Privacy and FOIA, Vol. II

I’m up early because the dog got off the bed for a couple of hours then wanted back up. Just call me Otis, the elevator inventor. I lift our hip-less wonder at least twice a night now. It’s OK, she’s ten, a joy, and deserves that attention.

While struggling through my thoughts years ago balancing freedom of information and open meetings, vs. personal privacy, I did come to my own ethos on  the matter.

It depends upon circumstance. Right now I’m dealing with a standing water issue that will last for six months until the snow starts again, then it will freeze. It is on a trail right below that is lovely except I won’t walk on it alone with the dog because of last summer’s daytime sexual assaults. It used to be a railroad track and had drainage which Texans call bar ditches, to drain off water from rain and snow from the tracks.

Last year I called the County Parks and was told that these former drainage ditches were protected by the federal government by the MMPA, the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The only active breeding program there is mosquitoes. No porpoises or manatees or blue whales live in that 4″ of fetid, garbage infested water.

So I called the CDC, EPA, my local Congressman and others. So far, no help. I looked up our county and they’re having coffees in different neighborhoods to place their finger on the pulse of real people (or get re-elected). Guess what?

The county has not had great attendance at these coffee events. Why, you ask. When one asks for information every website is non-functional. Talk about freedom of information and open meetings laws. Now they’ve got free coffee and don’t have to talk to constituents. Guess who pays for the free coffee? We, the taxpayers.

I was also tasked with privacy. I didn’t fight back when the government wouldn’t allow me access to police reports of a car that swerved into mine, legally parked on the street, and sheared the left front tire from the axle. Hit and run. I paid the entire cost of my car to have it repaired because I couldn’t afford another car as I was working to protect FOIA/Open Meetings and privacy.

When I speak of privacy, it was primarily so that banks, cable tv (new at the time), insurance, health care and others were not blankly sending out records on their customers. Much has been done in health care with HIPAA since then.

I do have a beef, though, with the NSA recording this and all of my phone calls and mail for “national security.” The so-called patriot act eviscerates our Constitution for a lot of our money and no gain for US citizens. I also believe CIA and FBI have blurred lines when it comes to spying on us.

While my government career is now behind me those were heady days. I worked hard and there was actually a disco in the neighborhood, but I preferred the quiet piano bar/restaurant. There I met a lot of lobbyists and learned how to ask an old elected official who was trying to pick me up, “so how’s Mindy doing in art school?” That brought him back to his bearings and thinking about his wife and daughter and kept me safe.

I’ll get the mosquito issue taken care of, and I took care of the politicians, while quite naive at the time. There were lobbyist receptions nearly every night when they were in session, and as we worked long hours and made little money we had to eat and it was best if free. Talk to me about consumer affairs vs insurance in free food sometime. Dee


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