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Watsonville joins opposition to Patriot Act

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Watsonville joins opposition to Patriot Act

<www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2003/March/26/local/stories/02local.htm>

March 26, 2003
By BRIAN SEALS
SENTINEL STAFF WRITER

The Watsonville City Council joined at least 160 other city and county governments Tuesday in opposing the USA Patriot Act of 2001.
On a 5-2 vote, the council approved a resolution opposing the act passed by Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorists attacks.
Councilman Ramon Gomez, who sponsored the resolution, said the act addressed some valid concerns, but had many problems.
In particular, Gomez contended:
The act defines domestic terrorism so broadly that it could potentially apply to acts of civil disobedience by groups such as Operation Rescue or Greenpeace.
Federal officials can eavesdrop on previously confidential attorney-client conversations while defendants are in federal custody.
Gomez also cited a separate executive order he said also erodes civil liberties by using secret military tribunals, which undermine the ability of the United States to denounce “atrocities carried out in secret by military tribunals elsewhere in the world.”
The handful of residents who spoke about the resolution supported it.
Provisions of the act are reminiscent of World War II when Japanese Americans were imprisoned without cause, said Lester Aoki, president of the Watsonville-Santa Cruz chapter of the National Japanese American Citizens League.
“Some 61 years ago, Japanese and Japanese Americans over 70 percent were American born, were denied their constitutional rights and were interned from 1942 to 1945,” Aoki said, reading from a letter to the council.
“The unjust incarceration of 120,000 people was based upon racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership,” he said.
Other speakers criticized the act on issues ranging from the loss of the right to a speedy trial to provisions that enable government agents to peruse what a person has been checking out at the library or buying at the bookstore.
“This is pointing us in the direction of a police state,” resident Amy Newell said.
Councilwoman Judy Doering-Nielson opposed the resolution, saying the council should stick to the business of providing city services efficiently.
“This is not because I endorse or don’t endorse the act itself,” she said. “It’s not part of our jurisdiction.”
Councilman Dale Skillicorn said he believes the majority of his constituents support the Patriot Act. He said it would be more appropriate for a civil rights group such as the American Civil Liberties Union to address the issue, not City Council.
He added he was not alarmed about the provisions in the act, saying they were needed to fight terrorism and that he had “nothing to hide.”
Councilwoman Ana Ventura-Phares countered, “The Japanese American community did not have anything to hide either.”
Voting for the resolution were council members Ramon Gomez, Ana Ventura-Phares, Rafael Lopez and Antonio Rivas, and Mayor Richard de la Paz Jr. Voting against were council members Judy Doering-Nielson and Dale Skillicorn.
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Contact Brian Seals at bseals (at) santa-cruz.com
 
 


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Comments

there are resolutions and there are resolutions...

A resolution that simply says "Patriot bad" is, in my opinion, a waste of council and taxpayer time, and can even be seen as a fraud, in the sense that there may be a large number of city residents who disagree with the resolution, but who cannot attend the council meetings or effectively lobby their council members. When you say that umpty-ump hundred cities have passed resolutions against the Act, this naturally encourages the listener to imagine vast numbers of urban dwellers in opposition to Patriot, when the truth -- and the opposition -- may in fact be only half-vast.

On the other hand, a resolution that says "Patriot bad and here is how your city government will NOT comply..." is proper city business, because it has a direct bearing on how city operations will be conducted.

Which kind of resolution is Watsonville's?

I think a city council, if it wishes to register a view on the Patriot Act, the War, or any other regional or national concern in the name of the City, should hold a special election, encourage all to vote their consciences, and then publish the results. Anything else cannot credibly pretend to be "the city's" opinion. But a council resolution that directs specific city government behavior in response to a particular situation is certainly legitimate.
 

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