Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Minnesota Legislature Gives Old Bills Animation.

 I stated in a previous posting the difference the new Republican Legislature may take on privacy issues. There will be differences on other issues as well.

Proposed legislation that went nowhere because of who controlled the legislature in the past may now see some daylight and get some traction.  Bills that could curtail organized labor efforts, to the rights of citizens to bear arms, or requiring welfare recipients to be part of a finger imaging system, for example, are proposals that could get a welcoming committee hearing.

It does not necessarily mean that the bills will become law.  The Legislature has to contend with Governor Mark Dayton(DFL)who may veto some of these proposals. Secondly, constitutional proposals need only a majority of the House and Senate to be placed on the ballot.

No matter what happens to the initiatives by the GOP the direction and mood of public debate will change.

The following are some bills that Republican legislators introduced during the last legislative session:

Abolish the need for issuing of certificate of need for new nuclear power plant.
Providing life imprisonment sentence for persons convicted of three or more violent felonies.
Establish a finger imaging system to identify applicants for recipients of public assistance programs.
Authorization for use of union dues for political purposes.
Providing for a gradual phase out of the corporate income tax.
Right of citizens to bear arms.

To find out other proposals and initiatives that may get new life because of the change at the Capitol check out the Minnesota legislative bill search.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anatomy of a Snow Plowing.

I have driven nearly 400 miles these past several days in our city streets.  I have wondered as much as other citizens have about the effectiveness of Minneapolis's and St. Paul's snow plowing efforts.  I wonder why the Mayor of St. Paul and the Superintendent of St. Paul Schools are spatting over who is right on the quality of snow plowing in the city and whether or not the schools should have been closed.  Can't we all get along?

There were people on Tuesday more than likely lost income from their jobs because they had to stay home with their kids  Their were also other trials and tribulations that the Saturday snowfall created in both cities.

There needs to be accountability, openness, and transparency from city leaders as to what transpired since Saturday in regards to the snowplowing efforts.

Are there specific plans for snowplowing such as Saturday's situation? And what are those?  Have there been cuts in the public works departments that have made it less effective in essential snowplowing?  At least in St Paul, why was there such a difference of opinion between two public leaders?  It would be interesting to see their electronic communication if they had any, such as e-mails and text messages.  What was the rationale used by both leaders to come to their conclusions?  Will the city councils do effective oversight?

How can the city government engage its citizens to shovel out emergency items such as fire hydrants immediately after a major snowfall? Or even technology to help fire personnel find the hydrants.  There were several fires in the Twin Cities.  The Pioneer Press reported in the at least with one of those, fire hydrants were hard to find.  How does the role of sidewalk accessibility for pedestrians play in the public works departments snow plowing plans?

What can we learn to do better in a similar situation in the future.?  I hope the city leaders are listening.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How The U Can Come Clean On Kaler.

There has been some criticism and questions from the public as to how the U selected the new President.  Is Eric Kaler the best person?  The Chairman of the Regents, Clyde Allen, indicated that all four semi-finalists are qualified for the U of M Presidency.  How is it that every regent was on board to support Candidate C (Kaler) when Regent Simmons made the motion to name him as the finalist?  What communication or meetings were there between regents or the selection committee and regents about the U President selection process?

To bring more transparency, openness, and accountability to the recent presidential process I suggest the following:

1. Make public the search committee's notes and evaluations of each of the four semi-finalists. The search committee used criteria developed by the Regents.  Public data can be separated from private data.  If the consultant did an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of the semi-finalists that should be public.  Again the separation of private and public data.

2. Make available all agendas, minutes, and all data that are public of the Presidential Search Committee.

3. Tell the public the process of how Regent Allen and Simmons communicated with the other Regents during the Presidential selection process.  There have been allegations of serial or rolling meetings to avoid the Open Meeting Law.

I am sure other things could be done.  That is for other people and entities to do and suggest.  For me this is a start.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Boost Your I.Q.

Not that kind of intelligence about brainpower, but criminal intelligence.  Criminal intelligence is information gathered by police on individuals or organizations who they suspect of criminal activity. There will be a public hearing on December 2, 2010, at the Minnesota State Office Building, 3:00pm, Basement Hearing Room on this issue

You may wonder why this matters to you. 

