Articles from Shelby Mertens

ACLU Challenges Legality of Data Sharing Agreement Among Hampton Roads Police

ACLUVA_logo1Virginia’s ACLU Submits FOIA Request to Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network

After an article appeared in Wired Magazine by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealing that the Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network may be unconstitutionally storing and sharing data, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia is demanding the documentation be released via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Hampton Roads Telephone Analysis Sharing Network is comprised of five cities, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Norfolk. The Center for Investigative Reporting found a memorandum of understanding, an alleged agreement between the five Hampton Roads police departments, that granted them the ability to share personal information subpoenaed from telephone records and cell phone devices. Continue reading

Property Rights Rally, Hearing for Martha Boneta Case on Nov. 6

Martha Boneta

Martha Boneta, whose property is under a conservation easement with the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, claims PEC has harassed and intimidated her for eight years.

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation will be holding a hearing for Fauquier County farmer Martha Boneta’s claims against the Piedmont Environmental Council, an environmental conservation group Boneta says has trespassed on her property and harassed her for years.

Boneta, who owns Liberty Farm in Paris, Va., claims PEC has continually performed exceedingly intensive and demanding inspections of her farm, which Boneta believes is intended to intimidate her. PEC claims they are simply enforcing their legal agreement with Boneta.

PEC is a non-profit organization that was established in 1972 to protect the Piedmont region of Virginia’s rural land, resources, history and beauty, according to its website. Boneta bought the 64-acre plot located off Gap Run Road from PEC in 2006. PEC sells portions of land to both public and private landowners that are subject to conservation easements, which is the case for Boneta’s property. Continue reading

Landowners Fear Dominion Pipeline Will Threaten Property Rights

Travis Geary (far left) and his family have owned farmland in Augusta County since the 1970s.

Travis Geary (far left) and his family have owned farmland in Augusta County since the 1970s.

By Shelby Mertens |

Earlier this month Dominion Power announced its plans to construct a 550-mile natural gas pipeline that would run through parts of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. While those in support of the pipeline say that it will create jobs, increase state tax revenue and lower energy prices, local landowners fear their property rights are at stake.

If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the pipeline, Dominion will be legally allowed to use eminent domain or easements to acquire private properties that fall in the route of the pipeline, according to Travis Geary, co-chair of the Augusta County Alliance, a group of citizens who formed in opposition to the pipeline. Geary said his family’s farmland in Augusta County would be directly affected if the pipeline were built.

“It’s actually going to hit my parents farm, my uncle’s farm and my brother’s farm right down the road,” Geary said. Continue reading

Police License Plate Readers, Cell Phone Tracking and the Fourth Amendment

An Overview of the 2014 Privacy Summit 

ACLU and Virginia Tea Party Patriots Privacy Rights

By Shelby Mertens

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation discovered last weekend that they had more in common than what they thought. The two organizations joined together to host the 2014 Privacy Summit on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus to address local law enforcement’s use of high-tech surveillance equipment.

The Virginia Free Citizen attended the 2014 Privacy Summit, held on Sept. 6, which was split into three discussion panels with speakers from varying political backgrounds. The discussion topics centered around educating attendees on the surveillance technology used by Virginia law enforcement agencies, how the government can be held accountable and how the law protects Virginians’ privacy rights. Continue reading

The Williamsburg Farmers Market and its Colonial Roots

Photo courtesy of the Williamsburg Farmers Market.

Photo courtesy of the Williamsburg Farmers Market.

Although the current Williamsburg Farmers Market, located in the heart of colonial Williamsburg, was started in 2002, the city has a long history of farmers markets dating back to the mid-1600s.

The Williamsburg Farmers Market has 63 vendors that offer a variety of locally sourced goods and services, from seasonal produce, meats, cheeses, breads and desserts, to knife sharpening, goats milk soap and Christmas wreaths.
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Shelby Mertens

About Shelby Mertens

Shelby Mertens is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Mass Communications - Journalism. She was the arts and culture editor of The Commonwealth Times, VCU's independent student press. Shelby was a blogging and social media intern for Gandzee, an online retail startup in Richmond. She covered the General Assembly session last spring for Capital News Service on behalf of over 70 news publications across the state. She has also published work on WTVR-CBS 6's website, a part of the iPadJournos project at VCU.