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Jeffery Kurz

The Cold War is over, Mr. Dickinson

Wallingford’s mayor has long been noted for his aversion to technology, so it was interesting to see him support a GIS program the other night. It was even more interesting to see him repeat a familiar hangup.

On Tuesday, the Town Council endorsed a grant application to continue development of a regional property database. The endorsement was sought by the South Central Regional Council of Governments. The money would help increase the accuracy of a regional geographic information system.

Many municipalities, including Meriden, Southington and Cheshire, make GIS information available to the public online, but Wallingford does not. The town is starting to head that way, which is part of what Tuesday’s endorsement was about, but with an important distinction.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. does not want to provide detailed property information to the public on the Internet, which the other towns I’ve mentioned do.

Privacy is a concern, Dickinson said during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The mayor said he does not “want to allow someone from Russia to see where you live and what your house is worth.”

Now I’m a child of the Cold War, so I’m somewhat sympathetic to lingering wariness when it comes to the former Soviet Union. But we’re all trying to be friends now — right, comrade?

It was almost two years ago, in March 2010, that Dickinson said pretty much the same thing. Again the subject was taking steps toward creating a regional property database, and again the mayor stopped short when it came to posting information about individual properties in town.

“I’m not sure why people in Russia or China should be able to look up what your property looks like,” he said at the time. “I just don’t see the benefit.”

It makes you wonder.

In 2000, a bunch of Russians were nosing around Wallingford, asking a bunch of nosy questions. They visited the fire department, the police department, the public works garage, and questioned several department heads.

Through a translator, they asked Dickinson lots of questions, according to a Record-Journal article. Those included “how utility bills are collected, who gets health insurance and how the town is kept safe.”

Dickinson told the group of 15 Russians that “the power is where the buck stops,” a phrase that you can imagine must have taken a lot of explaining by the translator.

The Russian visitors were touring Wallingford through a national program sponsored by the Library of Congress called Open World 2000. It was an open exchange of the observance of government and its services.

Open exchange, and service to the public, is what the regional property database is all about, and there’s no cost to the town. That makes the mayor’s reluctance seem all the more peculiar.

jkurz@record-journal.com (203) 317-2213 Twitter: @JefferyKurz



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