Protecting the country against terrorism is important, but so is protecting the civil rights of its citizens, the Kenai City Council concluded this week.
The council unanimously passed a resolution regarding the USA PATRIOT Act, whose name is an acronym standing for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.
The resolution states that the city "denounces and condemns all acts of terrorism, wherever occurring" and acknowledges that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have necessitated "creating effective laws to protect the public from terrorist attacks."
However, the resolution goes on to make clear that the city does not approve of the government violating the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution to protect against terrorism. The act, passed by Congress shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, allows the government more freedom in conducting surveillance and detaining and investigating citizens. For instance, the government now can request that libraries hand over records of what books patrons have checked out and what sites they have visited on the Internet.
It also allows the government to secretly monitor political groups and tap phone lines and Internet connections. It is provisions like these that "may violate or offend the rights and liberties guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions," the resolution states.
The measure the council passed at is Wednesday meeting resolves that the city oppose any portion of the USA PATRIOT Act and the proposed PATRIOT Act II that would violate citizens' rights under the state and federal constitutions.
Council member Jim Bookey was the one who requested the resolution be drafted and brought before the council.
"We had people from the general public that asked for (resolution) to come forward," Bookey said. "... Other communities had done it, so out of courtesy to the public, I brought it forward."
For example, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly last month passed a resolution establishing a borough policy in defense of the Bill of Rights and urging national leaders to review anti-terrorism laws.
Bookey said he isn't too worried about the federal act.
"The reality of it is the PATRIOT Act has got a sunset clause on it for two years, so I wasn't really concerned with it for us in Kenai," he said.
City Attorney Cary Graves drafted the resolution. He said in the meeting that he has spoken with head librarian Eva Jankowska about the implications of the USA PATRIOT Act.
He said Jankowska has been very concerned about the matter and the two of them had agreed to discuss any requests for patron records that she received.
"We do try to maintain the privacy of our records (the ones that are not open to the public)," he said.
The city clerk will now forward the resolution on to Alaska's congressional delegation, Gov. Frank Murkowski and President George W. Bush.
In other action Wednesday, the council:
n Agreed to delay dealing with Gov. Murkowski's cuts to state funding of revenue sharing and safe communities programs until at least halfway through the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The governor's cuts meant about a $226,000 loss to the city of Kenai from safe communities and revenue sharing money.
All told, Kenai Mayor John Williams estimates the budget deficit to be about $103,000 for the fiscal year 2004. Williams suggested to the council members that they put off deciding what to do about the deficit until they have a better idea of how the budget will play out next year.
"(Let's) let it float at this time, rather than make any amendments to the budget ... until the budget begins to gel," he said.
n Decided in a discussion not to provide dust control this summer on unpaved roads in the city. Money to do the dust control program had been appropriated in the fiscal year 2003 budget, but the council decided to drop the program for this summer and next to save money.
At the last council meeting June 4, citizens brought a petition to the council asking it to reinstate the program this summer. The council asked the administration to prepare a report comparing the costs of doing dust control with an oil emulsion product (the method the city has used in the past) and a calcium chloride product.
The oil emulsion option estimate was twice as expensive as the calcium chloride product -- $46,625 versus $22,475 -- but the comparison also found that the oil emulsion lasts longer, works better with gravel roads and is not corrosive to the equipment used to apply it and other vehicles.
Williams and council member Jim Bookey spoke against reinstating the program, citing the need to save money after the financial woes the city has been hit with this year.
"I'd love to be able to see us do this for the public, but because of the hard decisions we've made in the past, I'm not willing to do this," Bookey said.
Council member Joe Moore said he also would like to see dust control done, but said he'd go with the wishes of the council on the matter.
Council member Amy Jackman said she wanted the city to do the calcium chloride method of dust control this summer.
"I have to ask if the rust issues on our vehicles are more important than the health issues of our citizens," she said.
However, she did not ask that the issue be brought to a council vote, so the matter was dropped.
n Awarded janitorial contracts for the city administration building and the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center to Commercial Janitorial Services for July 1 through June 30, 2004, for the price of $1,731.16 per month at the administration building and $66.50 per day at the visitors center.
n Awarded janitorial contract for the Kenai Municipal Airport to Parnell Operation and Maintenance for July 1 through June 30, 2004, for a price of $6,666.66 per month.
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