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FEAR AMBIVALENCE

Last week, Portland City Council sent a letter to Oregon's Congressional representatives. Spurred on by the ACLU and concerns about civil liberty abuses, city council members urged heavy hitters like Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Sen. Gordon Smith not to reauthorize sections of the USA Patriot Act. The letter is chock full of concerns about privacy and civil liberties. But something significant is missing from the letter: Mayor Tom Potter's signature.

Hastily passed in the stunned weeks after 9/11, the Patriot Act provides Orwellian "sneak and peak" allowances. But as fear and suspicion subsided in the months following 9/11, more than 100 cities nationwide passed resolutions stating their opposition to the Patriot Act. Ultimately, in 2003, Portland also endorsed such a resolution.

Mayor Potter's office publicly defended the absence of the mayor's signature, calling it little more than a "form letter." But when Potter was in D.C. last week meeting with the very congressional representatives to whom the letter was sent, his spokesperson admitted that the mayor did not broach the subject of the Patriot Act with any of them.

Some have speculated that Potter is trying to counterbalance the criticism that he faced for withdrawing police officers from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. PB

GO FREE!

Two weeks ago, a circuit court judge dismissed a dozen cases against residents charged with illegally entering the city's Drug Free Zone. Another 40 were tossed out the following Thursday, and another 28 on Friday.

Although civil rights attorneys recently lost a constitutional challenge, the dismissals signal a tempering of the city's notorious DFZ.

Nearly a month ago, defense attorneys challenged the DFZ's constitutionality. Two years ago, the DFZ was struck down because it gave too much power to police. But at that time, city council quickly rewrote the rules to sidestep those concerns. In the most recent legal wrangling, Judge Michael Marcus upheld the DFZ, but lamented its inherent classism. In doing so, he suggested that the police may be misapplying the rules. That part of his decision effectively rapped officers on the knuckles and led to the recent spate of dismissals. PB

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