Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Safe Harbors For All

This is one promise from me to you, my reader: I won’t ever claim to understand politics better than you do. I will never claim to understand politics at all. OK, I might, but when I do it, I’ll be lying. You have my word.

Take the Safe Harbors idea. It makes absolutely no sense to me. Since I don’t understand Safe Harbors, or Tag-n-Trak as we call it here at Real Change, it would be absurd of me to discuss it here.

Therefore I will, because that’s what I do.

Let me start by saying that the fundamental premise, that we don’t know enough about the homeless, their movements, what they do with their time, where they eat, and where they sleep, is an awesome, thought-provoking premise. A premise that just makes me wonder what planet our City Council weekends on.

But then I think, yes, there are clear advantages to our government in knowing where each individual homeless person reports two or more times per day. And instead of resisting this improvement in the way we govern our citizens, I should welcome it. I should see it for what it is: the beginning of a fabulous new future.

Therefore I have decided to go beyond embracing Tag-n-Trak for the homeless. I am ready to embrace this concept for all of Seattle, and promote the adoption of Safe Harbors style programs for all Americans.

Lets say you are an American and you need to use services that our government currently provides. Freeways, for example. Let’s say you want to use a freeway.

The way it is now, people use freeways without any accounting. Oh sure, we are able to know how many cars are on the freeways at any given time. But who are in those cars? Do they really need the freeways they’re using? What entrances and exits are they using? The fact is, we don’t know that information. Information like that is vital when our government allocates funds to improve our freeways, or determines when and where new freeways should be built.

My proposal would make that information available. Each time you entered a freeway you would be required to stop at the beginning of the ramp and supply your name and ID and the names and IDs of all your passengers, and state all of your destinations. When you left the freeway at an exit you would provide your names and IDs again. Any passengers lacking ID would be required to leave your vehicle and obtain the necessary ID before continuing on their trip.

The information so obtained would be kept strictly confidential. It would be used, anonymously, to create a file of your complete travels on the interstate freeways, which would never be used by unscrupulous individuals, corporations, bad renegade politicians, or Tim Eyman. The only way the information would be used is in the aggregate. That’s the “Safe” in Safe Harbors: if you can’t trust your government, who can you trust?

But that’s just the beginning. We need to clear up the Mercer Street mess. There are traffic jams on Rainier Avenue, 45th Street, gosh, even 3rd Avenue. So we’ll have to know when and how each individual motorist and their passengers access every major thoroughfare in the city.

Eventually, I see a day when you won’t be able to pull out of your driveway with Aunt Zelda in the back seat, your Irish Red Setter Big Stupid at your side, and your two sons in the trunk, without all five of you being registered and tracked electronically. You won’t even being aware of it. Won’t that be great? Think of the boost to the surveillance industry! Seattle could be number one in yet another high tech field, and we will have more billionaires!

But it doesn’t end with roads. When you’ve walked down the sidewalks downtown have you ever tossed trash into a public waste receptacle? Of course you have, because tossing it anywhere else is illegal. Well now, with my proposal to expand Tag-n-Trak, you will have to give your name and ID every time you use a public garbage can, and your waste will be weighed. That way, our city will be able to determine just how many public waste receptacles are really needed, and where.

I am looking forward to the day when we apply the Safe Harbors idea to everyone, including City Council members and the computer geeks who are eagerly awaiting their employment. I’m sure we can all agree, that will be a brave new world.