Those who invest in other people’s hardships are awfully camera shy, it turns out.
Of the 15 or so bidders at Tuesday’s municipal tax sale, several of them acted as though they were on a perp walk outside Central Booking. This, despite their presence in a public meeting, in a public location. I’d expect if you’re attending an auction of tax liens in the first place, you’d be rather thick-skinned when it comes to your image, a little more Tony Soprano and less Justin Bieber. But apparently that’s not so.
As this group of “investors” heard and bid on some 1,100 liens—the vast majority, according to Township Tax Collector Sandra Ferguson, the result of unpaid sewer bills rather than actual, you know, taxes—there was a mixture of curiosity and alarm at this renegade photographer in their midst.
“Who are you representing?” they kept asking, as if one needs some affiliation to—gasp!—take a picture with a digital SLR camera in a public place. Everyone and everything is photographed with smart phones these days, but whip out a Canon EOS Rebel and you have to be “representing” someone.
Even less enthusiastic about this invasion of public privacy were the township personnel running the proceedings. In a move that would make Joseph Stalin proud, they summoned Gloucester Township’s Finest upon deciding that the click of a shutter was disrupting their horse trading. Despite being well within my rights as a citizen to document the goings-on, I was asked rather firmly to leave. Which begs a few questions:
- If these individuals are conducting legitimate business—and I’ll stipulate that they are—why do they care whether their pictures are being taken?
- When did Gloucester Township rewrite the Constitution to bar a concerned citizen from a public meeting?
- Who exactly are these people who cracked jokes as they sifted through individual property liens—some of which were for $100 or less—including asking the one black member of the panel if she was the “tough-looking cookie” responsible for collecting most of the delinquent taxes prior to the sale?
- And the big one…why did the township council postpone its final 2012 meeting from the day before the tax sale to nine days after, right between Christmas and New Year’s?
The guess here is they were afraid of citizens carrying cameras.