RIDGECREST’S NEW LEADERSHIP TAKES A STAND, City Council Splits in Strongly Contested 3-2 Vote. Mayor Bruen Gets His Toy and Calls Uproar Over PLACER.AI and License Plate Readers “A Mountain Over a Mole Hill” (LOL)
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again
August 18, 2023
Pictured above is Mayor Eric Bruen at the August 2, 2023 Ridgecrest City Council meeting. We’ll have a post on Sunday titled “YOU’VE BEEN HAD” or something to that effect.
In the meantime, you’ll be happy to know that for the first time in
32 31* months of Mayor Bruen’s tenure, we have some good news — the City Council has split on a vote* (Councilman Rajaratnam sent in a correction which is added below) . That’s right, every single vote since Bruen became the Mayor has been 5-0. A correction to this story is below.
On Wednesday night, Mayor Dumpty fell off the wall and broke his cellphone, losing thousands of selfies. “Wow, these things aren’t so cool after all” he mumbled as a picked himself off the ground. That’s not the real news you were looking for, see the subtitle below for the rest of the story.
New Leadership Emerges in The City of Ridgecrest
Councilman Scott Hayman and Councilman Skip Gorman
Dear Councilmen Hayman and Gorman,
Thank you for your leadership opposing a contract with Placer.ai.
I’ve talked to a few people this week and don’t view the Placer.ai vote as loss but an opportunity to continue informing the public on ‘Human data trafficking’ and the inherent civil rights and privacy issues involved when the governement is using this rapidly developing and extremely complicated new technology.
As you know, the technology used by Placer Labs, Inc. is outlined in the Report prepared for the Office of Director of National Intelligence by the Panel on Commercially Available Information. This report was declassified on June 5th, 2023.
The rest of the City Council and City Manager Ron Strand haven’t considered the costs vs. benefits, and they will regret voting “Yes” on GPS surveillance of American citizens by government, espionage agencies and corporate fronts for foreign espionage agencies.
Fortunately, Councilman Hayman objected to the inclusion of both a $19,000 per year subscription contract with Placer.ai and $100,000 in funding for new License Plate Readers during the City’s Annual Budget workshop that was held on May 31st.
The PR hit City of Ridgecrest will take on this issue is incalculable. Placer.ai does not represent “capitalism at it’s finest” as Councilman Kyle Blades said on Wednesday night nor are they a “stand-up company” as Blades claimed at the May 3rd, 2023 Council Meeting when a decision to use Placer.ai was agreed to be under the purview of the City Manager’s spending authority to be placed in the City’s budget.
Screen grabs from the May 3rd council meeting:
The DNI Report confirms that the when the use of GPS Location information is used together with aggregated human data, the combination provides espionage capabilities to companies and government agencies that are equal to or better than traditional human intelligence gathering methods.
The decision to purchase License Plate Readers or sign a contract with Placer.ai was never intended to be an item on the City Council’s agenda for obvious reasons. I explained the nature of the technology and the threat to privacy and civil rights to Councilman Blades during a meeting in March, and the DNI report reinforces the opinions and concerns that I shared with him during that meeting.
Blades had no knowledge of the DNI report, but in spite of new information contained therein, Councilman Blades and Mayor Bruen have persisted in pushing for Placer.ai to be used by the City, ostensibly to count the number of people attending events, or to track tourists and shoppers coming to Ridgecrest, i.e. traffic counts.
Thank you again for your demonstration of discernment, good judgement and support for the opinions of the overwhelming majority of 30,000 residents in the City of Ridgecrest. The movement to stop the City of Ridgecrest and other cities and government agencies from using this dangerous technology is far from over.
* Correction from Councilman Rajaratnam:
With all due respect to you, I want to make a small correction. This is the 2nd time the vote was not 5-0. The very first meeting after Mr. Bruen took office we had a vote on casino approval for 2nd time. I voted NO for that. That vote was 4-1.
Also, on the WM contract renewal, I said that I am not going to vote yes unless the performance issue is addressed. Since Councilman Gorman also did not want to vote yes, the item was carried to next meeting without calling for a vote.
Thanks for your active involvement in city matters. Have a good weekend and be safe.
Solomon P. Rajaratnam, Mayor Pro Tem – City of Ridgecrest
Here’s the video of the meeting for your enjoyment. True leadership was on display at Wednesday nights meeting.
Shown below, Placer.ai founder Noam Ben Zvi assembles his co-founders team in a basement in Israel, circa 2016. At the time, they didn’t know what market to penetrate first and it’s no surprise they chose commercial real estate and shopping centers when they entered the market after their platform was developed in 2020. Today they’re moving in on the “civic” or municipal market and likely including county public health and municipal or county law enforcment departments.
For more information on this issue, please see our previous posts below and Subscribe to receive notification of new posts via email:
Office of Director of National Intelligence, Panel on Commercially Available Information (CAI)
Sensitivity of CAI: CAI can reveal sensitive and intimate information about the personal attributes, private behavior, social connections, and speech of U.S. persons and non-U.S. persons. It can be misused to pry into private lives, ruin reputations, and cause emotional distress and threaten the safety of individuals.
Mission creep can subject CAI collected for one purpose to other purposes that might raise risks beyond those originally calculated. The IC’s use of CAI is also the subject of intense scrutiny and speculation by political leaders, the news media, and civil society
Transcript and video from the May 3rd “off agenda” discussion on the use of Placer.ai is here: