Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Category: Policy Page 2 of 35

Losing Democrats: Illustrations

My friend Vivian has an excellent post up that demonstrates why no one rallied around Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA02). He didn’t stand for anything.

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We saw it coming (at the end, anyway), but I still mourn the loss of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). And for reasons that have zero to do with preserving Democratic power:

For years, Feingold was one of the few — and sometimes the only — voice in the Senate skeptical of the government’s increasing demands for domestic surveillance power and control of the internet. He was one of 16 Senators who voted against the Communications Decency Act of 1996, an internet censorship bill later struck down by the Supreme Court, was the only Senator in 2001 to vote against the USA Patriot Act, and he introduced a measure to censure President Bush for his illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

“Senator Feingold was a true champion of civil liberties,” said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, based in Washington, D.C. “He spoke out against the Patriot Act and the dramatic growth of government surveillance programs when many other Senators stood by silently. His voice and his commitment to the Constitutional rights of all Americans will be missed.”

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Rep. Jim Oberstar’s (D-MN) (what the hell, Minnesota?) represents a serious policy advocate setback:

But beyond the immediate politics, Oberstar’s loss signals the end of an era for America’s bicycle movement. Oberstar was a titan of non-motorized transportation. The President of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clarke, said this morning that, “we lost a star player in yesterday’s elections.”

“As for the defeat of Congressman Oberstar, that’s a real loss. Regardless of party politics, Oberstar was a true champion of transportation issues and his loss is a major blow to everyone interested in the passage of a robust, multi-modal, long-term transportation bill – including bicyclists.”

Interested in Better Arlington Streets? Here’s Your Chance for Input

As someone who finds himself talking to the public more and more about transportation improvements, I’m constantly surprised at how many people say “Nobody asked me if we wanted that street “improvement”.” or “Why in the world are we *narrowing* that street?”.  I’m not sure how it works in other jurisdictions, but Arlington’s transportation plans aren’t a secret, developed away from public input.   They’re laid out plainly in the Master Transportation Plan, which has been continuously revised and adopted in a continuing and very public process.  The last major element is on track for adoption, and here’s a chance for Arlingtonians to shape it:

Community Forum: Master Transportation Plan Streets Element

Join us on Monday, November 15th, for a community forum on the draft Master Transportation Plan (MTP) Streets Element hosted by the Arlington County Transportation Commission. The forum is open to all and will include a presentation of the draft document, as well as an opportunity to ask questions about the vision for our County streets and comment on the proposed plan.

WHAT:             Community Forum: Master Transportation Plan Streets Element

WHO:                        Arlington County Transportation Commission/Arlington County Staff

WHEN:             Monday, November 15th at 7:30 PM

WHERE:             Navy League Building

2300 Wilson Boulevard

First floor conference room

Getting There – The event is accessible via bus (Metrorail routes 4B,E and 38B, ART Routes 14 and 77 and Metrorail (Courthouse Metrorail station.) Parking is available at the nearby Arlington Courthouse Plaza complex located at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard.

ABOUT THE STREETS ELEMENT

The Streets Element is the last remaining section of the updated MTP to be adopted by the Arlington County Board.  The draft document includes the 13 streets policies adopted by the County in 2007, while proposing the addition of another streets policy to address utility usage of street right-of-way.  Additionally, Arlington is proposing more than 100 actions in the draft plan as part of these streets policies and to begin realizing the community’s vision for our streets.  Furthermore, the draft plan details a system of Street Types that will be used to guide the future design and operation of Arlington’s streets.

Adoption of the MTP Streets Element is expected in early 2011. The draft document is available on the County Web site.

QUESTIONS? Contact MTP project manager, Mr. Richard Viola, at 703 228-3699 or rviola@arlingtonva.us.

Safety In Numbers

If you’ve not already seen this, read it:

After being asked by officials in Pasadena, Calif., if their city “was a dangerous place to bicycle,” Jacobsen began looking at crash data from various communities where bicycle ridership had fluctuated over time.

What he found surprised him: The number of crashes involving bikes correlated with the number of riders in a community. As ridership fluctuated, so did the crash rate. More riders, fewer crashes; fewer riders, more crashes.

This happened too abruptly, Jacobsen decided, to be caused by slow-moving factors like infrastructure development and cultural change. Bicycling becomes safer when the number of riders increases, he concluded, at least in part because the number of riders increases.

The more cyclists on the road, the safer we are.  Read the whole thing.

Access for All Americans

Carl Malamud, who I just realized I might call a personal hero, lays out what information the Federal government owes its citizens.

