Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 21, 2013

'Government overreaching'

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — SUTTONS BAY — Jackie Freeman understands that Americans want their safety in the post 9/11 era, but the government’s quest for security is getting on her nerves.

“It all goes back to the terrorism thing: government puts so many barriers in your way,” said Freeman, a Suttons Bay resident.

Freeman recently became frustrated at the Secretary of State’s office in Traverse City, where a friend tried to obtain a Michigan driver’s license. He’s a former Florida resident and recently moved in with her.

“They told him, ‘We can’t issue you a driver’s license until we see a utility bill or a lease,’” she said.

But his name wasn’t on her utility bill. And since he’s debt-free, he had no bills. So Freeman, a property manager, created a lease that reflected the rent he pays her. Employees at the Secretary of State’s Traverse City office still refused to issue him a license.

“I don’t know if this is government overreaching, but they made it impossible for him to get a Michigan driver’s license,” she said.

Freeman said her friend then went to the Secretary of State branch in Suttons Bay where the supervisor knew her and accepted the lease as documentation.

Fred Woodhams, Lansing-based spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said the state requires five different types of documentation to fully prove identity for security reasons. The lease should have been satisfactory.

“We have to know people are who they say they are,” he said.

Freeman also bristled after getting a bill for her Suttons Bay post office box. She received a notice to fill out a form, provide photo identification and proof of where she lives, such as a voter registration card or a copy of her mortgage.

“They never before asked for this,” said Freeman, who has rented a P.O. box for 10 years. “If they asked everyone who gets home delivery for the same thing, that would seem fair. But it’s only people who are mandated to use postal office boxes, and we have no choice. Having to produce a copy of a mortgage or lease, I think, is incredibly intrusive.”

Suttons Bay villagers must use post office boxes because there’s no home delivery, she said.

Linda Gurka, the new Suttons Bay post master, said she’s following a federal rule.

“I’m really not that mean,” she said. “This should happen once a year.”

Gurka said no one has to provide personal information; she just needs to see an address. She is relatively new to the job and had problems reaching a few residents who had moved. Phone numbers are particularly problematic since more people are switching to unlisted cell phones, she said.

Security is stricter for post office boxes because of the potential for fraud and identity theft, said Darren Whipple, interim post master in Traverse City.

A person can set up a post office box from anywhere in the country. So if they commit a crime, there has to be a way to track them down. A local person with a mailbox, on the other hand, can be more easily traced, he said.

The Traverse City post office also has required post office box customers to update their information, but won’t do so every year, he said.

Gurka said that Freeman — or anyone — could put up a mailbox in an easement that falls in the line of the nearest rural carrier route. That would be M-204, in the case of Suttons Bay Village.

“There have been a couple of customers who’ve done that,” Gurka said. “I’m more than happy to do that for them.”