Some of you may know about GangNet and the use of it by the Gang Strike Force. The GangNet database had listed thousands of people listed as "gang members".  The criteria was solely developed and structured by law enforcement.  People's names were added to the database the same way, by police alone.  It was easy to get on the list.  Being seen with an documented gang member, you were listed. If you have a suspicious tattoo that you had done on your trip to Hawaii, you were identified.  Even having a close relative on the wrong side of the law could get you possibly captured in the computer.
But more than that, GangNet was secret, unaccountable, and not transparent.  The individual more than not did not know if their name was in the database.  There was no process for you to find out if you were on the list or even how to get off.  On the other hand, if you applied for a conceal and carry permit you could be denied based on your name being solely in GangNet, or you could be treated as a suspect and be under surveillance or background information gathered on you.

I use GangNet as an example how criminal intelligence is collected and can be used.  Criminal intelligence is not only collected on alleged gang members.

Criminal intelligence can be collected on such simple things as a phone call to the police accusing you of being involved in drugs, or by an anonymous tip with any kind of accusation, or even if you are protesting against the war or big government.

How the local and state police use this kind of data, even with good intentions, raises far reaching civil liberty issues regarding individual privacy, public accountability, and First Amendment issues.  There is a real possibility that innocent people could be speculated upon and branded as a suspect and be placed in a database secretly and unaccountable and then that data being shared throughout the state and to the Federal Government.

There is more information on this issue on a blog post, a press release by the Department of Public Safety, and at the BCA Website, S.F.2575 Work Group.

By informing yourself and going to the hearing on Thursday you can help create standards and direction as to how the Minnesota State Legislature can ensure that the tools of law enforcement to solve crime and keep us safe do not become a device for a particular purpose of a police state.

Because if we have not learned anything from our history, from the abuses of the FBI to what has happened in Minnesota, it is this: a little misinformation and a mask of criminal suspicion can keep out of sight bad behavior and dereliction of duty by even the best intended in the midst of us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

License Plate Readers: Keeping Track of Your Travels.

The Star Tribune reported that law enforcement agencies such as Bloomington, St. Paul, and others have purchased license plate readers.  I was struck by two points made in the story, "Camera systems can be tweaked to meet the individual needs of departments."  The other point being that police have heard few comments that they are acting like "Big Brother".

The reason why law enforcement agencies have not heard concerns about the license plate reader is because hardly anybody knows about it.  Secondly, to where the law enforcement agency can decide what "individual needs" are raises privacy and civil liberty concerns.

These cameras can be mounted on police cars or on poles.  They can collect thousands of license plate data on cars and individuals in a 8 hour period.  A law enforcement agency may focus only on stolen cars and missing persons when the data is compared with those lists.  Others may focus on parking meter violations, bench warrants, suspicious persons, cars without insurance, and other types of doings that interest law enforcement.

The data collected by the readers can be stored, linked for other applications and uses, or compared to information in other databases.  What vehicles are in use, where it has been, and where it is going are some of the inferences that can be made from the data collected.  The license plate can tell where an individual could be or where the person has been based on who the plate is registered to.  Depending on the vendor and the product a database can store images, plate #, date, time, and gps data.

Issues of inaccuracy, mission creep, are among the many issues with the license plate reader.  Law enforcement entities creating and retaining a license plate database of our comings and goings have serious privacy and civil liberty implications for Minnesotans.

Other states have taken notice to this technology and have done guidelines and legislation to address the citizen's concerns.  I think we need to do so as well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The New U President: What Went Wrong.

The University of Minnesota selected a new President on Thursday, but there are allegations that the state's Open Meeting Law was violated.  The Star Tribune reported that there were private meetings between members of the Board of Regents(University's governing body) and the candidate Eric Kaler before the public interview in an open hearing of the full board.

The U seems to be falling into its old habits again, not wanting to follow our states open meeting and public records law. This is not new for the U.  Depending on the issue the Regents would fight to the death either in the Courts or at the Legislature that they are self autonomous and open government laws did not apply to them.

That changed in 2004 when the Minnesota Supreme Court said, no, no, Regents you are accountable to the laws of the State of Minnesota, Open Meeting Law and the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

Since 2004, the Regents and the U have fought hard at the legislature to keep things secret.  Those things such as how the U of M invests at least a billion dollars in private venture capitol, Tubby Smith's and his coaches outside income, which is related to the new conflict of interest reporting that the U is in the process of adopting.

So in whose hands does responsibility land to see what happened with the selection process and that the U is not falling into its old tricks again, the media, the legislature, or you the citizen?

You ask any citizen in Minnesota, tell them that billions of their hard earned money goes to the U, the University is viewed as the new technology and research engine for our states economic future, and it is important for the education of our citizens, would you hire the candidate for CEO who only answers the tough questions in private?  I would think not.

