By on March 25, 2015

PROPSFistbumpEye spy tag tech

Whenever law enforcement attempts to harness the ease and efficiency of new technology they’re often branded as bullies. “It’s an invasion of our right to privacy,” screech conspiracy theorists, wagging their tattered copy of George Orwell’s 1984 in the face of suspected government intrusion.

The fact is your right to privacy went out the window a long time ago. Take, for example, the average errand-running citizen’s trip to the bank. Perhaps you’ve posted a note to remind yourself to deposit checks first thing Monday. This information is on your smart phone and your home computer, and thereby somewhere in the cyber cloud as well. Everyone at Google, Apple and Amazon likely already knows you are going to the bank before you even start the car.

As you back out of the driveway, your neighbor’s yard security camera picks you up. You pass through several traffic lights where you are photographed in case you speed through a red light. In addition to the camera time, your trip has also been recorded by your smart phone location software, passing that information along to Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps and several other apps that are eager to know where you are at all times. If subpoenaed, a “black box” in your vehicle can be tapped to find out how fast you went, how often you applied the brake and if you were wearing your seatbelt.

On the way to the bank, you stop for coffee and a fill up at Maverick. Smile, you’re on camera as you pump your gas. Your credit or debit card also informs anyone who wants to know that you were at Maverick at 8:42 a.m. and purchased $64.22 in fuel and a $2.50 cup of coffee.

At the bank, your every move is recorded by video surveillance cameras and kept on file for at least 90 days. Your banking transaction is recorded and shared with other banks, credit card companies and your utility company, where you’ve opted to pay your monthly bill with automatic withdrawal from your checking account. In less than 15 minutes, every creditor who is waiting for a sufficient balance in order to process your payment now knows you’re ripe for the picking. Computers in a warehouse somewhere in a state you’ve never visited begin writing checks for you before you even make it home.

Get pulled over on the way back and your license number is radioed to dispatch and retrieved from a state database. The cruiser’s dashboard cam records your indignation at being pulled over for driving 37 miles per hour in a 30 zone. The officer’s body cam also records an unflattering image of your howling. When Jackson Police Department gets its e-citation system up and running, your license plate will be scanned, logged and verified on the spot. Your speeding ticket is written by a computer and emailed to you while the data is also sent to police headquarters, the town’s finance department and municipal court.

You get home and write a letter to the editor complaining that the Jackson Police Department shouldn’t need to use license plate recognition software because it will destroy the feel of your small town street-walking/chalking parking cop: “I have a right to privacy,” you kvetch.

Not on this planet you don’t.


DISSTongueTwilight Zone: District 2

Many in the community have watched the District 2 Resort and Commercial Zoning land development regulation revisions with keen interest. Judging from the heavy turnout at recent meetings, and the majority of public comments calling for a “community first, workforce housing first” approach, citizens of Jackson are scared to death by the commercial build-out numbers and possible restructure of the lodging overlay.

Our leaders need to listen to their constituents. Some do, some don’t. What too often happens at the town and county level is electeds are moved more by stakeholders than jobholders. One real estate agent trumps a half-dozen skids living in Curtis Canyon. Ballparking it, I might offer that one real estate agent or developer cancels out every four or five man-on-the-street opinions.

Opposition to the District 2 build-out proposed in the LDR revisions and concern for workforce housing is overwhelming. The Town Council has heard from Patty Ewing, Pete Muldoon, Barbara Allen, Bruce Hawtin, Hank Phibbs, Leslie Petersen, Leif Routeman, Sandy Shuptrine, Kathy Tompkins, Klaus Baer, Alli Noland and too many others to mention.

These brake-pumpers are balanced by a handful with skin in the game.

“Don’t stagnate District 2,” said Cabin & Company Owner/Broker Tom Hedges, adding that worrywarts are displaying “unnecessary communitywide concern.”

Paul Duncker’s comment is even more dismissive. The architect, who no doubt wants to get busy designing shiny new buildings in Jackson’s core commercial zone, wants people to calm down.

“Don’t get scared by alarmist comments from your peers, from the newspaper,” he told the council. “Look at the historical pattern as to what the future of Jackson might look like.”

OK, let’s.

People who moved from Jackson in the 60s or 70s or even 80s wouldn’t recognize it today. When the economy is good, development runs wild. Little concern is given to where workers will live. “Housing has always been tough in this valley,” is the oft-repeated mantra. That statement doesn’t fix the problem, it only deflects blame and postpones solutions.

