The city of Ithaca unanimously passed a resolution expressing opposition to the PATRIOT Act at the City Common Council meeting at City Hall last night. Ithaca is the thirty-second locale to pass such a resolution.
Ithaca Major Alan Cohen ’81 expressed his support for the resolution. “I think it’s a well balanced resolution,” he said. “[America] is a magnet to the rest of the world, and people flood to our borders. I just wanted to express my whole-hearted support.”
The Resolution to Defend the Civil Rights and Liberties of the People of Ithaca proved to be controversial on two major points. One point of contention was a resolve which initially barred city employees from complying with the federal government in any action that violated the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment. The updated resolution, giving more discretion to the individual, now reads that city employees are required to “defend all civil liberties as outlined by the Bill of Rights and Fourteenth Amendment.”
The revision eliminated most of the controversy from this point.
The second controversial point proved to be the resolve that requested that “the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York State Police and any other Federal, State and local law enforcement officers with any such information report publicly each month to the City of Ithaca Common Council and the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission the extent and manner in which they have acted under the USA PATRIOT Act and new Executive Orders.”
Some members of the Common Council questioned if this resolution placed the city’s law officials in a contradictory position, forcing them to either compromise an investigation or violate a city resolution.
“We all feel comfortable that the language doesn’t put employees in an untenable position,” Dan Cogan, M.S. ’95 (Green – Fifth Ward) said.
Edward Hershey (D – Fourth Ward) expressed concern that this point was a “hollow gesture,” noting the lack of repercussions for violations of the request.
Cogan explained that he had discussed the resolution with Police Chief Lauren Signer. According to Cogan, the local police assist federal agents on a regular basis, and often would not be aware if the order was under the jurisdiction of the PATRIOT Act. Cogan then noted that the resolution was aimed specifically at the federal government, not local enforcement.
Various members of the Common Council expressed support for the resolution.
“I think it is appropriate and correct for local government to act as a stepping stone for citizens,” Carolyn Peterson (D – Fourth Ward) said, adding, “dissent is patriotic.”
Cogan also stated his thoughts on the revisions. “I think it could have been stronger but unanimity is more important than stronger language,” he said. “I’m not displeased.”
Archived article by David Hillis