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Patriot Act meets with opposition
Citizens' groups say civil rights threatened.

Long Beach Press Telegram | August 5, 2005
By Jason Gewirtz

LONG BEACH — The City Council will be asked Tuesday to oppose provisions of the controversial USA PATRIOT Act that a citizens' group says will threaten civil liberty protections.

Councilwomen Bonnie Lowenthal and Tonia Reyes Uranga will make the request, asking the council to support a recently adopted resolution in the State Senate that urges Congress to amend the act.

The Patriot Act was adopted after 9/11 to provide government officials with more ways to investigate potential terrorist leads. A number of the act's provisions are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress renews them.

Several of those provisions allow the FBI to seize records from financial companies, libraries, doctors' offices and other businesses with limited approval.

Several cities, including Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco, have adopted similar measures in recent months regarding civil liberty aspects of the act. But whether the council will tackle the issue is unclear.

In the past, council members have had contentious debates over whether they should weigh in on various issues in front of the federal government. In March 2003, the council withdrew two contested resolutions after a debate over how, or whether, to address the war in Iraq. In June 2004, the council split 4-4 on a resolution to oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Councilman Frank Colonna, who has opposed several past council efforts at intervention beyond the city's authority, said Tuesday's item falls into that category.

"I really don't think that this is the proper time to start to analyze the pros and cons of the Patriot Act," he said.

But Edith Pollach with the Long Beach Civil Liberties Defense Coalition said the council should take up the issue. She said nearly two dozen local groups will urge support for the measure Tuesday.

"What's the oath of office that the council members take?" she asked. "Aren't they supposed to take an oath that they're going to carry out and obey the Constitution of the United States and the state of California?"

Budget time

At a budget hearing during the council meeting, the council's Budget Oversight Committee will present its recommendations to the council regarding the proposed 2006 city budget. The city's fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The city manager has proposed more than $20 million in cuts in the proposed budget.

The council is also expected to hear a report from Police Chief Anthony Batts on a plan to hire more police officers. Batts has

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said he will recommend that the city increase its police force by a minimum of 37 officers to a maximum of 309 officers.

Although a funding source for those officers has not been identified, the city is considering a potential ballot measure in April that could pay for the personnel.

Cap removed?

Also Tuesday, the council will consider rescinding an earlier action to approve all Redevelopment Agency spending of $1 million or more.

Over the past year, council members have been at battle with each other over who should control redevelopment.

RDA Board members have argued that the proposed cap effectively places another level of bureaucracy in the redevelopment process, further slowing a process that many complain is already burdensome.

Report bonanza

Meanwhile, city staffers could be busy in coming weeks if the council approves a slew of proposed reports on Tuesday.

Those requests include:

* A report on installing and operating downtown surveillance cameras to prevent and fight crime. The Redevelopment Agency recently approved $400,000 to purchase cameras, contingent on the city agreeing to operate and monitor the devices. The Downtown Long Beach Associates has also agreed to contribute $75,000 toward the effort. Lowenthal, Uranga and Councilwoman Rae Gabelich will request the report;

* A survey listing all buildings or structures in Long Beach that might be considered culturally or historically significant. Lowenthal, who is requesting the review, will also request that the Planning and Building Department develop a process to identify such properties before issuing permits for projects to replace them; and

* A survey listing all solar-powered buildings and projects in the city and a report on solar energy grants that the city has or is pursuing. Colonna will request the item to explore ways that the city can expand its solar energy use.

— Staff writer Don Jergler contributed to this report.

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