About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.


  1. Eye Spy

    March 25, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    What Jake fails to understand as it relates to Orwell, and it’s significance to the issue, is that the government has POWER that the private sector does not. Our founding fathers understood this. Jake’s clueless. Jake’s mind is off in Jake-off land. His love fest with technology is short-sighted. After he blows a wad of cash on these cameras, what’s next? The birth of another dumb idea? Probably.

  2. Cops and cams

    March 25, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    In Jake’s world, the government should embed a tracking device in everyone’s body and cameras in everyone’s bedroom. Your private email should be public and your DNA should be on file. Our Founding Fathers would roll over in their graves and Stalin would applaud. Jake’s an idiot. What did Ronald Reagan say about the scariest words someone could utter? Something like, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

    Yelp. The government wants to spy on you, track you, analyze you, and collect more revenue from you. China does it. Why not us? This will be a great tool to hassle tourists & locals. In Ferguson, they went after poor minorities to boost the city’s revenue. St. Louis County has some 90 municipalities, some of which get 40 percent or more of their revenue from traffic fines and fees from petty violations. Multiplicities have even installed red light cameras and shortened the yellow-light timing.

    Somebody has to pay for Budge Drive (at least $8 million). The Teton County Housing Authority needs another $8 million to cover the cost overruns on the Grove affordable housing project by the library. And who’s going to pay for all those high government salaries and benefits? You. Of course the issue isn’t just money.

    Anybody who thinks that the ‘professionals’ in our police department only do things for the public good are forgetting history. The lawsuit settlement over the abortion protesters wasn’t cheap. A big thank you to Todd Smith and our electeds over that one. They can’t be trusted to do what’s professional or legal. There’s a long history there.

    Just because this technology might be used for the public good doesn’t give it any more value than a government camera in your bedroom that’s only being used for the public good. Technology like this just leads to abuse. This is all the more likely given the lackluster oversight the Town places on the police department and, again, our department’s history and that of our electeds.

    I’m sure our police department would love to have a database of everyone’s location during every minute of every day during the last ten years complete with video. Hey, if you have nothing to hide, why do you care? Didn’t someone go after Jews, gays, and gypsies in Germany? Didn’t Britain go after the Founding Fathers? Inch by inch, government takes away your freedom, liberty, & money while hoping you don’t notice. People who don’t take a stand and say enough is enough fail to appreciate history and the motivations of our Founding Fathers.

    For the record, people can avoid the internet or smart phones. They don’t have to drive a car that tracks them. Banks should have video cameras. Cameras with facial recognition searching databases that actually track specific individuals are rare – some casinos have them. People can skip casinos. Cameras on cops that simply record interactions keep cops honest (and they need to be kept honest). People usually support cop cams as long as information unrelated to criminal activities isn’t collected and stored forever for no fucking good reason.

    The government works for YOU. It’s not their job to spy on you just so they can harass you with endless fees, fines, and taxes for just going about your life. Nor is it their job to behave like a totalitarian government just because it makes them feel better.

  3. pat

    March 26, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Car mug shots would be cute. The Federal Government’s Surveillance State is just what we need in Jackson. Who wants to get out of their car and mark tires with a yellow crayon? The only thing I’m worried about is if I move my car and then come back to the same parking spot. Does the technology have an intelligent human behind it, or is it just Jim & Todd? Does an officer put a ticket on my windshield or does the technology mail me a ticket?

    Serious crime is so rare in Jackson that we need traffic violations to justify having a patrol force. Really serious crime is handed off to more seasoned professionals. The technology does have merit. Local law enforcement gets most of its excitement from traffic stops. You want your employees to be happy.

    I do like that it’s easier to find drivers with unpaid tickets and out-of-date registration. Ferguson would have loved this. If it’s easier to find members of the Secret Service with outstanding warrants, that’s a plus, too. At one time I trusted them more than Bill Clinton. They had me fooled. Except for whoring and drinking, they’re good people. You can trust these people with almost anything except protecting the President. But I trust Todd Smith. Just look at him. And what a fine crew of boys and girls. The SO’s office & the PD aren’t as contemptuous, rude, arrogant, and unprofessional as those US military guards at Abu Ghraib but with more training and technology like the Feds provide, one can expect improvements in character. The NSA probably isn’t tracking my IP address but I wouldn’t put it past our local cops – freedom of speech is something they like to squelch.

