Resident warns council hopefuls:
 $500 per call

Signal Staff Writer
April 9, 1998

Robert Arkow is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.

The Canyon Country resident has notified all 14 candidates in the April 14 City Council election not to call him to promote their candidacy. If they ignore his warning, he will charge them $500 per call.

Arkow said this is not a money-making scheme and he hopes none of the candidates call him.

"I hope they are smart enough to realize I am serious," he said. "If they don't respect my privacy, they do not respect anybody's."

This isn't the first time Arkow has taken a stand against phone solicitations. In 1994 he joined Private Citizen Inc., a nationwide organization whose members charge telemarketing companies $500 for every unwanted call. Arkow said he has collected $11,000 from telemarketers during those four years.

"We notify over 1500 telemarketing firms that our members are unwilling to be in their phone systems," said Bob Bulmash founder and president of Private Citizen. "Direct marketing has permeated every area of free enterprise and their procedures are to a great extent intrusive and an invasion of privacy."

Bulmash said members of Private Citizen respond to this invasion by "turning their telephones into private property" and charging telemarketers for their use. Since 1996, members have collected $138,000, Bulmash said, adding that fining telemarketers is allowed under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, which sets the $500 limit.

"The American public considers telemarketing to be the most reviled mechanism of advertising known to mankind," said Bulmash.

"Telemarketers treat us as Pavlovian dogs responding to the ring of the bell."  The Santa Clarita City Council election marks the first time anyone has warned political candidates not to come calling.

"In the last election, I had calls from four or five candidates," Arkow said. "One person called me three times."

While he has yet to receive any calls from candidates in the current election, Arkow said he expects a 'dialing frenzy" next week when the election occurs. Arkow said he talked to Bulmash about the possibility of putting City Council candidates on notice. "No one has ever done this before " Arkow said.

"I didn't even know if it was legal."

 Arkow said he sent a fax to all candidates with a fax machine and telephoned the rest to let them know they should not contact him.

"Privacy is a right and not a privilege, but in this country it is becoming more of a privilege and not a right," Arkow said.

"If you start to think of your phone number as precious as your Social Security number or PIN number, you are well on the way to protecting your privacy. I never give out my phone number on any form."

Arkow said he also supports a city ordinance that would ban businesses that contract with the city from selling residents' personal information for telemarketing purposes.

© 1998 The Signal

C.A.T.S. Comment: No political "junk" calls were received at the Arkow residence during the campaign.  Considering the success of this effort, attempts will be made to expand it to the members of C.A.T.S. and Private Citizen Inc. during the next elections.

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