The blame should not be on the new President, but on the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota

Monday, November 15, 2010

Experts: Minnesota's Criminal History System Falling Apart.

The collapse of the 35W bridge has made the old freeway bridge a symbol of impending doom.   This was done to describe the state of  Minnesota's criminal history system.

Minnesota's network of criminal history records is known as the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) system.  The network allows law enforcement, agencies, and citizens to get access to arrest and conviction records. It is the state's central repository for data on an individuals felony, gross misdemeanor, and other misdemeanor's.

The Criminal and Juvenile Justice Information Task Force recently talked and discussed  of what the priorities should be for the coming budget biennium. The CCH and the Criminal Justice Reporting System (CJRS) were listed as very important priorities.  Both systems were described by experts as being decades old and near collapse.  Hence, the 35W analogy was stated.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension staff said that CCH and CJRS have been submitted through the budget process in past years, but has not made it through.

An outage of Minnesota's criminal history system would have dire, but harder to see consequences.

The background check on the caregiver for your parents could not be done, the cop who needs information before an arrest is made to see what the suspects past record may be would not be available, or the person who wants accurate, complete, correct information about themselves as they apply for government licenses and permits.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Will There Be A Difference On Privacy Issues With The Gop?

Will the sweep of the Republicans to the House and the Senate at the Capitol make a difference?  Yes and No.

Privacy issues at the legislature are generally not a political or party issue.  It depends on the specific bill.  For example, a bill that was introduced to give individuals more rights as to what the state does with DNA samples may have more of a chance of passing because of the change.  On the other hand, legislation that would regulate the credit report industry rigorously may not.

In general, there is a difference in attitude between the political parties as to the relationship of individual to government, and the role of government in the private sector.

Based on my experience of years working on legislation I see the new legislature more so reviewing what data the government collects on its citizens.  Any new initiatives to collect data in the health care industry on individuals or by government will be met with skepticism. On the other hand, legislation giving workers strong rights on how they are electronically monitored may not have a chance of passing.

At the same time I have seen members of both parties stand up to strongly regulate the private sector and to stop government involvement in our lives.

Representative Holberg took on the cell phone industry to ban them from selling and placing cell phone numbers in phone books.  Another example is when legislators, Tim Pawlenty and Steve Kelley introduced and passed the first bill in the country to regulate how internet companies use our private information.  I also saw how a number of DFL'ers opposed photo cop which a number of government entities wanted.  It did not pass.

All I know as I begin my annual anticipation of going to the legislature to work on the issues I care about.  I will do as I always do.  Be prepared, have information, and be there at the Capitol.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Open Government: What the Gubernatorial Candidates Said and Did Not Say

I did a post with 5 questions on open government for the gubernatorial candidates.  I sent the 3 major campaigns the questions and followed up with e-mails and telephone calls.  I asked the campaigns to respond so I could post their answers.

The candidates position on open government is significant and should be given more attention during the campaign.

In truth, open government and transparency is an important issue.  Without it we will not know if the new governor is living up to the promises that got him elected in the first place.

This is what I got back.  The Emmer and Dayton campaigns, nothing.  The Horner campaign sent me an e-mail stating that they appreciated the questions.  James Horan of the campaign stated they will try to answer the questions before the election, but they may not have the time to give "more thoughtful analysis".  The last sentence said.  "Please contact me after the election if you'd like to discuss the specific points."

Given the emphasis on transparency in the political dialogue, the responses from the candidates would seem to indicate that transparency, openness, and accountability are not important.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Microsoft/Minnesota Contract Not In The In-Box Yet .

The Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology is wanting to take its time in honoring public data requests for access to copies of the Microsoft agreement that the state just signed.

Some people have asked for a copy or access to the contract, but they have been told they need "an official, formal Chapter 13 request".  Chapter 13 is the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.

I scratch my head on this one.  The document is readily available for the public to inspect, but there is a hook.

The state and Microsoft agreed that parts of the contract come under a non-disclosure agreement.  The state to protect themselves need the formal process.  A request may take a while.  The lawyers have to sort it out.

With the bureaucratic barriers, and the contractual secrecy, What is Microsoft and Minnesota trying to hide?

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Do the Gubernatorial Candidates Stand on Open Government?

As the governor's race heads into the final weeks, there is still time to ask the candidates some important questions about openness and transparency in government.

