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Tamara Barringer: a nice face behind police state cameras
By John Sanford Friedrich
“I abhor government intervention, but I will support the bill. I don’t think we have a reasonable expectation of privacy when we’re on a public street,” informed Senator Tamara Barringer (R-17 Wake) referring to HB 348. Currently Wilmington and Raleigh among other towns have spent approximately $20,000 per police car to add “license plate scanners” capable of recording the location and personal information of every car the police vehicle passes, up to 1,800 plates per minute.
“[The data] could be used...to analyze patterns of movement or personal associations,” said Wrightsville Police Chief John Carcy in an article several years ago in the Wilmington Star News. “...A lot of people might say it’s Big Brother at work.” With these cameras, law enforcement would begin to be able to establish a database including the date, time, photo, and GPS location of every plate scanned.
HB 348 intended to give legal authority for the employment of mass scanning along state-owned roads as well as creating some form of management for the reams of data collected. Since 2010 the ACLU has legally pressed the Wilmington police department to reveal their data storage policy. As a pilot program, the police department felt no urgency to settle on such a policy.
The bill was not initially thought controversial with sponsorship across the aisle – Sen. Rick Gunn (R-24 Alamance) and Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-20 Durham). Even if these cameras can scan a thousand cars per minute, the bill’s sponsors failed to see opposition coming from the right wing of the NCGOP.
Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-9 New Hanover) is perhaps best known for his mean-spirited editorial regarding the Moral Monday movement that began “the circus came to the State Capitol this week, complete with clowns, a carnival barker and a sideshow. The ‘Reverend’ Barber was decked out like a prelate of the Church of Rome (no insult is meant to Catholics), complete with stole and cassock. All he was missing was a miter and the ensemble would have been complete.”
Goolsby has also taken an interest in streamlining the lethal injection procedure, so he seems to be a man of varied interests. But even a stopped watch is right twice a day. “I’m operating legally on a road I paid for as a citizen, monitored by some nameless, faceless bureaucrat to see where I’m going,” predicted the Republican. Enough other high-profile conservatives defected and HB 348 has been withdrawn for the session.
Privacy remains important for Tamara Barringer. As a lawyer at “Barringer Law Firm, LLP” the freshman senator found herself appointed to the Judiciary Committee. In addition to sponsoring a bill honoring the Girl Scouts, she has also co-sponsored a bill to make cuts in the school nutrition programs and most notably, The Business Court Modernization Act (S853) “would send more cases to business courts and expedite the time it takes cases to navigate the system. It would also send business court appeals, which are currently heard by the N.C. Court of Appeals, directly to the state Supreme Court.” The other primary sponsor is Sen. Bob Rucho (R-39 Mecklenburg) who is shady enough to warrant some suspicion as to the public benefits of such ‘modernization.’
Presumably business courts are preferred because they are more favorable toward corporate persons which are being sued. Many other human persons have pressing cases which need clarification upon appeal and they would also prefer such expedited treatment. Alas humans must wait patiently.
Cary is part of the metro Triangle region but is well known for being insular, wealthy and whiter than the rest of the region. The NCGOP invested $131,605 in her 2012 race, her first attempt at public office unless involvement in her local PTA is to be counted. Her fellow lawyers contributed another $31,535. The cost of campaigning for the 17th jumped from just under $30,000 to growing tenfold to cost nearly $300,000.
This influx of money does not bode well for her Democratic opponent, Bryan Fulghum. Fulghum, 30, is a lifelong native of Cary. However his experience of the town is much different than Barringer’s world of business courts and helpful fellow lawyers. Fulghum grew up working and has held many retail jobs as well as tutoring algebra among other activities.
While Barringer has been endorsed by the NC Chamber of Commerce’s PAC, Fulghum has been endorsed by the Triangle Labor Council and the AFL-CIO. “Speaking as a member of our working class, I have witnessed the hardships that many of our low-income workers face as they struggle to stay financially afloat. These people provide many important services to our growing communities,” explains Fulghum.
The 17th is a high turnout district and is relatively compact, giving some hope that headway can be made against Barringer.