TAMPA CITY COUNCIL VOTES AGAINST PATRIOT ACT-Andrew Stelzer

04/16/04

When the USA Patriot Act was passed in the after math of September 11th 2001, many Americans opposed the legislation, saying it was an infringement on civil liberties; allowing the government to spy and eavesdrop on citizens, jail people indefinitely without any cause, and keep more information secret. Since then, over 270 other cities towns and counties, including Alachua, Broward, and the city of Sarasota have passed resolutions against the Patriot Act, symbolic gestures meant to express the citizens opposition to an unfair law. Yesterday, Tampa’s city council voted to become the latest one of those cities; In a 4 to 3 vote, they voted to approve a resolution against the Patriot act. The council allowed for only 10 minutes of testimony in favor and against the act, which allowed for only 3 speakers on each side.

Michelle rebak is from Tampa Safe and Free, the organization that worked with councilwoman Saul-Sena to bring the resolution to the council. ACT “The patriot act.�

Mike Fenneger is a retired Army Colonel; he is also a republican and a member of the ACLU. His presence as a republican helped counter the accusation that the Patriot act is a republican versus democratic issue. Fennenger also responded to one of the governments most frequent claims about why the Patriot act is a good thing, that is lets different government agencies share information. ACT � Wolford Johnson, a supporter of the act, began his testimony with a question, which was answered by the over 200 people gathered for the hearing, most of them opposed to the patriot act. Johnson also brought up a point that became an issue central to several council members decisions. ACT “You should also consider the effect on Macdill…don’t give them an excuse to add macdill to the list.�

Jackie Niedem argued in opposition to the resolution; she said it was not the place of the Tampa city council to get involved in national issues. ACT “I didn’t come here to debate the homeland security act…..“My biggest concern is that this is not the councils role…it belongs in Washington.�

Council members Harrison, Ferlita, and Dingfelder voted against the resolution; Harrison said it the entire discussion was inappropriate. ACT “Why are we here?..I think the symbolism is that everything is ok in Tampa..We’re wasting taxpayer money being here tonight�

Council member Ferlita agreed with Harrison, saying it was way out of the council’s jurisdiction. Council member Saul Sena brought the resolution to the council, and Councilperson White seconded the motion against the Patriot act. ACT “its local, but everything has to start locally.�

Councilman Dingfelder voted against the resolution; he says he was convinced by the man who said the community needs to support Macdill airforce base, even though he said he has problems with the Patriot act. ACT ‘we have a military base in town.we cant afford to lose it..�

Council member Alvarez was the last to speak; she was uncomfortable getting involved in was a national issue, but said since she had to vote one way or another, she opposed the Patriot act and would vote for the resolution. Council chairwoman Miller cast the deciding vote, but made no comment about why she voted for the resolution. The resolution is non-binding, meaning it does not change any laws or city policies; but the wording does call for changes to the patriot Act. The Patriot Act expires in December of 2005, but president Bush has called for it to be renewed.

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