Candidates always support openness-at first blush.  But when it comes to spending money on it or forcing people and companies that work for or with the government to be open, it is often a different story.

But make no mistake; open government starts at the top, with the governor, and they have a great deal of discretion to determine what the public can know about its government.

And with major issues like budget cuts, health care and taxes facing the next administration, there is no time like now for the people about to make these important decisions to commit "showing their work" as they go about the people's business.  We may want to know how and why leaders came to the decisions they made.

Personally, I have worked with former Senator Mark Dayton and Representative Tom Emmer on open government issues.  Tom Horner I have not, but his background as a reporter makes him aware of these issues.

Here's what anyone interested in open government should ask:

1. Do you think that the Minnesota Government Data Act effectively accomplishes the twin goals of  maximizing public access to government data and protecting citizens from governments improper collection and use of personal information?  If not, what changes would you propose to the law to make it effective?

2. In relation to Minnesota's government data and information, what does the term transparency mean to you?

3. Our current governor tells us that most e-mail records of his office are not official records and do not need to be retained.  If you are elected, will you take a similar position?  If not, what will be your approach to retention of records and data of the governor and the governor's office?

4. Do you believe that meetings with regulators, and other state agencies have with businesses ought to be subject to the open meeting law?

5. Will you pledge to make your calendar of appointments, meetings, and state related travel available for public inspection?

I wish to thank the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information for the original development of some of these questions.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Is Open Government Good For Your Health?

Freely available public information appears to be important for health plans of Minnesota. The Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune reported that a representative of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans used the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to lobby for their interests with the Department of Human Services in Washington.

I think that is great.

I do find it ironic though that these same health plans lobby against public accountability and transparency about their operation of state-funded programs. They helped defeat bills that might reveal, for instance, how much they spend on administrative costs.

It is hard to imagine why citizens, or even legislators, should not be able to see and understand where their tax money is being spent. Why should it be a secret to see how the health plans are spending public monies on such programs as Medicaid? Our public programs currently managed by these health plans lack transparency and accountability.

Audits and reports are a key factor in assessing how well plans like Medica, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Health Partners are taking care of us.

But the Minnesota Council of Health Plans disagrees. They recently fought bills in the Legislature that would have brought sunshine and more government oversight to their businesses.;

If we're going to give them tax dollars to take care of Minnesotans, we shouldn't allow vendors who receive  millions of dollars in public money to thwart the Data Practices Act.

I am glad the Minnesota Council of Health Plans have figured out to use the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act for their own benefit.  Now perhaps they will figure out how to comply with it for ours.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Wal-Martization of the Minneapolis Public Library System

Today I went to a Hennepin County Library branch in Minneapolis.  I looked for the new book non-fiction section.  I went around twice where it had been in the past.  I could not find it.  I then asked the staff.  I was told new non-fiction are no longer displayed.  They are now placed in the regular book collection right away

I recently went to the Sumner branch.  Sumner had a strong collection of African American documentary and movie media which was part of the Gary Sudduth collection.  I was surprised at how small the collection was from the previous time I had been there.  I asked staff what happened.  They said that DVDs now "float".  That means if a dvd is taken out at one branch and returned to another it remains at the returning library.  Therefore the Sudduth Collection is torn apart.

At the downtown library I used to go on Saturdays and get 5-8 dvds consisting of documentaries, a couple of Hitchcock movies, and maybe a comedy with Bob Hope. The collection is now very thin and the choice is limited.  For non-fiction fans there is no one stop place for all the new stuff, either.

Bigger is not always better, there are some things that have been lost with the merger.  There have been changes in operation that have impacted the service and atmosphere of what the Minneapolis Library System was.

I will bet you the Hennepin County Commissioners know nothing of the various operational changes and their negative impacts, but avid users of the libraries in Minneapolis sure do.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who own's Minnesota's e-mail, Microsoft or you.?

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the State of Minnesota has signed an agreement with Microsoft to be the storage hub for its e-mail, instant messaging, among other kinds of services.  The service is called "clouding", or in other words a third party serving as a repository for the state's email, etc. with some added attractions.

The press release by the Minnesota Office of Technology praises the agreement with lowering costs and improved security.  How is my e-mail to the Governor or someone else in the government going to be more secure?  Who owns the information now that it is in the hands of a third party?  Where is the location of the data? The old motto of I keep and control the stuff then I know it is safe, secure, and accessible may no  longer apply with aspects of our states data.

