the complaints a bit ironic. We are bombarded by friendly and not-so-friendly reminders to vote, expensive get-out-the-vote drives, and ongoing arguments over voter id and access to the polls. Yet, God forbid some poor voter show up at the polls who hasn’t cared to get informed and discover a long and involved ballot that requires more than simply choosing their party of choice.

If the numbers show that significantly fewer people voted for the amendments and ballot measures than for Senator, what that tells me is that people were voting responsibly. I make a point to do my homework before every election, but even I sometimes choose not to vote on matters I truly don’t understand or have a preference. And you know what? That’s ok.

What is not ok is presuming that a long and involved ballot is something that voters can’t or shouldn’t have to deal with. Even if the odds are extremely small that any one vote will impact an election, exercising the right to vote means something. It means more than just showing up and picking your tribe over the other one. If we are to have a government that is governed by the people, then the least the people can do is educate themselves on how they’re choosing to be governed. I trust that the voters are more than capable of handling this task, and more than that, they must be trusted with it.

Finally, I do understand the frustration with a long list of proposed amendments. At a minimum, they do need to be worded in a clear way that people can understand. This year I thought they were worded fine and I didn’t have any trouble understanding the language during my research. However, that is certainly a fluid dynamic to be monitored. Nevertheless, Tom Schedler’s proposal to limit the number of amendments per ballot is something I oppose. Do we have too many proposed amendments to the Constitution? Maybe. But even if we do, how can anyone predict beforehand what the proper number should be in any given year?

Instead of griping about the length of the ballot, or proposing to shorten it, or assuming that people can’t or don’t want to deal with it, remember what voting is supposed to be about. It is supposed to be an integral part of our system of government, and as such, for those who choose to participate, it shouldn’t be too much to ask to do some homework before you show up.

November Grand Rapids Ballot

Since my fiancee will be voting in Grand Rapids, Michigan tomorrow, I figured I should take a look at the ballot with her. It’s even longer than New Orleans’! For those of you in GR who are unfamiliar with my writing, I speak with a decidedly libertarian point of view. However, I have tried to be more even-handed with this post since it was mostly written with the goal of informing rather than persuading.

To see your own ballot before heading to the polls between 7am -8pm, go here to enter your info and then select the option to “View My Sample Ballot.” You will also be able to see the information for your polling location.

U.S. Senate:

Gary Peters is in favor of removing 1st Amendment speech protections recognized in Citizens United. While this issue alone is obviously a major point of contention for people on both sides, I am resolutely in agreement with the Court’s decision in the case. I am in favor of more information being broadcast during election cycles, not less. Reversing Citizens United would remove one significant method of disseminating information to voters. Gary Peters also favored bailouts for the automotive industry, and generally believes we can manipulate and manage the economy to success. At least he’s in favor of marriage equality and allowing refinancing of federal student loans.

Unfortunately, Terri Lynn Land isn’t much better than Peters. “Sealing” the border, “no” to marriage equality, more economic micromanaging, increasing the minimum wage, etc. I fully agree with Ms. Land’s position on making colleges bear some responsibility for defaulted student loan debt, though. That is a policy that could actually work to lower college tuition costs.

I guess it should come as no surprise that the only candidate in this race I can get excited about is the Libertarian, Jim Fulner. He articulates consistent goals of decreasing government involvement in our lives, not more or just differently managed involvement. He understands the problems with our massive military spending specifically, and overspending in general. He is the only candidate who would meaningfully attempt to change government.

U.S. House, District 3:

I’m not even going to spend any more time other than saying yes, yes, and yes again to Justin Amash. He has consistently impressed me with his civil libertarian positions and his determination on fighting the establishment to make people more free.


All the media coverage would lead one to believe that only Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger, Mark Schauer are in the race. Practically speaking they’re probably right. Unfortunately, this creates a self-fulfilling cycle that ignores other good candidates. For example, my personal worldview is obviously most in line with Libertarian candidate Mary Buzuma, but I was also impressed by Green Party candidate Paul Homeniuk’s platform items of reducing college administration costs and eliminating the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Regardless, when comparing Gov. Snyder and Mark Schauer one thing is clear: more tax-payer dollars will be spent in the next 4 years. See here and here. So, essentially, the choice before Michigan voters is between which government programs you favor increased budgets for and how high you prefer those increases to be. I’d rather vote for a candidate who would actually consider seriously decreasing the size of government, and not the candidate who would just increase government less than the other guy.