    What would be really cool is if an officer could grab some donuts at Loaf & Jug while her camera scans traffic for broken windshields or overly-tinted windows. If we improve the technology, maybe we can get rid of the human cops altogether. Get Robocop working in Jackson. That’s cool. Think about it. Robocop.

    Remember when that kid was killed by a cop while the kid was playing with a toy gun? Robocop would have scanned that gun and known it was a fake in milliseconds. And what does Robocop care if a gun’s fake or real? Ain’t going to hurt Robocop. Technology should be embraced. The sooner the better. If only we had this technology when it was illegal to be gay. Was that the 60’s or 70’s? When was it that cops beat all those black folks in Selma? Would have been nice to track all them white folk helpin’ ’em black folk. If only we had the technology. Gosh. What am I thinking. Of course, anybody with a towel on their head should be tracked. Or protesters. Pot isn’t good for the memory. Our government loves us. Just Google ‘Cops Indicted’ or something along those lines in case you can’t remember how upstanding these people are.

    The Justice Department’s exposé of the bigoted law enforcement practices in Ferguson, MO are awkward. I hate using that place as an example. I would have shot that idiot, too. Sorry, I backed the cops on that one, but that doesn’t excuse the excesses dished out by local governments toward minority communities.

    It’s hard to say exactly how perverted cops can become with technology. It’s hard to say if Todd & Jim, and all their Cub Scouts can be trusted. Some definitely. Some are patriots. Really, no sarcasm. All? I trusted the Secret Service. That was a mistake. Our local cops went out of their way to harass abortion protesters. Out of their way. Unconstitutionally out of their way and with the help of the judicial system and electeds. It was shameful and we paid a price. Did any of them stand up and say this is wrong? Have they ever admitted it?

    The problem with technology is that it’s too easy to abuse and it’s too easy to hide abuse. Less government in our lives is the best government.

  4. murph

    March 26, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    i will be covering my plate every day.the parking problem we have will not be solved by this.

  5. All about the revenue

    March 27, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Perhaps we should redesign the parking idea instead of trying to issue more citations to more people. There are several problems to address.

    First, the Town keeps pushing more people downtown – to live, work, and shop. They are creating the problem and then they are trying to collect revenue from people trying to deal with the problem. This is wrong.

    Second, the parking lots are full during the summer. New parking areas or garages need to be created. The Town needs to provide a free shuttle that only runs around Town Square and the parking lots. The Airport shuttle is now taking up too many parking spots in the parking garage that should be left to tourists and employees. I even see taxi companies parking their vehicles there. Parking for the Airport Shuttle should be someplace like Stilson for those living west of the Snake. Everyone else can get a ride to a downtown pickup location on the START bus or from a friend.

    Third, parking time limits should be very short around Town Square. If you’re spending more than 1 hour in a parking spot within one block of Town Square, then you should use the parking lots. Allowing people to park for more than 1 hour encourages employees to game the system and discourages tourists who are looking for parking. Even better in my mind would be to ban all parking around Town Square during the peak tourist hours. The Town can always create spots for loading/unloading, shuttle buses, taxis, maintenance vehicles (plumber, etc), and the handicapped.

    The nice thing about parking-enforcement employees is that they walk around Town Square and offer a visible reminder to tourist that there is a time limit on parking. Additionally, they interact with tourists and provide directions to bathrooms & other information. A cop in a car with a camera is just a tax collector. Tourist and locals hate that. They should have something better to do. If not, we should get rid of them.

    It makes the downtown appear move vibrant when more people are walking around.

  6. Billy

    March 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Used to be God watched over us, now it’s the government.

    The more money and power you give a government, the more likely they are to abuse it.

  7. David

    March 28, 2015 at 6:16 am

    A continued lack of common sense and professionalism is why many find this technology in the PD’s hands to be disturbing. It’s just a matter of time before this technology will be corrupted by our PD and our PD will be corrupted by this technology.

    We have our own version of Selma but it’s not just abortion protestors who get run out of town.

    In the 1950’s you could call up old Bull Connor ( and he’d send one of his henchmen to keep Negros away from your business. Nowadays, Todd Smith’s office will send one of his minions to do the same thing – cater to someone’s irrational prejudice & imaginary fear. Instead of calling the bluff of the idiots who call them, Todd Smith’s boys find it appropriate to treat harmless residents or visitors like wrongdoers in need of punishment. Our PD is too dumb to recognize their own complicity staring back at them from Bull Connor’s mirror. The subject of their attention is doing nothing wrong, illegal, immoral, unethical, or inappropriate, but that doesn’t matter.

