As your First Ward Councilperson, I know there will be controversial issues on which I will cast a vote. There is no way I can please everyone with every vote. The best way I know to both keep you informed and justify my positions (or not) is to let you know my rationale behind those votes. Check back here often for updates. I will try to keep you informed on my votes concerning important issues.
Date of Vote: Monday, May 16
Issue: Authorizing Expenditure for Surveillance Cameras
Council Vote: 7 in favor; 0 opposed
My Vote: I voted in favor
The First Ward voted against the Surveillance Cameras. I voted against the Surveillance Cameras. As I said in the campaign and on this website:
“I do not support the city’s widespread use of surveillance cameras in downtown Columbia, especially when downtown is singled out as the location, in spite of crime being much more prevalent in other locations. I do support the use of surveillance cameras being installed by private businesses and the public installation of cameras in public facilities, such as parking garages or city buildings. This stance, I believe, is a more restrictive use of cameras but one that upholds current legislation as passed by voters.”
The Council’s vote on May 16 was not a vote to undo the city’s electoral decision on whether to have cameras downtown. That vote had been settled in the election. The majority of the First Ward didn’t agree with that outcome. I didn’t agree. But we can’t undo the election–at least without another election on the issue or court intervention. Everyone on the Council knew my position. They were certainly aware of the view of the majority of the First Ward. I voted in favor of the motion because a vote against funding would have simply been a protest vote. It would not have changed the outcome. I chose, under the circumstances, to exemplify my willingness to work “with” the Council, not “against” it. You can be assured, that I will not always agree with the majority on the Council–nor will I do so just to be agreeable–but in this instance nothing would have been gained by a meaningless protest vote.
As council representative, I serve my ward but I also serve the city. Legally speaking, the voters said there should be cameras. While it is in my power to refuse to vote to fund them, that would be controverting the will of the people.
The civil liberties issues are complex. As Dan Viets points out, the ACLU is clear that they support the rights of private property owners to have security cameras. This extends to cameras that point away from a business into the street. In a similar vein, if you are on the street and decide to shoot video of what’s happening there, you have that right as a private citizen to do so. There are security cameras everywhere, and society by and large accepts them. For some reason, Keep Columbia Safe and Keep Columbia Free have rallied around only this one set of cameras.
There are lots of objections to the placement, the effectiveness, whether it’s a good use of city funds, etc. But only if there is a legal challenge, would the courts get involved and have the right to invalidate the voters’ choice. Meanwhile, I feel it’s my place to implement the will of the people.