SPEAKING UP The PPRC drums up support. Jen Davison
Like every Friday evening, about 100 demonstrators gathered at Pioneer Square to voice their weekly dissent against the Bush administration. As downtown workers boarded MAX trains and shoppers darted out of the rain and into nearby Nordstrom, the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition (PPRC) held signs and spoke about an antiwar resolution that city council failed to endorse.

What began nearly 18 months ago as a vigil to the victims of the World Trade Center has emerged as a steady weekly demonstration. Its regularity is a reminder that for the last year and a half, the Bush Administration has suspended the American public in a tense state of apprehension over war. While the demonstrations' format--drum-beating, speeches, poetry reading, marching around Pioneer Square, etc.--remains unchanged, each week the message and theme changes. At first, the meetings were an opportunity for residents to grieve and look for a sense of understanding after the September 11 terrorist attacks. But as the Bush administration alchemized the tragedy into a call for arms, the demonstrations have changed from vigils to protests.

This past Friday, the demonstrators rallied to demand that city council adopt an antiwar resolution. Nearly two months ago, council member Erik Sten introduced a resolution that would declare Portland's opposition to unilateral military action in Iraq. But, in spite of widespread public support, a 2-2 vote by city council made Portland the first city in America to consider and reject the resolution. This defeat angered and saddened many residents. As first reported in the Mercury, Francesconi's rationale and "no" vote suspiciously echoed the reasoning from a memo sent by the Portland Business Alliance to city council members.

Francesconi has denied that the Alliance, a powerful lobby group in town, swayed his opinion. Alternately, he has explained that he made up his mind in October to reject an antiwar resolution, believing that such measures are impotent against the Bush administration. Because the public hearing and vote were not held until January, this explanation has further enraged citizens who thought that even if Francesconi believed city council's antiwar efforts were futile, he still should have listened to his constituents.

But on Friday, rumors buoyed a sense of optimism that city council may reconsider the antiwar resolution. In a press release announcing the weekly demonstration, PPRC organizer Will Seaman explained, "Since the disgraceful vote by Francesconi, apparently prompted by his patrons in the Business Alliance, we understand the good council member has been reconsidering his judgment."

But in spite of the optimism, there were few signs of certainty that city council will reconsider their decision. No one at the demonstration knew precise details about who would reintroduce the resolution or when. (To reconsider a failed resolution, a council member who originally opposed the measure must be the one to reintroduce it.)

A few rumors did emerge: One PPRC member reported that the Forest Park Neighborhood Association plans to ask city council to reintroduce the initiative. Also, the Sabin Neighborhood Association has voted 16-1 to ask city council to reintroduce the measure. (Francesconi oversees the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which organizes neighborhood associations.) Apparently, Francesconi is also receiving a good deal of pressure from his congregation at St. Andrew's Church.

DON'T FORGET: You have only one more week to "Unzip Francesconi's Lip"! We're curious why Francesconi voted against the antiwar resolution--but he won't talk to us! Elicit a response from him, and you could win $200 and a Mercury Junior Reporter Kitâ„¢, including a bottle of whiskey and laminated press pass! Call Francesconi at 823-3008, or email him at "jfrancesconi@ci.portland.ur.us" Then forward your question and Francesconi's answer to:

unzip@portlandmercury.com. Remember: It's your city council and you deserve an answer!