The Government has Gone Stark Raving Mad

root - Posted on 31 October 2003

An interview with Arcata, California council member who has resisted The Patriot Act through a legislative “pre-emptive attack”

by Dee Gray - with editorial assistance by Alex Cuff

Dee: Your platform was “The Federal Government Has Gone Stark, Raving Mad.” Could you talk a little bit about the basis of that?

David: That was just a portion of my platform – And it was more like a slogan, that particular saying and what I said was “the federal government has gone stark, raving mad,” and therefore What that means is that if we’re concerned about sustainability, if we’re concerned about our civil liberties we need to build them locally and that was what I pledged to do as a cabinet for city council.

You know i fully believe that the federal government has gone stark, raving mad. The executive branch is wielding power that the founders of our nation, of the constitution didn’t envision...the system of checks and balances is just not working right.

Dee: Yeah, I thought that too. The interesting thing too is that this ordinance had near unanimous approval for the people of Arcata and what do you think that is, something in the water maybe? Or that the community is all ex-patriates from San Francisco or from some other politically involved place or what?

David: I would say that “near unanimous” might be a slight exaggeration. At the meetings where we discussed it – we had a town hall meeting and we also had 3 council meetings where public comment was invited... And I’d say that 80% of the people who spoke, favored the ordinance and 10% didn’t favor the ordinance but were opposed to the Patriot Act and thought there was a better way to address the Patriot Act and then there was a good solid 10% who thought the Patriot Act was necessary and a good thing. But I think the reason you can get such a large percentage favoring something like an ordinance against a set of federal laws is that this particular issue bridges the spectrum, the political spectrum because you get obviously progressives that are opposed to the act and have been since the beginning and also libertarians and people on the far – there are a lot of people who think our freedom is at fault, one way or another, and who would like to defend the constitution.

Dee: Well you said about 10% thought that we needed the Patriot Act? Did you ever talk to any of them? What, why would they say that? Do you know what their thinking is?

David: Well if we’re to believe the poles, probably 30% or 40% (of people) across the country favor the Patriot Act, nationwide and I think the Patriot Act was passed right after September 11th, it was passed in a moment of incredible fear and to the extent that it promises to make terrorist attacks less likely, certain people will favor it even if they’re losing civil liberties, they’ll say well it’s the bad guys who are losing their rights it doesn’t affect them. I think most people, once they realize it does affect them, and that it does infringe upon our privacy that they will tend to oppose it more but I think that’s a process of education; to let people see what the patriot act really does.

Dee: And your ordinance is...? What specifically?

David: Um, the ordinance...first we passed the resolution back in January where we were the 26 of cities to even do that and then we thought we’d take it a step further and do an actual ordinance which has the power of law. And our ordinance does several things. First of all, it instructs city management employees, the heads of our departments, to not participate in any sort of profiling or arrest procedures that are unconstitutional, targeting certain ethnic groups of any kind. And secondly it instructs management employees to not voluntarily cooperate with federal agents under the Patriot Act or related act like the Homeland Security Act – to not cooperate in any unconstitutional requests like search and seizures or arrests or surveillance and finally it instructs the employees, that if they are approached and asked to do this that first of all they refuse to do it and then they report it to the city manager who reports it to the city council so that the council can review the specific case. Because of course we have no problem with cooperating with federal searches under standard warrants with the standard checks and balances in place.

Dee: Have any city managers or council members had any trouble with the feds since you’ve come up with this ordinance?

David: No, the FBI did drop by to pick up a copy of the ordinance at one point. We don’t really expect to have requests by the federal government – it may not happen at all. What we see this as is a preemptive attack, to protect the constitution, a preemptive attack to kind these kinds of things. But this one is a non-violent preemptive attack in defense of the constitution and of our civil liberties.

Dee: I love your use of the word “preemptive” considering that was used in Iraq, it’s just great, you through it right back at them. I noticed that you had a different chief of police when I was reading the news. Why does he no longer hold that position? Does that have something to do with the Patriot Act?

David: It has nothing to do with the Patriot Act... he was kind of on his way out way quite a while before this whole Patriot Act revolution came up. An interesting fact is that our police chief was in total support of passing this ordinance - he said it just reinforces what he does anyway which is to respect the constitution and after all, all public officials, myself included take an oath of office in which we pledge to uphold the constitution and to protect it from all enemies, domestic and foreign, and right now we feel the constitution is under attack from a domestic enemy ...

Dee: such as?

David:...the executive branch of our government.

Dee: Are you thinking in particular Mr. Ashcroft when you’re talking about that or all of the above?

David: I certainly blame Ashcroft. As far as President Bush goes I tend to think he is really controlled by the same folks who have been after the power for the last 30 years; Cheney and Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell, Brajinski, the crew that has been working their way up in structure of our government for the last 30 years and now find themselves on the top and want to stay there and i think that’s the most scary thing really for all of us. There’s been this coup and we are now being controlled by folks who have a world view that includes invading countries out of greed and lust for power.

Dee: Have any other cities attempted to talk to you about incorporating this into their city council and so on since you’ve passed this ordinance?

David: There are now 127 resolutions. To my knowledge there haven’t been any other ordinances, I think several cities are considering it – I think both San Francisco and Berkeley would be prime candidates for that.

Dee: Isn’t that true? I know...and they don’t...they only go just so far with it.

David: The number of cities passing resolution has been exhilarating – it’s quite exciting that Hawaii and Alaska have passed resolutions and I think that once the budget gets dealt with in California we may be working on it in our own state.

Dee: You have a new chief of police. Does he support the Patriot Act or in favor of the ordinance opposing it?

David: I know for a fact that the chief of police (Randy Mendoza) supports our ordinance protecting the people of Arcata from the effects of the Patriot Act.

Dee: So you know his feelings about it?

David: Well he helped write the ordinance...he participated in the process.

Dee: Is there anything you think that i’ve left out, that you want to add? And I want to get your name and that you are from Aracata.

David: The main point I really want to get across is that to fight despite things like the Patriot Act. I believe one of the best ways to do it is through the municipal government – they’re our most accessible, our most local, kind of our friendliest government and they give power to our voices over just writing letters and emails. And so I certainly help that more cities continue to pass resolutions and that those involved think that we should all be working on our representatives across the country to get more state resolutions passed. I think the sort of publicity that is out now abopuit the Patriot Act has already assured us that there will at least be a lot of discussion before they pass Patriot Act 2. We need to make sure that there’s not only discussion but that it gets voted down.

Dee: Have you come up with any ordinances or are there any in the planning stages for the Patriot Act 2?

David: Our ordinance actually includes the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act, related executive orders and any future similar legislation. So we covered ourselves.

Dee: So the Patriot Act 2 is a done deals, it’s over as far as Aracata goes, it’s not gonna happen there.

David: We will not be a part of the chain of command between the federal government and the people.

Dee: When do you have your council meetings?

David: First and 3rd Wednesday of every month as city hall at 7pm.

David Meserve

City Council Member, City of Arcata (elected in 2002)

Makes a living designing and building houses



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