Morning Fizz

Who Watches the Gunshot Watchmen?

By Erica C. Barnett September 19, 2012



1. Before yesterday's hotly anticipated attorney general debate, the two candidates to replace retiring secretary of state Sam Reed---Democrat Kathleen Drew and Republican Kim Wyman---drew their own political lines in an effort to distinguish them from one another.

On the initiative process: Wyman defended the current initiative system as "the core of the populist tradition" of Washington State that "is still working today."

In contrast, Drew said the state needs "to register signature gatherers ... so that if there is fraud, we can track it back to the source."

On proposals to register voters as young as 16 or 17, to make it easier for them to vote when they turn 18: Drew said, "There is no question in my mind that the premier right is the right of all eligible voters to vote. ... We need to make sure that we engage young people" by making it easier for them to register. Wyman countered: "Some of the legislation that you're hearing about, preregistration and election-day registration, those are partisanly driven issues."

 

On electronic and online voting, Drew said she supported efforts to allow military and overseas voters to vote online, but added that the overall system for online voting "is not secure, and frankly, I do not see it being secure in the near-term future."

2. The American Civil Liberties Union responded yesterday to PubliCola's question about a proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn to post gunshot detection devices, some of them equipped with cameras, around the city. (The devices have been controversial in other cities, where civil-liberties proponents have argued that they violate privacy rights by increasing routine police surveillance.)

Doug Honig, spokesman for the state ACLU, says that while gunshot locators "can be useful devices for dealing with violent crime ...  we do want to make sure

that the technology is not used for general video surveillance or recording conversations. The City should have an ordinance that specifies how they are to be used, as was done with" cameras in public parks, including Cal Anderson on Capitol Hill.

3. SHARE/WHEEL, the homeless advocacy groups that want King County Metro to give them more free bus tickets, will, according to Metro general manager Kevin Desmond, get some share of 41,000 free bus tickets provided by drivers paying a new vehicle license fee. (When the King County Council adopted a new congestion reduction charge of $20 a year, it gave drivers a choice of taking eight free bus tickets or donating those tickets to people who can't afford them.) Metro is also spending just under $2 million a year to give bus tickets to social-service agencies including SHARE, Desmond says.

SHARE, of course, is demanding much more. Desmond says: "We can't just give them all the tickets"---that is, other social service agencies need bus passes too---"but later on in the fall, presumably, we'll have more donated tickets," some of which will go to SHARE.

4. With the downtown ride-free area set to expire September 29, Desmond says Metro now plans to farm out downtown free-ride service to Fremont–based social service agency Solid Ground, which will operate two shuttles---27-foot-long buses that are a compromise between small, 15-seat shuttles and conventional Metro buses---between Belltown and First Hill. Desmond says that he expects service downtown in general to be "a little bit slow" during the first few days after the ride-free area ends, but adds, "Systems are adaptable and humans are adaptable, and once people get used to the changed environment we think they will adjust."

 
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