Readers comments 11.28.12
Last Wednesday, the COURIER provided us an overview of the city’s recently-installed automatic license plate reader cameras. [“Hi-tech cameras keep watchful eye on Claremont,” November 21.] Our city council’s decision to install these cameras raises serious civil liberties issues.
In order to clarify what may be muddy waters, it usually helps to put the issue into a broader context.
What is clear is that the lure of a new technology, which offers the possibility to catch more lawbreakers, will, to some people, always be very powerful. Nevertheless, we must not let our emotions cause us to acquiesce to governmental intrusions.
Our Constitution was written to establish what powers the government has, as well as those it does not have. Self-government obligates every individual citizen (including those acting within a governmental body) to always be policing themselves to safeguard our constitutionally-protected rights, and not just waiting for a court to tell us what is constitutional or not.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons…against unreasonable searches…shall not be violated…” Now, while we may debate whether the license plate reader cameras violate the letter of the Fourth Amendment, I think—certainly, I hope—that most of us can agree that they violate the spirit of the Fourth Amendment. The cameras constitute an unreasonable search of our persons.
In this post-9/11 world, with its new-found rationalizations for “security” systems of all imaginable sorts, we must constantly remind ourselves that “security” must be directed to impair the criminally- intended, and not to harass and intrude upon the honest and law-abiding.
Clearly, this camera technology is not aimed solely at those legitimately suspected of having committed (or intending to commit) a crime, situations for which the courts routinely issue search warrants and approve wire taps. Rather, it employs a shotgun approach against each and every one of us by recording our presence every time we pass through a particular public location.
Incidentally, a similar mindset infests the TSA, who indiscriminately scrutinize everyone at the airport rather than restricting themselves to searching for terrorists. Not lost on the observant in all of this is the cognitive dissonance, the schizophrenia, of Californians, who like the cameras because they will help us capture and remove criminals, and yet just voted (Prop 36) to weaken our 3 strikes law so that more felons can avoid more prison time. So, which is it? Shall we lock up the criminals, or not?
I suggest we do the responsible thing. Lock up the criminals when we catch them, not go out of our way to let them out early to prey upon us, again. And do not violate the rights of the law-abiding with ubiquitous surveillance cameras.
The real turkeys
The Claremont COURIER recently published an article touting Golden State Water’s contribution of 100 turkeys to needy families in our community for Thanksgiving (on the front page, no less).
Isn’t it obvious that GSW’s excessive water rates are a huge factor in putting families in the financial situation they’re in? It’s great that GSW delivers turkeys, but we aren’t fooled or swayed by their donation. Instead, we continue to ask GSW, Why do they make it harder on families in our community through their abusive billing practices and excessive water rate increases? Why, instead of having lower water bills when we’ve conserved water, are we actually charged more, with WRAM surcharges?
The real turkeys continue to be GSW executives who receive such large salaries, and then increase our water rates to cover their costs.
Last year the GSW CEO received more than $1.6 million in compensation, a cost that is passed onto water users. Ratepayers in Claremont pay far more for water service than neighboring cities. As a private water company, GSW is permitted to seek a rate increase every 3 years, and they do. GSW is asking for yet another increase of over 24 percent.
So while we might be thankful for the turkeys from GSW this week, we are more thankful that our city council is united at 5-0, and continues to move forward with plans to gain independence from GSW (a “for-profit” company).
It’s time to run the real turkeys out of town.
Hal Hargrave Randy Scott
Outrageous Water Rates
Turkey Trot thanks
On behalf of the Claremont Sunrise Rotary, I want to thank the entire Claremont community for making our 5th annual Turkey Trot another huge success. With nearly 1700 participants and picture-perfect weather, it was a great start to the Thanksgiving weekend.
We couldn’t have done it without the help of nearly 100 volunteers and Rotarians and their family members. It was great to see members of many of the different teams and players that our Claremont Youth Sports Scholarships (CYSS) support help make our day safe and successful.
When we started this Turkey Trot, we were in the midst of a financial meltdown. Claremont Sunrise Rotary members went out to the community and still found willing sponsors to support our cause. Many of those sponsors have continued to support us and new ones have joined us to increase our budget over previous years.
Every dollar raised goes directly to support many projects and programs that Claremont Sunrise Rotary and Rotary International support. We will spend around $20,000 this year on the CYSS fund that started with this run 5 years ago.
Since its inception, we have granted over 700 scholarships to local teams and athletes to pay for registration fees. We are fast approaching nearly $75,000 of total funding, including this year’s run.
But Claremont Sunrise Rotary is also part of a world community. We provide books to a girls school in Tanzania, remove land mines in Cambodia and install water tanks in Africa. And Rotary International is fast closing in on complete eradication of polio from the world!
All of us at the Claremont Sunrise Rotary want to thank the residents who were nice enough to allow us an hour of their Thanksgiving morning to make this a safe and injury-free event.
We are happy to see that we have now made the Turkey Trot an instant Claremont tradition that continues to be enjoyed by so many and gives back so much to our community.
On the Same Page
On the Same Page has now completed the 2012 season as we close the book on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
We thank the Friends of the Claremont Library for funding this program.
We thank the On the Same Page Committee—Rose Ash, David Chamberlain, Ken Corhan, David Coons, Deckard Hodge, Katrina Mason, Lanore Pearlman, Garry Schneider and Anne Swire—for their expert reading, arranging and attending.
We thank Naomi Howland and Joel Cinnamon for designing the lawn signs and our friends and neighbors for agreeing to post them in their yards for months. (You can take them down now.)
We thank articulate and deeply knowledgeable cancer expert David Sadava; and our thoughtful and historically-grounded ethics panel, Julie Tannenbaum, David M. Adams and Laura Kelly, moderated by Nicole Weekes, for 2 powerful presentations.
We thank the Claremont High School IB program for sponsoring 2 significant events: the award-winning debate team’s and the talented theater students’ take on vital issues and events introduced by our book.
We thank the Claremont COURIER for actively supporting our project with articles and calendar inserts for all our events.
We thank our community who read the book and attended the programs and participated in the lively discussions of ideas. We also thank the community for their membership and financial support of the Friends of the Claremont Library.
How can you help? Become a member (visit the Claremont Friends of the Library website at www.claremont library.org for details and programs), donate your gently-used books to our bookstore, buy books at our well-stocked bookstore in the library foyer and come to our book sales.
Our next sale is our magnificent Book Lovers Book Sale, where we offer our most beautiful, old, fine, quirky, unique and precious works in print—just in time for perfect holiday giving. Prices range from one dollar to hundreds. Mark your calendars: Saturday, December 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See you there.
Lanore Pearlman Co-chair, On the Same
Page Committee Friends of the Claremont Library
Taxing the rich
Warren Buffett, the multi-billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and probably the most successful investor of our lifetime, has written an op-ed in the New York Times, in which he proposes a minimum tax for the wealthy. An interesting idea. It would ensure that the wealthy actually contribute to the country that makes it all possible for them, while reducing their motivation to lobby Congress for deductions and credits that distort the tax code.
Mr. Buffett points out that there’s no chance of wealthy investors “stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if—gasp—capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased.”
He reminds us that the wealthy, the nation’s economy and the middle class all did quite well when capital gains were taxed at 25 or 27.5 percent and tax rates on the highest incomes were 70 to 91 percent. He states that the 400 wealthiest individuals in America now have $1.7 trillion in assets but are paying a lower tax than many in the middle class.
He criticizes those politicians who refuse to consider raising taxes on the wealthy or who want to put it off until all of the defects in the tax code are resolved. He doesn’t say which political party they belong to, but I think we know. He states that a budget deficit amounting to 2.5 percent of GDP has been no problem in the past and will be okay ongoing, and he proposes that government spending equal about 21 percent of GDP.
Mr. Buffett has been a rare voice of reason in the philosophy of investing (he buys companies that are actually making money and steers clear of bubbles); if anyone understands the workings of the real economy, he does.
His comments about taxation and government spending also reveal him as a person with human, as well as financial, values. Fortunately, he’s not alone. Recently many other corporate CEOs have publicly stated that government revenue increases as well as spending decreases must be on the table in the negotiations between the Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget deficit, even though it will mean that they personally pay more in taxes.
Not all corporate CEOs are vulture capitalists. In fact, many of them are more patriotic than certain members of Congress who would rather see our government and our economic recovery weak than see taxes increased on the rich. The CEOs are also smart enough to know that if their customers have money and feel financially secure enough to spend it, their businesses and their personal incomes will do quite well.