Secretary of State:

According to current Sec. Johnson’s website, she has accomplished a good deal in her first term. Of special interest to me is the improved service while decreasing the budget. The Democratic challenger, Godfrey Dillard, comes across as more of a voting rights activist than an executive level bureaucrat. And really, that is what the Secretary of State office is, bureaucracy. If the office must exist to administer functions created by law, then we should have a competent individual in place who understands that the office should run as efficiently as possible for the people of Michigan. I don’t see anything that suggests Ruth Johnson is not currently accomplishing that, and I am interested to see what further improvements she could implement in a second term. On a separate note, it was interesting to see that Mr. Dillard served as lead counsel in the 2003 U of M affirmative action case, Gratz v. Bollinger. I fundamentally disagree with affirmative action as a state-sponsored activity, and as such cannot support a candidate who actively works to continue such policies.

Attorney General:

John Anthony La Pietra is a solo-practitioner focusing on constitutional law and civil rights cases. He seems to be running a campaign based on being an A.G. “FOR THE PEOPLE.” By “PEOPLE,” he seems to mean everyone but the rich and powerful. He alludes that the incumbent is more concerned with the rich and powerful than the average citizens of Michigan. It is also possible that his candidacy is in reaction to the incumbent opposing his clients in a mayoral recall petition in Benton Harbor.

Bill Schuette is the incumbent A.G. He is focusing his campaign on lessening crime in Michigan by increasing the number of law enforcement officers and increasing funding for testing of rape kits. The Detroit Free Press was highly critical of A.G. Schuette’s unsuccessful defense of Michigan’s anti-gay marriage law.

Mark Totten is a current Michigan State Univ. professor and former federal prosecutor and attorney with the U.S. Dept. of Justice. He has compiled an impressive slate of endorsements. Mr. Totten has an impressive resume and hits the current A.G. hard for positions he has taken. Voters could expect an A.G. Totten to be a more progressive A.G. (for better or worse) and take consistent Democratic legal positions. I believe Mr. Totten misstates A.G. Schuette’s position on the contraception cases like Hobby Lobby.

Supreme Court Justice, Race 1 (choose 2):

Current Justice Brian Zahra has a strict view of the rule of law and enforcing the constitution as written. Justice Zahra favors removing Supreme Court openings from the ballot and instead allowing the Governor to appoint Justices, thereby ridding the current system of requiring candidates to go through the party nomination process. In effect, Justice Zahra favors implementing the federal system of Executive appointment and Senate confirmation of Justices.

James Robert Redford is a current Judge on the 17th Circuit Court. He has served in the 17th Circuit for 11 years. Prior to that, Judge Redford spent 28 years in the Navy JAG Corps and served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for 8 years. Judge Redford is also an Eagle Scout. He favors the current method of electing Supreme Court Justices, but is open to greater transparency in the process.

Bill Murphy is the Chief Judge on the Court of Appeals. He has served on the Court of Appeals for 26 years and served as Chief Judge for 5 years. Further, Judge Murphy served for 8 years on the Judicial Tenure Commission monitoring state judges for ethics complaints.

Doug Dern appears to be a protest candidate who believes the current Justices have “forgotten about the people.” Aside from multiple typos in his Mlive Voter Guide responses, he doesn’t offer much by way of his judicial philosophy.

Richard Bernstein is a legally blind trial attorney who believes in “blind justice for all.” His practice has focused on providing pro bono representation for disabled individuals in discrimination claims.

Supreme Court Justice, Race 2 (choose 1):

Kerry Morgan is an attorney who believes the job of a Supreme Court Justice is to secure the rights of the people. He thinks the current system of electing judges is adequate in that it limits partisan primaries.

Deborah Thomas is a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge. Judge Thomas has an exhaustive resume of public service. Unfortunately, Judge Thomas’ Mlive Voter Guide responses were riddled with typos. That is not what I am looking for in a Supreme Court Justice candidate.

