November 20, 2010

The Question Is: Privacy for Whom?

Justin Katz

File this under "it figures":

A First Amendment lawyer who regularly litigates cases involving access to government records said Monday that compared with other states, Rhode Island appears to have far more exemptions in its laws allowing government officials to hide information from the public.

"Let's say that Rhode Island seems to really have more of a focus on individual privacy than other states," Gregory V. Sullivan commented at the end of a lecture organized by the New England First Amendment Coalition and ACCESS/RI at the Providence Athenaeum.

Sullivan did not specifically say that Rhode Island has too many exemptions, but suggested that there were some exemptions that the state’s lawmakers should review and consider abolishing, such as one protecting "communications" between officials and constituents.

Individual privacy is a wonderful principle, but this is a very narrow range by which to judge its application in our state. Out in the anonymous public, we might look at the surfeit of regulations, the variety of occupations for which one requires permits, the oppressive fire code, the requirement to report out-of-state purchases for the purpose of being taxed at Rhode Island's excessive difference, and the periodic noises about taxing cars per mile driven and wonder whose privacy we privilege.

Even the state's constitutional liberalism belies an affinity for broad privacy. Employees registered as union members are on lists broader than those kept by an individual company. Our emphasis on a safety net — from TDI to unemployment to welfare — inevitably requires as its entry the disclosure of highly personal information. Tiverton, for example, compensates for its high rate of tax increases by offering a hardship exemption, but to qualify townsfolk must divulge highly detailed and private information to local government officials.

I'd say that Sullivan's spin on RI policy is much like the frequent proclamation of the state's quality of life: It's there for those who can afford it, and those who can afford it are increasingly able to do so only by gaining insider status by one route or another.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Kind of like how all you have to do to find out how much money I make is follow the link on the left. (OSPRI)


Posted by: michael at November 20, 2010 4:03 PM

Once again, Michael extrapolates his personal situation to all government employees and all situations in a lame attempt to whitewash the political dirty-dealers.

A little intellectual honesty would do you a world of good, dude.

Posted by: BobN at November 21, 2010 6:25 PM

Bob, your attacking everything I post here is just weird.

Posted by: michael at November 21, 2010 10:56 PM


Bob N has been a volunteer firefighter in Warren RI and that may explain some of his responses to a real professional firefighter.

Posted by: Phil at November 22, 2010 7:00 AM

No, Michael, I don't attack everything you write. Only the things that involve distortion of the facts. Like your claim that I attack everything you write.

In this case, you wrote that since your pay is public record (I didn't look to verify your claim), it implies that all dealings by public-sector employees are equally transparent to the citizens. That is simply untrue and a really dishonest response to the issue raised in the article.

As to Phil's gratuitous insult, nothing need be said. Of course, Phil is not any kind of firefighter at all. In fact, if he's like most libs, he doesn't volunteer for anything; after all, other peoples' taxes pay for those services, so it's already covered.

Posted by: BobN at November 23, 2010 3:18 PM


I think volunteering is a great thing to do but not in a critical public safety position. By all means go to your local soup kitchen, or mentor a student (I think you would have pass a backgroung check), or help newly arrived workers apply for citizenship. Leave the critical and dangerous work of firefighting to those who have passed exams and physical tests just to have an opportunity to train with experienced members of a fire department before getting the chance to work on a truck. Any volunteer in a rural fire department that is worth their salt has applied to and been accepted in a paid departrment.
I live in a rural community and I made sure that I have a ladder that can reach my roof.

Posted by: Phil at November 25, 2010 11:03 AM
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