Will this improve my ability to get quick and easy access to public government records next time I want to find out what a State Commissioner or a Governor is doing on an issue, or how a policy was developed? Or is this one more barrier for the citizen?

Monday, September 27, 2010

OH Really!

This weekend a person asked me if she had a right to material about her that a work supervisor was referencing to her about.  She explained to me what it was and I said yes.  I said there is state law that allow employees access to their personnel files.  Her comment was, Oh Really!   The state law is Minnesota Chapter 181.960 to 181.966.

Many people are unaware of their legal and statutory rights.  How can people be notified of their rights?  Is it up to the individual to find out or should the employer let her know in the above scenario?  Notification of rights is an important concept if people are going to be aware of them and to be able to use them.

Many government agencies will put on their web sites the statutory rights they enforce and some description of the law. I decided to visit the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website to see if their is a reference to the personnel law that by law they enforce.  Low and behold there is not.  I put in a call to the supervisor of that enforcing unit to let her know about the omission.  When the person calls back and I tell them about my website experience, will they say , "Oh Really".

Friday, September 24, 2010

War Protesters, Supreme Court, and The First Amendment .

In June of this year the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case that many people in Minnesota may know nothing about.  At the core of the case is what is "material support to terrorism" and does it affect the First Amendment rights of U. S. citizens.  The events that happened today in Minneapolis by the FBI raid may be a catalyst for us to find out. The FBI searched the homes of individuals for evidence of material support to terrorism.

The Court decided by 6-3 vote that it is not a violation of First Amendment rights to arrest and convict people of giving certain kinds of material support to terrorists. The Court upheld the part of federal statute that was in question.  The case is Holder v  Humanitarian Law.

To take a little liberty with the last couple of sentences in the dissent of the case,  it should be asked,  Are these people in Minneapolis being deprived of the protection that the First Amendment demands?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who is on the List? And who is not?

From my previous post on August 7th I talked about how a legislative created work group is meeting at the BCA to  discuss how law enforcement should collect and use information on their citizens for intelligence purposes.

To the credit of the group they have decided that it will comply with the open meeting law.  This means it is open to the public.  It was their third meeting today.  Law enforcement agencies made presentations on how they collect and use intelligence information.  It became quite clear that law enforcement agencies may soon be collecting information on citizens at an unprecedented level.

On October 13th, there will be presentations by such groups as the public defenders, community groups, and the Minnesota  ACLU.  The following meeting they will begin to discuss what they should recommend to the legislature.  There will be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the recommendations.

All agendas, minutes, documents, etc, and audio of the meetings are at the BCA website.


Monday, August 9, 2010

What's Next for those all seeing cameras!

Over the last decade there have been attempts to pass at the state house legislation to allow law enforcement to set up cameras to be used when people go through red lights.  The latest attempt was last year when the proposed bill was not voted out of committee.  The city of Minneapolis set up their own camera system but the Minnesota Supreme Court said no, because it violated state law.

Will there be attempts in the 2011 legislative session to promote the red light cameras, or even speed cameras?  According to a news report there is now technology being tested to have these types of cameras be used for more than speed and red light violations. Such violations as tailgating, making illegal turns, and other similar violations could be recorded. 

With billions in deficit in the state budget being predicted for 2011-2013 will the legislature in 2011 promote these types of cameras as "revenue raisers"? or as some people call the cameras "cash cows". 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Domestic surveillance and intelligence gathering-Minnesota Style, Part 1

On Wednesday, August 25, 2010, the first meeting of a legislative created work group will meet to review the landscape of criminal intelligence gathering and use of investigative and intelligence databases by law enforcement in Minnesota.  This work group was created in SF2725, Section 6.

Over the past two years at the legislature there has been pointed and heated discussion over initiatives by the Minnesota Bureau of Apprehension(BCA) such as SF1103-HF1449 introduced by Senator Betzold and Rep. Lesch and the issue of GangNet which is an investigative/intelligence database administered by the Ramsey County Sheriff.

The discussion of intelligence gathering and surveillance is not new to Minnesota, from the recent past of a private database organized by the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association called MJNO which had millions of records on individuals to where Minnesota state authorities during World War 1 collected information and did surveillance on its citizens.

What this work group will be discussing and the recommendations it gives to the Minnesota Legislature next year can and will have a great impact on your privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is there conflict?

In the Star Tribune today it was pointed out that there may be some questions as to the process how a former employee of the Minnesota Department of Education was given a contract to do state work. More than likely I contend is that the reporter used the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to get some of the information he needed for the story.  It is stories like this why it is important for the media and citizen's to use our state's freedom of information law to find what government is up to. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You are a have not?

