Saturday, December 20, 2014
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Ask Matt ... about election season robocalls

The Hendersonville Lightning's intrepid researcher answers readers' questions.


Q. I heard that you get political "robocalls" because you are registered as a Republican or Democrat. Does the Board of Elections give out phone numbers and how can you stop the calls?

When you registered to vote, you listed your name, address, gender, race (or ethnicity), date of birth, and party affiliation. Adding your phone number is optional. By law, all this information is available to the public. In fact, for a mere $25 anyone can get a CD loaded with 77,000 Henderson County names, addresses and phone numbers. That comes to about three cents per person. Pretty cheap, huh? According to Board of Elections Director Beverly Cunningham, if you want to have your phone number removed from the database, you need only to fill out one very simple form. Of course, this does not guarantee that robocalls will cease. Cunningham says that very few voters take the time to remove their phone numbers.
Just out of curiosity, I did some Internet surfing and found a marketing company in California that boasts a rate of two cents per robocall call. Another in Florida specializes in political campaigns and actually uses the term "robocalls" in its ad. The Federal Trade Commission can regulate callers who try to sell a product using automated calling but political calls are open season.

Q. What is the best way to dispose of 4-foot fluorescent light tubes? The hardware stores don't recycle them.

Correct. Home Depot and Lowes will accept and recycle the smaller CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) but neither store will take your old shop lights. Nor will the county recycle center — at least not yet according to Megan Piner, the county's environmental programs coordinator (recently promoted to budget analyst). The county pays to ship their old tube lights, plus those from the schools, to Spartanburg for disposal. The law exempts individual residents so you may add the lights to your household trash but think twice before breaking them to get them into your trash bag. The EPA cautions that small amounts of mercury may be released — 50 milligrams to be exact. In addition, each 4-foot light tube contains 5 grams of light-emitting phosphor powder. You don't want to breathe any of this, particularly the mercury, which according to the EPA has bad effects on our biological systems. Fluorescent tubes have a life span of 8,000 to 10,000 hours, roughly one year of continuous operation, so maybe by the time you buy your next lights there will be a place to take your old ones.

Send questions to askmattm@gmail.com.