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All of it.

American Exceptionalism: Pedestrian Safety

Time points us to GOOD Magazine’s recent:

comp[ilation of] a list of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians, naming 21 urban spots around the globe with the highest fatalities rates for walkers. Topping off the list are Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles with 10.97, 10.31 and 7.64 deaths per 100,000 pedestrians. Continuing with its hazardous image, the U.S. manages to take up the first ten slots on the list, with 13 cities named in all.

That’s quite an achievement, America!

Why Yes, That *Was* Hotter Than Ever . . .

The Guardian points to something that everyone living in the DC area (and probably entire Eastern Seaboard) already suspected was the case:

Now scientists have confirmed what’s been pretty obvious: the entire world has just come through the warmest six months, the warmest year, and the warmest decade on record. Following the hottest June ever,AccuWeather.com yesterday said July was the second hottest July recorded – and the warmest ever for land temperatures alone.

And with that comes consequences:

Just in case those feel like abstractions, here’s what they mean in practice: because warmer air holds more water vapour than cold, deluge increases. Hence, Pakistan has seen the worst flooding in its history. Because heat cuts grain yields, Russia has stopped exporting grain, spiking prices. Greenland? Guess what – heat melts ice.

But hey, just regular weather cycles, right?

Transparency Is a Bipartisan Issue

It’s not just the Bush Administration that doesn’t understand what the Freedom of Information Act is about:

Now the Associated Press discloses that the Department of Homeland Security’s techniques for thwarting the president’s FOIA directive have taken a still creepier turn. Political hacks review each request, starting with a probe into the person who sent it:

For at least a year, the Homeland Security Department detoured requests for federal records to senior political advisers for highly unusual scrutiny, probing for information about the requesters and delaying disclosures deemed too politically sensitive, according to nearly 1,000 pages of internal e-mails obtained by The Associated Press. The department abandoned the practice after AP investigated. Inspectors from the department’s Office of Inspector General quietly conducted interviews last week to determine whether political advisers acted improperly.

The closing of the government to its citizens is something that should be pushed back against relentlessly, regardless of whether you like the crew in charge. John Byrne at Rawstory demonstrates:

One year later, Obama’s requests for transparency have apparently gone unheeded. In fact a provision in the Freedom of Information Act law that allows the government to hide records that detail its internal decision-making has been invoked by Obama agencies more often in the past year than during the final year of President George W. Bush.

Major agencies cited that exemption to refuse records at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, compared with 47,395 times during President George W. Bush’s final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies.

Yes, there will always be legitimate reasons to keep some information secret.  But the vast majority of these failures to disclose, I suspect, serve no legitimate public purpose.

Arlington, that Free-Spending Socialist Utopia . . .

just had its 3 x AAA bond rating re-affirmed:

For the tenth straight year, Arlington has scored a financial “triple-triple.” All three major bond rating agencies have just affirmed Arlington’s AAA bond rating, the highest rating available.

[ . . . ]

Arlington is one of only 35 counties across the country that has a triple AAA rating. It allows the county to borrow money at the lowest possible rates.

Now, it’s not lost on me that I’ve roundly criticized the bond-rating agencies elsewhere, but if you’re a relatively small county that can manage to convince all three that you’re doing it that well?  You’re doing something right.

Arlington isn’t perfect, but seriously, if the world had our problems, it would be a better place.

A Better Immigration Policy

could help solve all sorts of things.  There are vast empty swaths of this country, in case anyone hasn’t noticed.  We’ve got plenty of room.

Watching the Watchers? Not in Maryland

Gizmodo (of all places) does a good job of summarizing a creeping trend by law enforcement to use wiretapping laws go after citizens with the temerity to capture wrongdoing by law enforcement.   Gizmodo explains:

The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

Need an example?

A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.

On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III’s motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.

The case is disturbing because:

1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents’ house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.

2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, “It’s more [about] ‘contempt of cop’ than the violation of the wiretapping law.”

3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is “some capricious retribution” and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber’s traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.

Here’s the video:

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Now, there’s a longer video which shows exactly why this rider deserved to get a speeding (and perhaps Riding Like a Dumbass) ticket.  But wiretapping?  Seriously?  What an absolutely ridiculous abuse of the law.   Some in Maryland want to change the law, but so long as it’s accepted as a defensive weapon for the police, I don’t think we’ll be seeing that happen anytime soon.  Interest in more about this?  Go check out Photography Is Not a Crime.

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