Sound Transit wants to Install AI Cameras

Link light rail stations and garages would use new surveillance equipment

NEWS

By George Howland Jr.

In the first quarter of the next year, Sound Transit security staff will ask the Sound Transit Board of Directors to take the first step in installing artificial intelligence (AI) cameras throughout its Link light rail system of stations and garages. The Sound Transit Board of Directors will be asked to approve a Request for Proposals (RFP) from private vendors for the initial $979,200 purchase of the AI technology. There are no public meetings or public outreach planned in connection with this decision, according to John Gallagher, Sound Transit spokesperson. Branden Porter, Sound Transit’s System Security Manager, states the objective of the AI cameras is to save over $1 million per year in security costs. Sound Transit’s Gallagher stresses, “We’re not using these [cameras] in any way for facial recognition.”

Critics are not mollified by the promise. Shankar Narayan, Technology and Liberty Project Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA), says, the use of AI cameras would force “people to choose between privacy and transit.” This controversy comes on the heels of Sound Transit, last month, releasing data that shows its fare enforcement results in disproportionate citations for African Americans (first reported by Erica C. Barnett and then The Seattle Times).

Voters in a tri-county region (roughly approximating King, Snohomish and Pierce counties) have approved an ambitious expansion plan of Sound Transit’s light-rail, express-bus and heavy-rail transit services. Sound Transit’s current light rail is 22 miles long and runs from the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium to Angle Lake, just south of Sea-Tac Airport. By 2041, Sound Transit plans to expand light raid north to Everett, south to the Tacoma Dome and east to Issaquah. There are also two planned expansions in the city of Seattle itself: one to West Seattle and the other to Ballard. Recently, statewide voter approval of Initiative 976 put Sound Transit’s funding into doubt. Currently, I-976 is facing a court challenge.

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A punch against the gays

One summer night in Wallingford, near Dick’s drive-in

Blossom Boys
Members of Camp Blossom for Boys:  I am third from the left with long hair and a beard

MEMOIR

By George Howland Jr.

My boyfriend, Tommy, and I walked with arms around one another to the bus stop. It was the summer of 1979 and he was working graveyard at a print shop. We both had long hair and beards. My hair was blonde, and my beard was black; all his hair was brown. Both of us were way skinny. He wore jeans, a t-shirt and boots. I had on draw-string pants, a t-shirt and Birkenstock sandals with no back strap.

We were on North 45th Street, a main drag through Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, at the time a neighborhood of overwhelmingly white middle-class and working-class people.

I was living right up the street at Camp Blossom for Boys, an intentional community for gay, bi-sexual and straight men. I had spent 18 months putting Camp Blossom together as part of my effort to “fight the patriarchy” by changing men. Seven of us had rented a suburban looking house next to a gas station on First Avenue Northeast. Four gay men, two straight guys and me—the lone bisexual. Three of us were anarchists, one was an activist skeptic and the other three were gay guys who were curious about living with other men.

At the time, you didn’t see many gay couples in Wallingford. We didn’t care. We were proudly, militantly out.

I wore dangling earrings and androgynous clothing. The more stares I drew, the better. I wanted to confront people’s homophobia. I told everyone—my school district employer, my alternative public high school students, people that I met—that I was bisexual. The confrontations took their toll—my stomach was often convulsed with cramps.

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Heidi Wills and Strippergate

City council candidate (District 6) and former city councilmember takes responsibility for her past mistakes

Heidi Wills 2

 

NEWS

By George Howland Jr.

Heidi Wills rang my doorbell.

Earlier this summer, I put up a Facebook post about Wills and Strippergate–a City Hall scandal involving illegal lobbying and political money laundering by Frank Colacurcio, a vicious gangster. Wills, who served one four-year term, 2000-03, as an at-large city councilmember, is currently running for city council in District 6 (Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood). On Nov. 5, in the general election, she will face off against Dan Strauss, a former aide to City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. Strauss won the primary election 34 percent to Wills’ 21 percent.

In 2003, Strippergate was partially responsible for Wills losing her city council seat to David Della. In this summer’s Facebook post, I wrote, “I have never heard Wills adequately explain her behavior and demonstrate that her judgment has improved. To me, this is a necessary step before serving on the council for a second time. “

That same night, Wills was in my Phinney Ridge neighborhood ringing doorbells (at publication time, she says she had personally contacted 6,500 households). Wills’ social media person telephoned her to raise the alarm about my post. Wills decided to come over to my house–she had the address as part of publicly available voter lists–and answer my questions. Over a cup of tea, in my fortunately clean kitchen, we talked about her political past and how it relates to the present campaign.

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Memories of a Luddite, Pt. 1

Deran Ludd, writer and activist, 1959-2018

deran
Ludd riffing on his choroideremia — a degenerative eye disease (Anonymous)

MEMOIR

by George Howland Jr.

A friend called with the sad news: Writer and activist Deran Ludd had committed suicide on September 9, 2018.

I only saw Deran dance once. It was 1977. Deran was frugging and laughing with Leslie Batchelder to the sounds of the B-52s “Rock Lobster.” The two of them were impossibly beautiful.

Deran had the delicate patrician features of the WASP elite. His hair was a little shaggy and he had on earrings that matched his blue eyes. His slim body didn’t hold my attention, it was his gorgeous face that I couldn’t stop looking at. My gaydar went off—but quietly. He seemed like a sweet, hippie boy.

Continue reading “Memories of a Luddite, Pt. 1”