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Indybay Feature
Councilmembers in Copland
by Robert Norse
Monday Jul 24th, 2006 9:50 PM
Recollections of the Rotkin Police R Us Committee gettogether today 3:30 PM to 4:45 PM.
The Public Safety Committee had its meeting half an hour early at 3:30 PM today.

Even the previously announced time (4 PM) was obviously not convenient for working people. Rotkin took inaccessibility a step further changing the meeting time within a week of the meeting and not apparently informing the main people.

Tomorrow's City Council meeting will also have everything stuffed onto the 3 PM afternoon agenda. Folks wanting to oppose giving Parks and Recreation the power to close City Hall grounds at night to protesters, to support impeachment of the Bush regime, to back the Medical Marijuana Initiative--will have to follow the Rotkin-Mathews agenda.

Arriving later in the meeting were Mark Schlosser of the N. California ACLU, Don Zimmerman of the local ACLU, Tony Madrigal of the City Council, "Shuck and Jive" Shanna McCord of the Sentinel, "Kind-to-Cops" Ken McLaughlin of the San Jose Mercury News, and perhaps a few others.

The only members of the public who heard about the 3:30 p.m. time change were me, and those I told--Bernard and Bob of the Human Rights Organization. Michael Tomasi, "King of Marijuana" who hangs out at City Hall, probably noticed the Council chambers were over and came on in.

On the City Council's "Copophilia" Public Safety Committee team were Rotkin, Coonerty, and Porter; "We're all Right" Police Auditor Bob Arenson; and staffer Tina Scholl (who declined to tape record the meeting--so no audio record of it exists).

No police officers were present to explain why the new surveillance guidelines, announced July 5th by Mayor Mathews, ignored most of the significant concerns of the ACLU rep.

No committee member explained why the guidelines were put in place without public commentary and discussion, and city council action. The City Manager and City Attorney did not show up to explain why they had given the quick thumbs up Deputy Chief Vogel's "investigating himself", both when it happened and when his "report" came out.

Porter denounced and dismissed Rico's letter (see above), saying it was based on false expectations that they'd be considering "some kind of ordinance".

Rotkin pushed the usual dodge that City Council members couldn't "order the police" to do anything because it was "against the City Charter". (All they have to do is pass a law and direct the City Manager to order the police to enforce it.)

Coonerty made the ridiculous (and false) assertion that the new "guidelines" were better than 95% of those in other cities (if they had them at all).

The three Councilmembers couldn't understand (or didn't care) why Schlosser was concerned that the "guidelines" didn't stop record gathering, passing on information, and otherwise "legally" surveilling legal political groups like the ACLU. That the "guidelines" had no definition of First Amendment activity (unlike the San Francisco guidelines).
Porter suggested that the San Francisco guidelines were "too long", "too expensive", and "inappropriate".

Rotkin and Arenson suggested that low-key conversations with the police chief and "training" would be more effective than specific "don't spy on innocent citizens engaging in First Amendment activities" rules.

Arenson suggested that there probably needn't be monthly reviews of police surveillance, because "they'd learned their lesson".

There was actually no discussion whatsoever about bringing an ordinance to city council that would have some teeth (even the ACLUsters didn't suggest it). A dozen community members demanded such action in January and again in March. Rotkin responded then (and now) by ignoring the clamour and letting Chief Skerry make all the decisions.

In point of fact, Madrigal could introduce an emergency ordinance tomorrow putting into place Schlosser's suggested surveillance guidelines. These would simply bar police surveillance of legitimate First Amendment activities unless there were a reasonable showing that significant crime were likely. Don't hold your breath.

Coonerty and the others did spend some time asking Mark Schlosser questions about his concerns.

Porter's "action" at the end of the meeting consisted in asking the City Manager to suggest it might be nice if Police Chief Skerry explained why he had ignored Schlosser's concerns in more detail.

Meanwhile it's Skerry's guidelines--with no public discussion or input (other than this meeting) all the way.

I'll be playing some of my own rather pathetic audio tape of the meeting on my show 6-8 PM Thursday July 27th. Unfortunately my machine didn't catch the first half of the meeting.

City Council will meet tomorrow with no "surveillance guideline" protections on the agenda to vote on. It will then adjourn for six weeks until mid-September. The Public Safety Committee will have held its token meeting and the issue will stay dead and buried.

Unless, of course, lawsuits, public protests, guerrilla actions, and other unconventional public demonstrations raise up this stinky corpse so it can finally be staked and the issue set to rest.
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