Ameren UE selling customer information to local governments

11-19-2008

This story came out recently, in the Missourian. While it made the print copy, is was not added to the electronic online edition:

Using a private company to provide information about citizens is a “disturbing” practice, a Washington City Council member said this week. Guy Midkiff raised that point during the council discussion segment at last Monday’s meeting. He questioned the practice of obtaining information from AmerenUE for use in the city’s occupancy inspection program. Midkiff, who owns rental property and has been an outspoken critic of the program, said he finds it “unsavory” to have a company selling data to the government. “You’re using a private company to check up on citizens,” he said.
Darren Lamb, director of planning and engineering services, said the city pays the utility company $150 per year for a monthly report that outlines when a new tenant signs up for electrical service.

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The city uses that information to track when tenants move out and into rental units, but does not receive any information about the amount of a tenant’s bill or whether they are delinquent on payments, Lamb said. “We don’t want to know that.”
The council authorized that arrangement as a way to make the inspection fair for all landlords, Lamb explained.

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Landlords can get around inspections by paying city utility bills for their tenants, then rolling the cost into the rent payments, Lamb noted. In that way, the city would not know when the occupancy of an apartment changes. But most landlords are reluctant to do the same with electrical bills. “The council decided we should do that to level the playing field for landlords,” he remarked.

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Councilman Roger Langendoerfer, who advocates a program of checking on out-of-town contractors who don’t purchase city business licenses, said some cities do the same thing with the DIG RITE system used to locate utility lines. “They sell to the city of Union the same service,” Langendoerfer said. Lamb told the council that he is open to suggestions on how to close any loopholes with the inspection program. He said it’s up to the council if it wants to repeal the contract with AmerenUE.

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The program involves inspecting items that address life safety issues including sanitary conditions both inside and out, adequate smoke detectors, operable windows and doors, adequate ingress and egress from sleeping rooms, minimum electrical services and systems and structural integrity of the building.


Ed Pruneau
Managing Editor
Washington Missourian
636.390.3048 Direct
636.239.7701 Main Line
pruneaue@emissourian.com

For the record, I am opposed to governments purchasing private information from private companies. I believe it is a 4th Amendment violation and smooths the way for increased violations of our Constitutional and civil rights. I certainly can understand setting basic standards for a government to regulate safe living conditions – but the system should not be invasive and degrade our hallowed rights. There is a greater good, though, in making sure the health of a community is not impacted because of squaller ridden living conditions. No doubt these properties should be handled on a complaint driven basis and case by case. We should not be in the business of coming up with new laws to make governments work easy at the expense of civil rights.

Here is a link to a community that is a prime example of government going too far:

“Mary Jones-Joyner, 55, of 132 Lauren Circle was babysitting her grandchildren when Sgt. Joe Stumph came to her door at 7:10 a.m. May 31, 2000, and handed her an already completed occupancy violation citation because the children were not listed on her occupancy permit.

“I told him my grandkids don’t live with me. I asked, ‘What is it you’re going to charge me with?”

When Jones-Joyner appeared in St. Clair County Circuit Court with a copy of her daughter’s lease showing the children lived with their mother, a judge dismissed the case.

“I had to take time off from work for this crazy stuff,” she said.”

Is warrantless entry by inspectors a violation of the 4th Amendment? Go here to read the case.

U.S. Supreme Court

Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967)

Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco

No. 92

Argued February 15, 1967

Decided June 5, 1967

387 U.S. 523

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Insurance Industry Behind Push for Florida Red Light Cameras

Article from: http://www.thenewspaper.com                                          11/10/2008

Insurance Industry Behind Push for Florida Red Light Cameras
Potential for millions in profit drives insurance to bankroll Florida legislation to authorize red light cameras.

Rep Ron ReaganThe graduate of an insurance industry “boot camp” is behind efforts to legalize the use of red light cameras in Florida. State Representative Ron Reagan (R-Bradenton) twice attended the Insurance Campaign Institute, a special program designed to place insurance agents in positions of political power that is bankrolled by twenty insurance companies.

“Essentially a political boot camp, the comprehensive political training program covers all facets of the campaign trail, from organization to grassroots strategies, fundraising, direct mail, advertising, media relations, public speaking, debate preparation, campaign research, and use of insurance community strength,” the Independent Insurance Agents of America explained in a 2001 press release.

Reagan credits his 2002 Florida House victory to the Insurance Campaign Institute. To repay his industry backers, Reagan introduced the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act, a measure giving cities the green light to install red light cameras. Although the bill is portrayed as a response to the tragic death of a constituent in 2003, Reagan’s legislation is designed to create millions in new revenue for the insurance industry.

In Arizona, California, Colorado and Illinois certain types of photo tickets carry license points. Insurance companies in turn raise the annual rates of drivers who have these points on their license. In effect, the photo tickets generate free money because the extra premium is charged without the insurance company providing any additional services in return. Nothing in Florida law prevents insurance companies from raising the rates on the recipients of photo tickets in the dozens of unauthorized red light camera programs that have recently popped up around the state.

Reagan, 54, must give up his state House seat at the end of the next session due to term limits. Reagan has made passage of the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act a top priority for his last term in office.

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

$10,000 Ticket Camera Challenge

$10,000 Ticket Camera Challenge

The National Motorists Association knows that engineering solutions are the real way to prevent red-light violations and accidents at problematic intersections.

In fact, we are willing to wager $10,000 to prove that engineering will work better than ticket cameras.

The revenue from ticket cameras serves as a reward to cities that fail to make motorists safer through proper signal timing, better signal design, and improved intersections.

The apparent increase in red-light violations is largely the result of a 20-year pattern of deliberately changing the standards for the timing of yellow lights. This is an engineering problem, not an enforcement issue. Today we say to the communities that employ ticket cameras, “Let’s put traffic engineering solutions to the test.”

Here’s our challenge:

Show us any camera-equipped intersection that still has high numbers of red-light violations and we will guarantee a minimum 50-percent reduction in red-light violations through the application of engineering solutions.

If our recommendations fail to meet our minimum goal, we will pay the community $10,000 to be used on any traffic safety program or project it chooses.

However, if we succeed, the community must employ our engineering-based recommendations at other troublesome intersections and scrap its ticket-camera program.

What do cities have to lose, other than their ticket-camera revenue?

If you have any questions about this challenge or you believe your community would be interested in participating, please contact the National Motorists Association at (608) 849-6000 or via email at nma@motorists.org.

Published in: on November 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment