Whitefish Mayor Andy Feury cast the tiebreaking vote in favor of a resolution calling on Congress to repeal sections of the USA PATRIOT Act that contradict the Constitution at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Whitefish’s resolution is more strongly worded than resolutions by six other Montana communities, asking Congress to repeal PATRIOT Act provisions “that are” unconstitutional, as opposed to portions that “may be” unconstitutional.
In a unique twist, that wording change was proposed by Councilman Doug Adams, the most outspoken critic of the resolution, who said that the phrase “may be” was “beating around the bush.”
At the meeting, Councilperson Velvet Phillips-Sullivan ceded time to Whitefish lawyer Peggy Nagae, who spoke about her experience representing a client whose parents were incarcerated during the World War II internment of approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans.
“I took that case so that this would never happen again, so when I saw hundreds of innocent Muslim Americans incarcerated, I thought, ‘Do we ever learn?’”
In a rare post-mortem of a Council decision, those who voted against the resolution expressed concern over adopting a stance on a national issue, saying that Pandora’s box had been opened.
“Let’s open it up to prayer in schools, gun control,” said Adams. “We’re going to be the most colorful Council in the country.”
Councilman Tom Muri said the PATRIOT Act debate has sparked a renewed interest in government.
“Some people have cornered me on the street who have never been involved in government at all,” Muri said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen packed rooms around here.”
Indeed, about 20 citizens stayed until almost midnight to hear Council’s decision, an unusually high attendance rate for a meeting that didn’t get to the PATRIOT Act resolution until after four hours of zoning, parks, housing and solid waste discussion.
Whitefish became the 333rd American community to adopt such a resolution. The resolution will now be passed on to several local, state and federal governing bodies, including the White House and Attorney General John Ashcroft.