permitting freedom

Mayor Katz issued a statement last week calling for a change in the way Portland responds to political protests. Nearly two years ago, city hall first announced an unofficial policy for allowing unpermitted parades and protests without permits. When organizers for the 2001 May Day parade refused to take out a permit, city hall declared a de facto policy that allows political demonstrations to carry on without permits.

But police complained after the August 22 demonstration against President Bush. They claimed that without a permit they had no way to estimate attendance and were not prepared for the size of the crowd. Although Katz has said she is unwilling to ban all unpermitted demonstrations, last week's announcement was clearly a warning to organizers of demonstrations that they will no longer receive as much leniency.

Activist Brian Thomas, a graphic designer and former Katz supporter who attended the August 22 protest, finds the mayor's statement emblematic of her push to "purify" downtown. "I fear that Vera Katz's new restrictions against loitering and protests without permits is an attempt to make downtown feel like Lake Oswego," said Thomas.

Mayor Katz's communications director, Sarah Bott, was unwilling to clarify the mayor's statements or answer questions about possible implications of the new policies, mentioning that she had found past Mercury coverage of the mayor "questionable." ANNA BOND

a toothless watchdog

One of the primary concerns expressed at last week's hearings over the local chapter of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force was that the organization has no oversight. Activists have expressed concern, saying they wanted to know who is being watched by federal agents and local cops, and what information is being kept.

But when leading the charge to reauthorize the Task Force, Mayor Katz made assurances that she would help set up a procedure where Senator Ron Wyden's office would serve as a watchdog. Unfortunately, Katz spoke before reviewing the allowances of federal law.

Last week, Wyden's office stated that they have no such authority. According to existing federal law, no one but FBI agents have access to those files. PHIL BUSSE