Justice David Viviano has served on the Supreme Court since March, 2013. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Justice Viviano served as a state circuit court judge for 6 years. Justice Viviano believes in adhering to the rule of law, interpreting laws with their plain meaning, and looking to legislative intent, not the judge’s policy preferences. Further, Justice Viviano hopes to make technological improvements on the Court to improve electronic filing and access to Court documents. Justice Viviano is a member of the Federalist Society.

State Senate, District 29:

Dave Hildenbrand essentially sounds like a generic Republican. Helping to balance the budget? Yes, please. However, Helping decrease regulations? Yes, again. However, not supporting marriage equality and generally bragging about massive spending increase is not a good way to my heart.

I was hoping to be impressed by Lance Penny. Then, he lost me by the 5th line of his website. Who cares if Dave Hildenbrand receives donations from the Koch brothers? I participated in a Koch fellowship this summer. I think if Mr. Penny actually bothered to look into the causes the Koch’s give their money to he would re-think his knee-jerk disdain for them.

State House, District 75:

Challenger John Lohrstorfer doesn’t offer any specifics of his platform or plan should he be elected. All he really says is that he wants a government that is smaller, costs less, and gets out of the way. Those things sound good, but without any more specifics we have no way of knowing how serious or practical of a candidate he is.

Incumbent Brandon Dillon seems to be taking the same truth-challenged path as Mark Schauer in the race. Aside from not being truthful about education spending, Dillon is also in favor of raising taxes on businesses (a sure way to improve the job market in Michigan) and a friend of big labor. Searching for any positive attributes are difficult as well. Dillon offers little specifics aside from typical-sounding plans for helping families and bringing in jobs.

Kent County Commissioner:

Jim Talen has served as County Commissioner for 14 years. His platform is fairly generic, so essentially a vote for him is a vote for approval of the current state of Kent County. I do find it curious that he views the most pressing issue facing the county to be the state government. I was hoping to hear more than “just elect people who are better for us” (paraphrasing).

Unfortunately, opponent Theodore Nikodem has not offered any actual platform or ideas for needed changes that I have been able to find.

State Board of Education (choose 2):

I ran out of energy for this one.

U of Michigan Regent (choose 2):

John Jascob strongly supports an open learning environment by opposing speech codes and free-speech zones, and he also views cutting administrative costs as a key way to lower tuition costs for students. However, Mr. Jascob has some odd sounding ideas like stopping “university investments tied to the occupation of Palestine” and university-contracted military research.

Mike Behm has a lot of grand soundbites, but is quite lacking in actual subtance aside from his plan to decrease tuition costs by acquiring more funds from the state.

Joe Sanger is quite concerned with the rising cost of tuition and would be willing to implement a tuition freeze. Also, Mr. Sanger feels rather strongly the U of M should not be instilling in its students a collectivist mindset of political correctness.

Dr. Rob Steele seems to have some rather solidly thought out plans, such as using endowment funds for financial aid to decrease student reliance on federal loans, guarantee of a fixed price for tuition until graduation once a student enrolls, and tuition credit for S.T.E.M. graduates who stay and work in Michigan. Dr. Steele also taught at U of M Medical school for 20 years so he would be quite knowledgeable in understanding budgetary needs of the medical programs which make up about half of the budget. However, his experience could possibly make him too protective of the medical school budget in looking a potential cuts in costs.

Ron Weiser is the former Ambassador to Slovakia. He plans to look at decisions from a more business-like perspective of avoiding bureaucracy and cutting costs and regulations. He is also interested in making University decision-making more transparent.

Finally, current Board of Regents Chair, Kathy White, is a law professor, attorney, and Lt. Col. in the Army reserves. Ms. White certainly has an impressive resume. However, she doesn’t offer much in the way of what voters can expect her to focus on during another term.

Michigan State Trustee (choose 2):

I ran out of energy for this.

Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees (choose 2):

See above.

Grand Rapids School Board (choose 5):

Since only 7 candidates are running, I approached this by trying to eliminate 2 candidates. All appear to be serious candidates, but Milinda Ysasi looks to be the least qualified among the 7. Considering the remaining 6, Tony Baker, John Matias, Maureen Quinn Slade, and Wendy Verhage Falb are incumbents, while Jose Flores and Jamie Scripps are newcomers. John Matias articulated the most impressive goals for the Board, by far.

