In fact, when the ordinance was first drafted nearly 19 months ago, ours was one of the first city councils where the idea was shopped. At the time, the Bush Administration was still enjoying nearly unshakeable backing for its war on terrorism. To have enacted the ordinance then would have been ballsy. Cities like Berkeley, Madison, and Eugene stepped up to the challenge. But now, instead of being a progressive leader, Portland City Council seems, at best, a Johnny-come-lately.
Why our city council has waited so long is curious. They've brushed off repeated requests to introduce the ordinance, soÉ why now? Could it have anything to do with the council re-authorizing the Joint Terrorism Task Force--which is also scheduled to take place during the same meeting? Are they simply throwing a bone to the progressives and activists?
Philosophically, if not in practice, the two votes are diametrically opposed. The anti-Patriot Act ordinance tells the federal government to back off. On the other hand, the Task Force is a decided step towards more clandestine policing.
What's more--and most important to note--the anti-Patriot Act ordinance is merely a symbolic gesture. Unlike the Task Force, it has no actual bearing on the mechanics of how law enforcement operates. In voting on both of these measures, city council is doing more than speaking out of both sides of its mouth--in practice, they're saying they support civil liberties while simultaneously setting in motion plans to undermine them.
Each time city council has refused to consider the anti-Patriot Act resolution over the past 19 months, their footing as one of this country's progressive leaders has slipped. To regain that position, they must now do more than when they were first asked to vote on the resolution. On Wednesday, city council should also take a substantive step towards rolling back the indiscretions against basic civil liberties by ending the Joint Terrorism Task Force. That action would send a message that Portland is once again ready to be a progressive leader. PHIL BUSSE