To the editor:

It is interesting that the City Council goes from using eminent domain to acquire private property at one meeting to this policy of relinquishing public right of way for private purposes at its March 18 meeting.

The council directed City Manager John McDonough to fast track a policy to allow private homeowners association groups to place cameras at neighborhood entrances in public right of way. To work around the public property issue, the city will donate to the homeowners association 2-foot-by-2-foot squares of land from which the HOA will mount security cameras on poles.

The city manager will write up a policy and procedures, similar to those for traffic calming requests, for the HOA to follow to receive their donated public right of way land for this private security surveillance.

HOAs need to consider who will collect this information, how long will it be stored and for what purposes will they allow the use of the tape. Will the tape be examined for crime only, civil cases, street accidents?  Is this a good idea for government to turn over right of way to a private entity for surveillance?

Mayor Rusty Paul recommends that the policy define and secure consensus among neighbors.  Is that likely to happen? What about those folks driving on public streets that are not part of the neighborhood? Are they able to give consent? Why is government abdicating their authority to private interests for public safety purposes and giving public right of way to accomplish the task?

The most alarming part of the discussion is Councilmen Gabe Sterling and Graham McDonald advocating the “fast tracking” of this policy by requesting the city manager respond with a policy at next month’s meeting.

The city is plowing new legal ground.  With our city attorney not being present, this discussion took place with our Assistant City Attorney Cecil McClendon stating he would review the issue.

We need public input from the citizens and for other homeowners associations to weigh in on this proposal.

Tochie Blad