The City Council in Cedar Falls, IA has voted to expand its lock box ordinance. What is that, you ask? That means residents in certain apartment buildings, as well as some businesses, have to give access to their building keys to firefighters. The council said it's to protect the citizens in case of an emergency. But opponents say it's a scary example of an ever-creeping Big Brother.
The lock boxes are like tiny key safes located outside an establishment. The fire department is theoretically the only one that has the key, and it justifies the devices by saying that they will save time and also property (i.e. the fire dept. won't have to break down a door to get into a house).
According to WCFCourier.com, the Council expanded the lock box ordinance on Monday. In the past, the city had required lock boxes for firefighters to access keys to apartment buildings with six or more units and commercial buildings with sprinkler systems or unsupervised alarm systems. Now, the updated ordinance requires the lock boxes for apartment buildings with three or more units, which expands the city's reach.
But as the Courier points out, that concerns some, considering the local government now has access to residents' keys and can apparently enter in an "emergency:"
Many of those opposed to the issue questioned why it should apply only to businesses and apartment buildings. If it is safer to have keys in lock boxes, they said, why shouldn't they be required for all buildings?
Carol Hanson doesn't support lock boxes and thinks people will look to have the decision reversed.
"Since this seems to be a political hot-button issue, why not allow the citizens of Cedar Falls to vote on this?" Hanson asked the council.
Many of the opponents pleaded for the council to heed the requests from those speaking against the ordinance.
"It's not the job of the mayor or the council to judge the merit of an issue, it's the job of the people. It's the job of the council and the mayor to listen to the people," said Travis Biggs.
One concerned citizen posted a video online showing some of the debate:
This was the third and final vote the Council took on the issue. It passed 6-1.