State Proposal 1:

A “yes” vote would allow the law legalizing wolf hunting in Michigan to remain in place. That’s the core of the proposal. Are you in favor of the state creating a wolf hunting season and licensing the process, or are you opposed to wolves being hunted?

Apparently, stories of problems with wolves in the U.P. have been over-exaggerated and people claim a hunting season is not needed to keep the wolf population under control. Also, some people worry that allowing hunting will cause the still-recovering wolf population to suffer. On the other hand, some argue that the wolf population of some 636 is large enough to sustain properly managed hunts. There’s also the argument that favors sport hunting generally.

Interestingly, this Proposal and Proposal 2 may be legally moot and the votes won’t end up mattering. So, if you’re truly undecided don’t feel like you necessarily have to make a choice.

State Proposal 2:

A “yes” vote would approve of the law allowing the Natural Resources Commission to regulate wolf hunts, among other things. However, the law also contains an appropriation to fight the invasive Asian Carp fish. That means that this proposal is legally moot and will really have no effect. So, like above, a vote on this proposal is more of an opinion poll than anything.

Grand Rapids Term Limits:

A “yes” vote would implement term limits on Grand Rapids City Commissioners and the Mayor. The term limits would only allow mayors and commissioners to serve for 2 terms.

Support for term limits recognizes the reality that it is very difficult to vote incumbents out of office due to the inherent advantages of holding office. The increased name recognition and familiarity to voters, combined with the ability to build relationships with influential people in the community create large hurdles for challengers to overcome. These advantages exist regardless of whether the incumbent is doing a good job in office. Many other municipalities have enacted term limits and they are generally popular with voters.

Opponents of term limits view the best way of getting rid of unpopular incumbents to be through the electoral process. Opponents do not want to risk losing good people in office due to an arbitrary limit.

Kent County Tax for Veterans Services:

A “yes” vote would create a millage for 7 years that would equate to a $5 annual tax on a $100,000 home. The tax is estimated to raise ~$1,000,000 in the first year. There are 36,000 veterans in Kent County.

Supporters of the tax point out that Kent County currently only has about $8 to spend per veteran to supplement services provided by the federal VA clinic. The tax would increase that amount to $36.

Services that could be provided by the increase in funding include increasing staff to assist veterans in accessing benefits available through the VA, increasing public outreach to inform veterans of available benefits, and supplementing VA transportation to clinics in Ann Arbor and Battle Creek.

Opponents counter that increasing administration is not the same as providing veterans with benefits. Also, the VA already provides transportation to Ann Arbor and Battle Creek clinics. Further, a campaign based on a message of “it won’t cost you much” is hardly a way to galvanize support in a manner that is very convincing of the importance of the tax being passed. Finally, the Kent County VA has noted that 2013 was the first time in 3 years that veterans did not have to be turned away for services, so the argument could be made that an increase in funds is not really needed.

November 2014 NOLA Ballot Propositions

The November 4, 2014 ballots in New Orleans will include 3 parish-wide propositions. The text of the propositions can be found here. The Times-Picayune has an editorial on them here. This post will cover my brief thoughts on them.

Law Enforcement District Proposition:

I oppose the creation of this millage. While it appears that the millage isn’t technically a tax increase, but rather an extension of the existing tax, that is mere window dressing. Regardless of what happens, the people of New Orleans will be forced to pay for federally mandated improvements to the jail either by an extra 10 years of the current millage or by the city cutting costs by eliminating or reducing other city services. Since I find it laughable that the city just can’t seem to find enough waste, bloat, unnecessary programs or services, or other expenses to cut, I will not support paying for this millage.

Charter Amendment for City Contracts:

I like the measures that Mayor Landrieu has put in place to create a more transparent and competitive process in reviewing and granting city contracts. Yet, the Mayor does not need a charter amendment to continue these practices. I oppose this amendment solely because of the requirement that a disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) program be established. DBE programs are nothing more than affirmative action for businesses and arbitrarily manipulate what is supposed to be a competitive process. Partly basing business decisions on race and gender used to be called racism and sexism. What changed?

Charter Amendment for Inauguration Dates:

Yeah, sure. Why not?