Committee Weighs Letter vs. Resolution

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MOSLEY The Register-Guard

Members of a Eugene City Council subcommittee lamented the constitutional implications of the USA Patriot Act on Wednesday, but indicated that they are likely to recommend that the full council write a letter about it to the Oregon congressional delegation - rather than a resolution in opposition.

"Whether you call it a resolution or not, it's a statement of concern and opposition," City Councilor Scott Meisner said during a standing-room-only meeting of the city's intergovernmental relations committee.

Meisner followed the lead of fellow Councilor Pat Farr in endorsing a letter, with both of them maintaining that a letter signed by all like-minded councilors would stand the best chance of influencing U.S. representatives and senators who have authority to modify or repeal the Patriot Act.

Councilor Gary Rayor, the committee's third member, contended that a resolution would be a stronger statement of the council's concerns. But he agreed that a message in some form should be delivered.

"I would sign, co-sign or author such a letter," Rayor said. "But I would recommend us crafting a resolution."

The matter was brought to the intergovernmental relations committee by staff for the city's human rights commission, which last month received a petition signed by more than 1,000 Eugene residents opposed to the Patriot Act.

The 342-page measure, authorized by Congress last year to facilitate a crackdown on terrorism, is viewed by various groups around the country as a threat to the constitutional safeguards that protect citizens from overbearing government.

A dozen cities - from Northhampton, Mass., to Berkeley, Calif. - have adopted resolutions since last February, stating official opposition to the Patriot Act and urging its repeal.

An organization calling itself the Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee has circulated the local petition, with the goal of eliciting resolutions from the Eugene and Springfield city councils and the Lane County Board of Commissioners by early next year.

"A letter is not what we need," local coordinator Hope Marston said after Wednesday's meeting. "We need a resolution. Twelve other cities have passed resolutions, so this is a national movement."

Resolutions have varied among the cities that passed them, but most express concern about potential erosion of fundamental rights and ask local police to report any federal request for enforcement under provisions of the Patriot Act. …