Sparks Council opposes Patriot Act

By Angela Potter
Tribune Staff
August 23, 2005

The City of Sparks has become one of nearly 400 cities to pass a resolution stating their opposition to portions of the Patriot Act they consider unconstitutional.

There was standing room only in council chambers on Monday as local residents came to show their support for the resolution and speak out against the Patriot Act.

The council passed the resolution by a 3-0 vote. Councilmembers John Mayer, Phil Salerno and Judy Moss supported the resolution. Councilmen Mike Carrigan and Ron Schmitt were not present for the vote.

Similar resolutions have passed in cities like Elko, which has a 90 percent Republican city council, and five states, including "red" states like Montana.

During public comment, people voiced their concerns that the Patriot Act was unconstitutional and infringed on their Fourth Amendment rights protecting them from illegal search and seizure.

The resolution received wide support from organizations as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Eagle Forum, a conservative, pro-family organization.
Bob Fulkerson, state director for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said the various groups had something in common.

"I'm happy today to be in a room with people from all political backgrounds," he said. "We all have a love for our country and our Constitution in common."

Three people spoke out against the resolution, claiming the City of Sparks should not oppose a federal law.

Janine Hansen, state president of the Nevada Eagle Forum, disagreed, and told the council this was a local issue.

"We can't go to Washington, D.C.," she said. "We have to go to you. We desperately need you to stand up for us and our God-given constitutional rights."

Moss said she thought the law, which was passed only 45 days after Sept. 11, was not considered enough before it was approved.

"I too share all of the concerns voiced here today," she said. "This legislation went through Congress very quickly, too quickly. These are very legitimate concerns we're bringing forward."

The resolution passed by the council opposes those portions of the Act which allow the federal government to "conduct surveillance on and detain citizens and foreign nationals without adequate constitutional safeguards."

The resolution prohibits the use of city agencies and resources for investigations and detentions without probable cause. The resolution also prohibits the city from recording, filing or sharing intelligence information on a person or organization, including library, financial and medical records, without probable cause.

The city is also prohibited from using racial profiling or assisting in immigration matters, which fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction. Finally, the resolution states the city cannot collect or maintain information about the religious, political or social views of any individual or group unless directly related to an investigation of criminal activities based on probable cause.

Richard Siegel, state president of the ACLU of Nevada, said the council's decision was a victory for civil liberties.

"We're ecstatic," he said. "We thought we could win, but we didn't know we would."
Siegel said the resolution would make a difference on a federal level.

"It will matter, it does matter," he said. "Every time we pass a resolution, it affects the atmosphere, the environment in Congress. It's important that what has been happening, continues to happen."

Monday's meeting was an example of democracy in action, Siegel said.

"It think it was a New England town hall meeting here today," he said.

Copyright © 2005 Daily Sparks Tribune
Used by permission

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