council passes anti-patriot act resolution

We (Stanley, Alice, and I) showed up at the Norwalk Common Council chambers at about 7:45 Tuesday evening. We were there until nearly 2:00 Wednesday morning. There were three resolutions before the Council that, combined, packed the audience. They moved the meeting from chambers to the Concert Hall because so many people showed up.

I think it’s a pretty strange procedure to have speakers all line up and speak out about resolutions before anybody even knows what the resolutions are. The way it’s all a mish-mash makes no sense—speakers who had no intention of speaking to any resolution but the one they were interested digressed to encompass the other resolutions, it was bizarro-land, for the most part. Seems a more logical procedure would be to present the resolution, ask for speakers, debate it, then vote on it and then go on to the next resolution.

There were some good speeches on all sides of all the issues. A couple orators I would like to listen to for more than the allotted three minutes. And there was stuff I wanted to say, but decided to just shut up and not add to the listening load, especially since a couple of the speakers presented my issues more eloquently than I ever could.

The first resolution had to do with the Council urging the Mayor Knopp to get off his ass about the firefighters’ contract, or lack of one I should say. They’ve been working without a contract (or raise) for three years. It’s now in binding arbitration. The mayor said, in a pre-vote speech that went on interminably, cycling the same points as if repetition would make it more believable (a Bushie tactic), that the union had canceled some of the more recent negotiation sessions. Like two or three since April. But didn’t get into why it had even dragged into April 2005 to begin with. The Council amended the resolution to call on the mayor AND the union to get on with it—rendering it pure even more meaningless mush. The firefighters walked out in disgust. I don’t blame them.

The second resolution had to do with Doubletree Hotel’s hiring process, where the Norwalk Council was calling on the company to consider rehiring some 37 employees who didn’t get rehired when Doubletree took over from the failed company. I don’t really understand all of the issues—even some of the council members such as Bruce Kimmel said they didn’t understand what was going on. But they passed the resolution anyway, where it would have made more sense to request more information.

I had to wonder why Doubletree spent so much money fighting against the resolution if it was so meaningless. They lined up an array of attorneys and developers from Seattle and current employees (whom I suspect were being paid for their time attending this meeting—though probably at minimum wage rates) to speak out against the resolution. The council didn’t tell them they had to hire these employees—it only suggested that the non-hiring be reconsidered. Maybe it has some kind of legal clout I don’t understand, but I doubt it.

Then, finally, the council got down to the resolution calling on our federal reps to take a closer look at the Patriot Act. Or something. Not sure exactly what the resolution does. Kimmel did de-fang it during the secret Democratic caucus meeting.

Doug Hempstead, one of the two Republican council members, asked Kimmel 1) why he gutted it (wondering where the passion went) and 2) which Republicans he consulted about this measure, as Kimmel claimed repeatedly he did when presenting the resolution, since neither Republican council member was consulted. Kimmel didn’t answer the question, just claimed he talked with constituents and Republicans (guess they’re mutually exclusive or something) who said they didn’t like the part where the council actually called on Norwalk employees to stick to the Constitution and not trample the Constitutional rights of Norwalkers.

Hempstead and Bondi (our councilguy) wanted a town meeting or a information meeting where they would ask Liebermouth, Dodd, and Shays to show up and answer questions about it all. It would’ve been great to have this, and this should still happen (and if it does, we’ll be there), but with the vote in Congress looming, to have any effect at all (however pansy an effect it ends up being), it needed to be passed now. Mayor Knopf went on and on about how he would have vetoed the previous version of the resolution because, he said, it said it made Norwalk and the mayor the ones encouraging civil disobedience, but he thinks the toothless current resolution is ill-advised and none of the Council’s business.

As it was, the de-balled resolution passed with 9 votes for, 1 abstention, and 4 against. One of the sponsors was absent or it would have been 10 for.

What’s really sad about it all is with this kind of support by the Council, it didn’t need to be de-fanged because there would have been enough votes to override the mayor’s promised veto. What was also sad about it all is that Hempstead told us afterwards he would have supported the resolution had he been given more information about it beforehand and was included as part of what was supposed to be a bipartisan process—so it would’ve had even more of an impact. It is a bipartisan issue, and it was very wrong not to include GOP members in crafting this resolution.

I had asked Kimmel at the NEIGHBOR meeting on Sunday why the teeth part of the resolution could not have been reframed to say the same thing positively, like most of the other town-passed resolutions do, but he dismissed my suggetion.

Kimmel apparently had already made up his mind to do it his way, and, really, ended up looking like quite the political hack, choosing political expedience over supporting something because it is right. He came off as a not very savvy bullshit artist. To be good at bullshit, you have to tone down the arrogance and he hasn’t figured this out. Also, good political hacks at the very least give the appearance of inclusion, but Kimmel seems to have an axe to grind with Hempstead that was quite obvious during this meeting.

I’m not a Republican, and usually have a knee-jerk aversion to them, but during last night’s meeting Republican Hempstead came off as thoughtful and intelligent and presented plenty of food for thought, whereas Democrat Kimmel came off as an arrogant, less-than-honest, marginally competent hack.

And Mayor Knopp, oof. He made it clear he doesn’t understand what the democratic process is really all about, particularly in New England. The entire country was founded first at the local level, with local groups setting up the networks that became the American Revolution. I voted for Knopf during his first campaign because he said he would do something about Norwalk’s problems, particularly taxes and traffic. I didn’t vote for him the second time because he did nothing about the traffic problem except make it worse—there is more development going on in Norwalk than the infrastructure can support. And, he raised our taxes. What good is more development if the quality of life in Norwalk goes down and the cost of living in Norwalk goes up? Who, exactly, stands to benefit from all this development? Certainly not Norwalk homeowners.

But, as usual, I digress. What I meant to say is based on Knopp’s two “speeches” as the council meeting, it now appears to me that he is pretty ineffective. And he sounded more desperate than savvy.

All in all, I’m glad the council at least passed the anti-Patriot Act resolution. When I can find the final text (tattered remains) of the actual resolution, I’ll post it. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee must have prepared the page in advance, because they posted the original proposal as having been passed (at least as of the afternoon of June 15).

If nothing else, at least I’m starting to get interested in politics again. Starting to come out of my post-election depression, I guess.

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