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BEACHCOMBER: Get Elected, Lose Privacy

  • By David Barron

Privacy, that’s what you can lose if you get elected to a high profile office such as a city council seat.

This is the second in a series of columns about getting elected to local city office.
What do I mean lose your privacy?
Well, at some time in your election campaign and during the first few months in office your home address, phone numbers and email addresses become public knowledge.
Your face, pictures of your family and friends are plastered all over the city and on the Internet.
Your family history might be revealed too. Facts such as your birthplace, your parent’s birthplace and your mother’s maiden name are asked. These are facts, which are often used to confirm your identity. Your personal investments in business properties and some bank or personal loans are also revealed in annual filings.
Your education, your occupation and the company you work for all become public knowledge through the Conflict of Interest Form 700 required of most public officials.
They say that some of this information is already available about most of us through the Internet. But in this case, you are putting your personal data out on a silver platter for people to enjoy.
Some cities and counties plaster photos of elected officials in locations where you might enter for a public service, such police departments, reception desks and other similar locations. I think that’s done out of self-defense by agencies. They don’t want employees to screw up while a public official is nearby.
Some city and county employees can live far away from the work place but an elected official cannot.
City, county and school board members must live within the boundaries of their jurisdictions.
This means all your neighbors know who you are. That also means your house must be neatly maintained and painted, the grass cut and watered so that it is all green. You also have to have a decent car. It wouldn’t be good for an elected official to have a rusty old hulk sitting in the driveway.
If you have children attending local schools, school officials will soon be aware of your status and put an invisible asterisk next to their names.
If your kid plays in youth sports, everyone may know when they strike out or miss a critical free throw.
It isn’t as bad as I make it sound. Just disconnect your landline and get a new cell phone. Send your kids to private schools just outside the city limits.
You can limit your community involvement to those directly related to your city and your agency.
But maybe stay away from the local supermarkets. This is especially true if you like to shop on Sunday mornings in your grubbies (old clothes), unshaven with your hair askew. That’s when you meet someone with a bunch of questions looking for simple answers to complicated issues.
But, it is all worth it if you fix the problems you focused on, gotten the potholes filled and reduced the truck traffic on your street. And, most importantly, you get use to it and maybe even like the public spotlight – especially if they call you “honorable.” 

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