After Astoria, group plans to tackle county commissionersUndeterred by a rejection they received from the Astoria City Council about two months ago, the backers of a resolution opposing the federal Patriot Act will present their case again Monday.
This time, they say they're more confident the City Council will pass the resolution.
One of the group's leaders, Arline LaMear, said supporters are "very hopeful" of approval of the revised resolution.
Laurie Caplan, who has also played an active role in the committee, said she felt the new resolution addressed the concerns of the councilors. And because none of the councilors had any support for the Patriot Act the last time they discussed the issue, she said she felt encouraged going into the meeting.
The council will meet Monday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 1095 Duane St.
When members of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee presented a resolution May 23, members came with a crowd that packed the council chamber. Some gave impassioned speeches about how the set of laws passed by Congress in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are a grave threat to Americans' civil liberties. Others said if the council did not pass the resolution they would implicitly allow investigative agencies more leeway to abuse their authority in the war on terrorism.
Councilors, while sympathetic to the citizen's concerns, said they could not support something that asked city employees not to comply with the act - essentially breaking federal law.
Instead, they passed a different resolution offered by Councilor Blair Henningsgaard that invited the city's federal representatives to visit Astoria to see first hand the opposition to the Patriot Act.
The new resolution offered by the Bill of Rights committee also calls for the city to send a letter to the Oregon Congressional delegation conveying the concerns of Astoria residents about powers granted to law enforcement agencies through the Patriot Act. Powers listed in the resolution include, among others: monitoring political and religious gatherings, obtaining library and bookstore records, eavesdropping on communications between lawyers and clients and performing searches without a warrant.
Other sections of the resolution request the city manager to "instruct city employees to continue practices and policies favoring and protecting Constitutional rights and liberties" and pass on copies of the resolution to the governor, state Legislature, Astoria's Congressional delegation and the president.
The resolution also states the Patriot Act threatens the "sanctity" of freedom of speech, due process and presumption of innocence in a court of law, and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.
LaMear said some in her group wanted the resolution to include stronger language against the Patriot Act, but she said, "we really felt like we wanted to get something passed."
She said even after omitting some of the language that gave councilors pause the last time, the new resolution "certainly conveys our concerns about the Patriot Act and points out the dangers."
Astoria City Manager Dan Bartlett said the city's staff will pass the resolution on to the council with no recommendations. "The city attorney has looked at it and didn't see anything that raised red flags," he said.
LaMear said it is important for her and other backers of the resolution to see the council approve it, because an action by Astoria will continue the grassroots movement of opposition against the Patriot Act. According to the Web site for the national Bill of Rights Defense committee, three states and 149 cities, counties and towns have passed resolutions in opposition to the act.
She said she and others believe their actions are making a difference, and pointed to efforts by legislators to ensure that when the Patriot Act is up for review in a few years it will be examined carefully before being passed again.
LaMear said the next step will be drafting a resolution to take to the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners. She said a meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Pizza Harbor in Seaside to discuss that. The resolution that will be presented to the county will be different than the one reviewed in Astoria as an effort will be made to include input from people living in all parts of the county.