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Joint Terrorism Task Force debate captures Portland's idiosyncratic attitude

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  • Joint Terrorism Task Force debate captures Portland's idiosyncratic attitude

    For confirmation of "Keep Portland Weird"-ness, look no further than the decade-old debate about the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

    Nowhere else have city leaders limited their relationship with the FBI over civil liberties.

    Nowhere else have activists protested involvement of a handful of police officers.

    Nowhere else have discussions come up again and again, with packed City Hall galleries, flipflopping politicians and onlookers who jeer cooperative agreements with the feds.

    And now the debate is back.

    Six years after the Portland City Council became the first in the country to pull officers from full-time involvement in a federal anti-terrorism effort, officials are reconsidering. In response to November's alleged plot to bomb Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland Mayor Sam Adams has been working to negotiate a new deal.

    On Thursday, even though a public hearing was called off, about 100 protesters showed up at City Hall, some with signs that read "Stop FBI Harassment." They flooded into the building and, held to the lobby, chanted, "City Council, Come on Down!"

    City Commissioner Randy Leonard appeared, saying negotiations appear headed toward keeping officers out. "We're winning the discussion," he said.

    The scene captured Portland's idiosyncratic attitude. Although the city wears the same deep blue shade of liberalism as Seattle and San Francisco, neither of those cities has had any public discussion over their anti-terrorism task forces.

    "Portland is uniquely interested in this and uniquely engaged in it," said Dwight Holton, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, who has been working with Adams. "Liberty requires a healthy skepticism of government power."

    Joint Terrorism Task Forces -- in which FBI agents and local law enforcement officers work together -- are based in 106 U.S. cities. Portland's formed in 1997 to prevent potential threats to the Nike World Masters Games.

    The City Council has always made the final call on participation, with the number of Portland Police Bureau officers assigned ranging over the years from two to seven.

    In the early years, the decisions flew under the radar. But in 2000, Portland ******** questioned a proposed agreement that said the mission was to prosecute terrorists, some "within the traditional criteria of Right Wing and/or Left Wing movements" or special interest groups "such as the anti-abortion movement and the Animal Liberation Front/Earth Liberation Front."

    "According to a lot of people, this City Council would qualify as a left-wing movement," said then-city Commissioner Charlie Hales, who voted to support participation after a language change.

    In 2001, the issue exploded. After five hours of public testimony and a 4-1 City Council vote to keep officers in the task force (with Hales now opposed), critics turned their backs or walked out of City Hall as politicians tried to explain. The next year, opponents yelled, "Shame on you!" after a unanimous vote to stay in.

    But by 2005, the players had changed. On one hand, Bush administration policies were sending shock waves through civil liberties groups. On the other, new Mayor Tom Potter, a former police chief, wanted more oversight to ensure that police would not participate in investigations based solely on political or religious beliefs, which would violate state law.

    Commissioners Erik Sten and Leonard -- who previously expressed concerns about oversight but supported participation -- wanted to end full-time involvement. Adams, then a new commissioner, also supported a change. Commissioner Dan Saltzman ended up on the losing side of a 4-1 vote, a landmark decision that made Portland the only city to pull out.

    Ask officials in Seattle or San Francisco about the issue, and the response is essentially: the JTTF-what?

    "Maybe we're just all on the same page down here," said Paul Henderson, who works on public safety policy for San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. "We just don't do it like that."

    Mark Matassa, a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, said, "It just hasn't bubbled up in the same way it has down there."

    Portland's reaction can be tied to three characteristics, according to experts.

    Ron Tammen, director of Portland State University's Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, highlights the city's participatory environment.

    Political scientist Robert Putnam's 2001 book "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community" explored how local institutions were becoming less relevant, except in places such as Portland. This city has active neighborhood associations and decision-makers are accessible.

    Throw in the fact that Portland and Oregon don't boast big military bases or strong ties to law-and-order institutions.

    "Those all create the atmosphere or the environment in Portland," Tammen said.

    David Fidanque, executive director for the ACLU of Oregon, also points to Portland's uncommon government structure. Each City Council member runs bureaus and makes management decisions. That decentralization prevents unilateral decisions.

    Linking that to the JTTF, Fidanque said choices elsewhere have been made by police chiefs or city managers, not elected officials.

    "I think it's related to the system of government we have here in Portland," he said. "And that's a good thing because these issues need to be more visible."

    Others disagree. The local task force still includes members of the Oregon State Police, Port of Portland Police and the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

    "I don't pretend to understand the politics of Portland city government," said Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon, who is elected. "I'm often thankful that I'm not part of it and we don't have to report to that board."

    Gordon, with one detective assigned to the JTTF, said he has never heard a concern about civil rights violations. "There's no better way to monitor that than to have a deputy sheriff or a police officer in the mix," he said.

    Saltzman, the lone vocal proponent of rejoining, said Portlanders have a strong distrust of the federal government.

    But he's not sure why it's played out so dramatically here, with the debate tentatively scheduled to resume March 17.

    " 'Keep Portland Weird?'" Saltzman said. "How's that? Is that the right answer?"

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/i...portlands.html
    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

  • #2
    Tin foil city?
    "You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall... I have neither the time, nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it."

    Comment


    • #3
      God help Portland.
      sigpic

      Originally posted by mitojo
      I was once thanked by two citizens in one day. Weird.

      Comment


      • #4
        Just give up and let the hippies get blown to bits, then non-idiots can reclaim the land.
        Originally Posted by VegasMetro
        maybe it’s me but I think a six pack and midget porn makes for good times?????

        Comment


        • #5
          A community that refuses to protect itself does not warrant protection.

          I know many good, solid people with common sense from Portland.

          None of them live in Portland anymore.

          M-11
          “All men dream...... But not equally..
          Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it is vanity;
          but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
          for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.....”

          TE Lawrence

          Comment


          • #6
            My ball sweat is more likeable than that trash city.

            Comment


            • #7
              There is a series of short parodies called Portlandia that illustrates some of the madness going on there. I think Portland is determined to not let Seattle get the Berkley of the NW title.

              Comment


              • #8
                sigpic
                Originally posted by Smurfette
                Lord have mercy. You're about as slick as the business side of duct tape.
                Originally posted by DAL
                You are without doubt a void surrounded by a sphincter muscle.

                Comment

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