Commentary: Steele: How much information it too much?
By Andrew Steele email@example.com November 12, 2013 12:18PM
Updated: November 15, 2013 9:39AM
The business registration law that’s on its way to passage in Crown Point is a fairly un-intrusive way for the city to collect useful information. Most businesses are “registered” with various governmental agencies in various ways already. And the city itself, through fire inspections, meter readings, and other activities, has plenty of information about businesses that are accessible to the public.
So this new policy isn’t a particularly controversial issue. But it’s always good to keep in mind that the arguments used by local government to justify a policy like this can be used to justify anything that involves the collection of information. It’s to enforce zoning laws, create a database of emergency contact information, and the big one...
Public safety. That argument is particularly useful, and comes up all the time. If a scenario is available to describe how a proposed policy will protect a person or property, it will be used, and it will be difficult to refute.
It’s not so much a “slippery slope” problem. If a policy is acceptable, it’s acceptable, and shouldn’t be rejected because it makes a “next step” more likely. Just as support for so many policies can be a linked to public safety, almost everything can be opposed as a step onto a slippery slope.
At any rate, government is always going to do what “makes sense” if its budget and the Constitition allow it. And it always makes sense to have information.
The business registration is probably more of a zoning-related policy than anything else, and, like the previously enacted rental registration/inspection program, isn’t a big deal as long as the city sticks to clear definitions and practices.
But “as long as...” is reason enough to have some concern. The issue of how much information government at any level collects and maintains has not come anywhere close to being settled. No one has come up with a good set of limiting rules yet, and even things like local business registrations and rental unit inspections are significant to the extent that “public safety” tends to steamroll anything in its path.
Speaking of steamrolling a path, it’s always appeared that the Illiana expressway is going to get done, whatever the local opposition. Even back in the 1990s, it seemed to be more a matter of “when” than “whether.”
One of the ways to tell a project is moving forward is when the opposition to it doesn’t address the arguments of proponents.
The recent argument of south Lake County’s representatives on the County Council and in the state House of Representatives — essentially that the highway won’t benefit Lake County — presumes that that’s reason to reject it. What constitutes a “benefit” is a matter of opinion, of course, but the idea that any interstate highway exists to benefit the areas it passes through misses the point of interstate highways.
Ultimately, the Illiana’s success or failure will be a result of its use as part of the larger system of highways regionally, and even nationally, and ideally the costs and benefits of it will be evaluated in a broader context.