After several phone calls and email exchanges — none of which were with Chief Sinagra as he has yet to return any correspondence from me personally in reference to the use of cameras or jaywalking — I was able to speak with our chapter of the Civil Liberties Union which was recently reported to you, the public, the cameras are “a potential threat to Americas privacy,” thus violating our fourth amendment rights.
I researched the grants received by Saugerties and have yet to discover one under “homeland security for $50,000.” So I sent an email. No response. I sent a FOIL request and wouldn’t you know it — it’s put on hold until Oct. 26, 2015 as the request I made was so extensive it may take that long to provide transparency in Saugerties to find out just what grant was received and what we must comply with in order to receive the “free money.”
You and I both know nothing is for free! A government grant is not a gift nor does it come without strings attached. What has Saugerties agreed to give in return? Government grants require legal obligations, if they are not met, who is responsible for the legal ramifications?
Projects must demonstrate success after receiving a grant. This brings me to my second point. Months ago I request information specific to a small article printed in the Times. In an April 23, 2015 article, the chief referred to the “need” and “use” of cameras for the following reasons — “stolen cars, cars involved in Amber alerts, getaway cars, and cars belonging to people wanted on outstanding warrants or driving with suspended license.” If that’s truly the reason for the cameras then why would it take until Oct. 26 to provide the FOIL of numbers of those incidents? I would think that if I was going to reference exact reasons I needed something accomplished I would have the backup ready and waiting to demonstrate once again true transparency to the public — of course that is unless the chief was just stating “theoretical ruckus” to scare the public into believing they should give up their right to privacy.
I had also asked for a copy or at least to view the policy manual as to how the information gathered will be stored. Once again I will have to wait until Oct. 26, 2015 for that to “possibly” be released.
Meanwhile no information is available for public view even though cameras are being installed and used! The public is given no information, no facts, and no say whatsoever in what goes on in reportedly “one of the coolest towns.” Ironically, I can’t help but point out we are not permitted to view documentation regarding this nor can we have a democratic approach to losing our rights….yet we were allowed (gratefully) to have the say on the color of the bridge— but not the say on our inherited God-given rights by the United States Constitution! What’s next Joe…surrender your guns, you’ll protect us?
The surveillance debate
The American Civil Liberties Union has raised a number of important privacy concerns regarding the recently installed license-plate-reading cameras around town. These concerns need to be considered carefully by our community, as they go to the heart of increasingly troubling tensions between national security and individual privacy.
Other issues, however, related more to the use of Homeland Security funds to pay for these cameras, may also need public consideration. Two seem particularly important. First, we need to consider the opportunity costs of these cameras: Are they, in other words, the best use of Homeland Security funds? Might those funds have been spent more wisely on health care improvements for veterans, for example, or on airline/airport security, to cite another issue recently in the news? And second, was this funding just another example of the tired, old “bring home the bacon” sort of politics that has long undermined the effective use of public resources? During such challenging times — both nationally and internationally — can we afford, in other words, to continue to do business as usual?
The public discussion of these sorts of issues is important, of course, with this newspaper providing a convenient forum in which to conduct them.
Focus on the good
I attended the Saugerties Board of Education meeting that was held this past Tuesday, June 9. This meeting was reported as “contentious” by another newspaper, and most of what I have read from different sources was focused on the negative. Yes, there was some back and forth between an audience member and Board President, Mr. Heidcamp, during about a 10-minute segment when he was reading and giving response to recent letters to Saugerties Times and social media posts. Whether you liked his delivery or not, what Mr. Heidcamp did was publicly defend dedicated board members and the superintendent.
With that aside, what I also saw during the meeting was positive ways in which our schools are moving forward. The audience was treated to a performance by the recently revived SHS Marching Band and also heard from two teachers who are hoping to develop projects using a 3D printer. This is what we should focus on, making our schools better for our kids.
While at the meeting, I personally thanked board members Tom Ham, Rich Petramale, and Don Tucker for their service to the district and now I would like to publicly do the same. These men have given tremendous time and energy over the years and I honestly believe they have given great thought to every decision they have made. It is incomprehensible why some people have resorted to name-calling during the past few months.
To the newly elected trustees, I would like to offer congratulations on your Election Day victories. Thank you for stepping up to serve the community in this way. I sincerely hope that you can see your positions clearly and do the best thing for the district as a whole and not bend to the pressures of individuals and groups who are interested in promoting their own agendas.
To the community members, I would hope that before you speak out publicly, do a little research, understand that there is usually more than one side to any topic, rely on facts and not use chatter on social media as your only guide. Most importantly, please stop with all the name-calling and mud-slinging.
Too many stop signs
It seems to me that the village of Saugerties must have gotten a real bargain on the purchase of stop signs – the more you buy the cheaper they are! The signs are going up faster than the weeds are growing, and they are as much of a pain as weeds are.
OK, people speed down Elm St. Do you think that putting stop signs up will actually slow those people down? If they couldn’t read the speed limit sign, with they see and react to the stop sign? If you insist on something, why not put a radar reader on the street with a camera and send tickets to the offenders? Elm St. used to be my preferred method of getting into the village, but now I am looking at alternates.
And while we are talking about misplaced stop signs the one at the intersection of Sparling Rd. and Canoe Hill Rd. really just slows things down. It isn’t necessary.
And I know someone will be upset that perhaps I am putting ideas into the stop sign planter’s head, but if you are looking for a street with lots of speeders check out Washington Ave. from the High School to Main St., but I guess that would inconvenience too many people since it is a main thoroughfare.
Enough is enough — or in this case, too many is too many! I can’t see how any of these new stop signs will make life any easier for anyone in the village, and it is adding an extra annoyance to many.