Toledo City Council voted 10-2 last night to express its opposition to the USA Patriot Act and to send a letter to President Bush and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft informing them of that fact.
Council weighed in on the federal anti-terrorist law after first rejecting a tougher resolution that would have “requested” city police to refuse to participate in investigations deemed in violation of the Constitution.
Republicans George Sarantou and Rob Ludeman voted against the resolution. All councilmen who supported the measure were Democrats, except Betty Shultz, who recently switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party.
Congress approved the Patriot Act shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The vote was 98-1 in the Senate and 357–66 in the House.
Since then, the law has become a lightning rod for opposition to the Bush administration s handling of the war on terrorism.
Opponents of the law say it strips federal courts of the power to reject warrants and subpoenas sought by federal investigators. They also say the law is not limited to terrorism investigations.
The U.S. Justice Department says on its Web site that the law allows terrorism investigators to use the tools that were available against organized crime and drug trafficking.
Those include allowing search warrants to be kept secret for a time to avoid tipping off the targets of an investigation, and the use of a single search warrant in a complex investigation rather than requiring a search warrant in each jurisdiction where a search will be carried out.
The law also allows federal investigators to access library and business records, such as for evidence of interest in bomb-making materials. Critics say this would allow searches to be conducted without showing suspicion of a crime.
The resolution directs the clerk of council to mail copies to members of Congress urging repeal of some provisions of the Patriot Act, and to President Bush and Mr. Ashcroft.
Mr. Sarantou said he was disappointed that no hearing was held and said that every search allowed by the law must be approved by a federal judge. Mr. Ludeman said the resolution puts soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq “in harm s way” by indicating the country is not firmly behind them.
Others said the resolution was not directed at the troops, but at domestic policy.
“This resolution should not be construed as an affront to our troops. It s a red herring and unfair,” said Councilman Ellen Grachek.
Councilmen Pete Gerken and Frank Szollosi, co-sponsors of the resolution, denied having a partisan intent, citing criticism of the Patriot Act from conservative members of Congress.
The group Citizens for Individual Rights and Freedoms, which initially asked for the resolution, said the measure passed by council fell far short of what they had sought.
“It was really an exercise in futility,” said group member Mike Ferner, a former city councilman. “We need a local body of elected officials who will stand up for civil liberties.”
In case there was any doubt of its patriotism, council also passed a resolution declaring Dec. 15 “Bill of Rights Day” and an ordinance establishing a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Commission.
Council President Louis Escobar presented the signed Bill of Rights Day proclamation to two high school students, Tom Yaggi of St. Francis de Sales, and Lynze Yoder of St. Ursula, both seniors, who happened to be in the chamber for resolutions honoring their soccer teams. Mr. Escobar asked the students to start a tradition of passing the proclamation along each year to another Toledo high school.
Council also approved the sale of 3.1 acres of city-owned property in Monclova Township to Willis Day Properties for $206,050. The parcel, at 6550 Maumee Western Rd., is in the new tax-sharing zone created by the cities of Toledo and Maumee and Monclova Township.
The parcel is expected to be taken over by Young Medical Services, which is moving from its present location at 3918 Monroe St.