I went to Century College today to ask for a fall schedule of classes because I was interested to take a course or two.  I was told by the admissions office they have have gone "green" and no longer have paper copy's of the class offerings.  So I asked them what my options are.  They said I would have to go online to review the catalog.  I then said what about the people who do not have access to the internet or a computer.  Basically, I was told tough luck.

In Minnesota there are still a great number of Minnesotans who do not have a computer or have access to the internet.  Many people wish to have a paper copy for a number of reasons from because they may find it hard to read or understand it and may want someone to help them with it or they just want it in paper form.

Monday, August 2, 2010

quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

According to the Star Tribune today the University of Minnesota is implementing one of the toughest conflict of interest policies in the nation.  My question though is who is is going to watch the watchmen?  The U of M has made it clear that the report forms are not available to the public.  It was the University a couple of years ago that made it so that these kinds of reports are no longer public pursuant to an advisory opinion from the Department of Administration. 

How will the University make sure that there is no conflict?  How will they police it?  Will they do annual reports?  The public needs to be the watchman!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Will Minnesota Cops do the Same?

The Obama Administration is interested in making it easier for the FBI to gain access to your e-mail and web surfing habits.  According to the Associated Press there may be legislation introduced to allow law enforcement officials on the national level do so.  But the catch is if the amendment as currently talked about passes it may allow local and state law enforcement that same easy access.  No court order, no subpoena, no search warrant will be needed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do you know what your landlord knows?

In today's St. Paul Pioneer Press there was an article on the front page entitled "Policing 101", by Mara Gottfried.  The article stated how Facebook is used as a communication tool between landlords and police.  My question is what goes on the Facebook page?  Is the information being shared on individuals or incidents that may happen at the various apartment locations?  Is the information accurate?  Is the person that may be discussed the right person?  What is the role of the police?  Do they give information to the landlords that may be considered confidential or private?

Technology has helped information get to people in various ways such as Facebook, but what are the consequences.  The set up as described in the paper needs to be discussed so that half truths, inaccurate information, and hunches do not follow individuals as they apply for housing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where oh where has the money gone?

Did you know that millions and millions of taxpayers money from state and local government are given to private groups and contractors for public functions?  Have you ever wondered, whether that contractor that provides the transportation or security service for the government is spending your money wisely?  Other than oversight from the government there is not much review.  That was changed about ten years ago when the Minnesota State Legislature thought it was in the public interest that when a "government entity enters into a contract with a private person to perform any of its functions" that entity comes under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.  What the law allows is for a person of the public to ask for pubic data "created, collected, received, stored, used, maintained, or disseminated by the private person in performing those functions."     

Sunday, July 18, 2010

DNC in Minneapolis 2012-When does the surveillance begin?

Today about 15 or so citizens made it known that they were not in favor of having the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Minneapolis.  They gathered at 5th and Hennepin and marched their way to Target Field.  They handed out a flyer with a number of reasons they opposed the convention, including the "militarization of local police" to the disruption of lives and local businesses. 

It will be not known for some time if Minneapolis will host the convention, but the surveillance is already beginning. Bolted on a light standard over the area where the people gathered for the march, there was one of the sophisticated cameras used by Minneapolis police. It was recording the gathering.

Is the recording public or not? By law and Minneapolis policy it is public unless there is a on going criminal investigation. Maybe I will ask to inspect the recording for Sunday, July 18, 2010 at the corner of 5th and Hennepin, southwest corner, 11:30am to 12;30pm. Whether or not they give it to me may be a key indication of whether or not the surveillance for the DNC has already begun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Minnesota Govs. and Their Secrets

When the new Governor takes office in January 2011, he or she will have to decide as one of their first decisions is to whether or not to be an open, accountable, and transparent policy office or a secret, closed, and accountable one.  Over the last decade many documents, notes, and memos that detail how decisions are made on state policy from the Governor's office have become electronic.  Those electronic documents that are so essential for citizens to see who has influenced decisions, what factors were considered and to make sure things are on the up and up can easily disappear forever by a delete button or a short time frame to keep them..

There have been issues with Governor Pawlenty about electronic records pursuant to a story by the Star Tribune, Sunday July 6, 2008 and I contend continues through today.  Mr. Pawlenty's perspective is that he is only following an old court decision from several decades ago. 

Where do the current candidates for Governor stand on this issue?