    So, if you don’t like Jews, gays, Negros, the homeless, young people, Arabs, abortion protesters, or whomever you deem suspicious, just ring up dispatch and Chief Todd Smith will make sure ‘those people’ stay away. There is no self restraint or mindfulness in the PD. They let their time be hijacked by bigots & idiots for no good reason and at a great cost to taxpayers. They act without thinking. The irrational requests of citizens get treated like commandments handed down by God. This is exactly what happened with the abortion protesters, and it happens regularly to any old Joe Blow who’s just going about his day but doesn’t fit in with someone’s idea of an appropriate character. Bull Conner would be proud. The South lives on in Jackson.

    Our electeds are too cozy with law enforcement to summon change. Only Jim Stanford seems the least but suspicious of the status quo. It’s doubtful they understand the range of questionable behavior that takes place in the PD. Of course, with the abortion protesters, there was complicity between electeds and Todd Smith. Oversight means nothing if the will to act is not there or the vision is obscured.

    The memories of those who trust our PD unconditionally have forgotten history.

  8. David

    March 28, 2015 at 6:39 am

    In regards to housing, take a look at the recent approval of short-term rentals at Shooting Star. We went through years of review to get Shooting Star approved (too long) but we did come up with a basic set of rules for the project as to relates to the type of housing that would be appropriate.

    A decade later, Shooting Star comes back and says it wants to be in the hotel business and not the residential community business. The county quickly falls in line.

    Meanwhile, some family that needs a variance to adjust to growing needs faces more obstacles. Here’s an old example of the trouble some people have to go through:

    Short-term rentals get more love than long-term community housing.

  9. simon

    March 29, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Jonathan Schechter said it best when it comes to traffic and housing in the N&G on 3-18-2015: The idea that traffic (& parking) won’t get a whole lot worse defies common sense. More housing, businesses, rec centers, schools, babies, tourists creates even more housing & traffic issues that no bus system, Lodging Tax, parking ticket, or regulation will ever fix. Jonathan is correct on our growth trajectory and it can’t be stopped.

    If I was captain, I’d get rid of employers who import low-wage labor unless they build their own housing for all those employees and charge a rent commensurate with their salary. I’d cater to high-end visitors instead of the price-sensitive low-value ones. I’d build a community for workers at the Stilson parking lot with free bus service to the Village and Town. I’d build appropriate apartments – where you can’t hear the neighbor banging her boyfriend. The kinds that are designed for a variety of incomes and family sizes. I’d pay for it with a real-estate transfer tax and a 30% tax on short-term rentals. That keeps speculators from flipping and renting. I’d grow the replacement market in downtown Jackson – get rid of the junker homes and loosen the restrictive regulations on housing development which drive up housing cost and drive down wages. I’d open up more of the county for development – damn their viewsheds but be sensitive to wildlife corridors. I’d remove the short-term rentals from Shooting Star. I get rid of the obsession with building attainable or affordable single-family homes. No one has to live here. And no one is deserving of that kind of govt subsidy JUST for living here. If you don’t like the housing options, leave. Or find an employer who pays you a salary in line with the cost of living. Plenty of smart, educated people do just fine with less in this town. The idea that all the talent will leave without a handout (or outrageous govt salary) is silly. They won’t. The Grove housing project is 8 million over budget. How many mobile, or prefab, homes could we have purchased and placed on the TC Fairgrounds for that price? Instant housing.

  10. JH Local Residents

    March 30, 2015 at 11:57 pm


    Let’s start a signed petition against the cameras and present it before the ordinance gets voted! All we need is 10% of the total amount of registered voters and we shall defeat them!

    There are better ways of making TOJ better! First, a better leadership with more competent people with a Down-To-Eath vision. Second and last, make the local government more efficient – you spend less, you need less! No need to increase the revenue for short term parking in summer time! Do we really want to harass tourists who spend their money Downtown? It just doesn’t seem fair! The TOJ is getting a big chunk of money from sales tax alone! No need to give them ever more parking tickets!

    Reply to this post if you agree with the petition proposal. I am sure we can find a local good lawyer who could help us draft it!

    Let’s DO IT! Contact us at: [email protected]

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