Response to “War of Words” at OB Planning Board Meeting

by on December 9, 2015 · 2 comments

in Culture, Environment, Media, Ocean Beach

Editor: In the interests of continuing community debate about the installation of police surveillance cameras, the opposition and the reasons to oppose the cameras, the OB Rag publishes a response by Dan Dennison to our report of the most recent OB Planning Board meeting. Dennison originally the response as a comment, but we’ve elevated it to give it more exposure. Dan is a member of the OB Planning Board.

By Dan Dennison

It is regrettable that the “forum” for presentation and comments about the anticipated OB beach surveillance cameras at last weeks’ OB Planning Board meeting became so contentious.

I believe that expression of the strongly held feelings of our residents is an enduring tradition of Ocean Beach and has to be respected and acknowledged. I personally appreciate the strong advocacy of opposition to the whole issue of surveillance from mounted cameras. However, I recognize that the world is not like it used to be when I was younger. The virtual digital ‘“vice grip” affecting all of us today very significantly eliminates both private and public privacy.

I believe a bit of perspective about last weeks’ meeting is helpful in understanding why the conflicts arouse so much emotion.

The OB Planning Board has no jurisdiction or approval capacity for what are generally called Public Safety issues. The collective opinion of the OB Planning Board is no different from that of any other resident or group of residents. We can influence decisions if we are adamant and organized, but we are not the decision-makers.

  • There was some public discussion of the beach cameras at the November OB Town Council meeting and also Frank [Gormlie] had raised this as a matter of concern at the November OB Planning Board meeting.
  • Even though we, on the Planning Board know that we have no jurisdiction over Public Safety techniques and working practices, our chairman, John Ambert, made the decision to put this matter on the agenda for presentation of each side of the camera issue for public comment. I believe he did this in the spirit of the exceptional stewardship he has demonstrated for our community;
  • I believe the pure intention of having this matter on the agenda was to make an effort for a controlled public forum because there really is no other venue or mechanism for what is, essentially, an operational decision from our Public Service officials. When a public meeting moves in such a disruptive, antagonistic and emotionally-charged direction, it becomes virtually impossible to find a neutral “common ground” for effective communication.

Was the process handled perfectly? No, it was not, but I strongly believe that John is not the villain. He truly made a strong effort to make this a productive forum but it was a very difficult and stressful circumstance for him, as Chair, to manage the emotions that were fueling the discussion.

I also want to reinforce some comments about the stedfast work and leadership John has provided for this community with both the updated community plan and his “laser focus” on FAR .This has included effective management of the approval process even though we know that the OB Planning Board only has the ability to make recommendations to the City. We are most fortunate to have John at the helm of the Planning Board. I strongly recommend we all take a deep breath and move beyond the anger exhibited at last weeks’ Board meeting and continue to work together to do everything we can to keep the character and special sense of community in our wonderful OB!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar mjt December 9, 2015 at 12:14 pm

But where does it end, camera’s everywhere.
The fearful moralists filled our jails, and we will be paying for that for decades to come, with prison costs and broken lives.

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Avatar Larry N Maggard December 9, 2015 at 12:58 pm

“Video surveillance is illegal when a less intrusive, legal investigative method is equally available.” — California Penal Code 2015.

California makes it a crime to audio/video record or monitor any communication, including a public conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties. When an objective, reasonable expectation that no one is listening, overhearing the conversation, or able to visually asertain communication or movement in a public or semi-public location, e.g., street or restaurant, is illegal without a warrant to audio/video record, eavesdrop or surveillance of any person swithout the prior knowledge and consent of all parties involved.

Under the California Public Records Act, private citizens have the right to access any of the video surveillance footage. As a result, there would be a public record of your outdoor movements and activities that could be accessed by anyone at any time.
— In other words; any audio/video surveillance/recording of any person(s) is illegal without each person’s consent before pressing the “record” button. Prior knowledge of surveillance renders the intrusion pointless.

FYI: Police Cadets are NOT required to be trained or educated in Criminal Law until after being hired as Police Officers; they learn the law when they are “rookies,” literally on the streets. Criminal Law should be a required prerequisite to hire.

Suggested reading; United States Constitution, Republic of California Constitution & California Code
Reference resource: Blacks Law Dictionary

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