The City of Greenfield Common Council approved a ordinance in April that puts the civil liberties of sellers of books and CDs to resale shops in jeopardy. While it may be well-intentioned, Greenfield's ordinance (PDF) threatens the privacy rights of anyone trying to sell a long list of used items, including books and CDs, at commercial, resale establishments.
Common Council resolution No. 2695 re-wrote the pawnbrokers' ordinance. It requires all types of secondhand article dealers to electronically record information in a database about used items and the people who sold the items to the store. The stores would then have to report this information daily to the Greenfield Police. And most troubling from a civil liberties perspective, the merchants have to take photographs of the seller and provide them to police as well.
The ACLU of Wisconsin is concerned that the new ordinance treats all sellers as potential criminals even though there is no particular suspicion that they have done anything wrong and there apparently is little, if any, evidence that the items they are selling (like used books, exercise equipment or baby clothes) are items that are typically "fenced." It is especially troubling that "expressive materials," such as used books or films on DVD or video, when sold will result in a record of the sellers' tastes and opinions.
The Greenfield Common Council is likely to take another look at this new ordinance as soon as the Tuesday, September 21, 2010 meeting at 7:00 p.m. Check the council’s online calendar for the meeting’s agenda and location. Alders have heard complaints from area businesses and need to hear from residents about why this ordinance is too broad to implement.
For residents of Greenfield, please contact Mayor Michael Neitzke and your Council member to encourage them to amend the ordinance so that it will not threaten civil liberties. The City Clerk’s Office can provide you with the name of your alderperson and their contact information. Contact the City’s Clerk’s Office at 414-329-5219. You can find a complete listing of alderpersons online.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have contacted your alder and he or she is willing to fix this overbroad and instrusive ordinance.