Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You Say You Want a Resolution?

The following is my speech I plan to deliver at the Feb. 17, 2011, council meeting, in relation to Item #49, a directive to the City Manager to study the "risks and benefits" of body scanners and pat-downs – a proposed TSA mandate for our airport.


I'd like to impress upon you here today that while this resolution, as drafted, speaks to the crux of the issue well ...and represents the concerns of the people in the "Whereas's"'s the "Be it Resolved" part that's the sticking point.

While there's some validity and possibilities in tossing this issue to the City's just that, frankly, we've tried that in the past and it's sometimes proved to be a trajectory into a black hole. No offense Manager Ott, that's just the pattern amongst City Managers here and elsewhere there's a "Council-manager" structure. Besides, our manager's got plenty of issues to deal with where he actually has to negotiate differentiating factions. Here, we already know where we all are.

The City Manager's too busy to study the studies…which we already HAVE...and know how to read.

We all know how we feel about this thing...we all know this poses grave health risks, and is not about security but instead about a couple of private entities' profit margins and a handful of bought-and-paid-for Congressmen (none of ours, luckily, that I've discovered).

I've not met an Austinite yet who's FOR these measures.

Let's try this: who here -raise your hand- wants body scanners and pat downs in our airport? *crickets*

This resolution, as written, seems to be putting off the inevitable...or, buying us time - for something, I'm not sure. And we may not have time...enough to debate this for the next 6 months since the TSA has flip-flopped on whether they will implement this grand plan of theirs next month or next fall.

Resolutions are broad expressions of opinion and are often passed to express democratic consensus even when the subject matter is not under the purview of the governing entity.

Resolutions carry weight with those under whose purview this WOULD fall...those legislators it's addressed to...who are more suited to halt the proposed program.

We've seen Patriot Act resolutions, divestment resolutions from South Africa in the 1980s, our not-long-ago resolution on the Kyoto Treaty & greenhouse gases....even Congress passes resolutions on things it can’t control; but boy, did they have an impact, despite their supposed "toothlessness."

This resolution should express the very REAL public outrage of Austin residents, regardless of whether it can REALLY do anything about it.

This resolution should be one of outright protest against a security system that's already proven to be a failure.

We need to tell TSA we will not subject Austinites and visitors to unnecessary physical invasions (be they scanners or pat downs) and will not risk financially damaging our airport with these senseless, unfunded mandates.

Many airports are hurting financially and are in conflict with the TSA over security, according to an airline consultant an ACLU national representative spoke with. They said the security mission conflicts with airports’ other goals (for example, most airports would go out of business without their retail and parking) and they view these pointless, intrusive TSA efforts as a nuisance - a rather potent barrier to conducting day-to-day business.

We manage our airport "in cooperation with" federal authorities....not at the behest of. (S. 13-1-3 B4 of our charter)

Let's define "cooperation"...this is where folks make decisions together on an egalitarian basis, NOT a hierarchical one. That should apply to the relationship between our gov't and the people just as much as it should apply to that of federal and local entities where "cooperation" defines the relationship, and in this case, it does.

"Cooperation" can't be interpreted, in any way, as: compliance in spite of our ability to keep our airport financially afloat or limit our liability when privacy/invasion issues arise. The TSA is forcing air travelers, as it forces municipalities, into a no-win situation.

Keep in mind Congress hasn't passed any legislation to mandate this yet. As far as the TSA's administrative mandate, they, according to the law, have to provide a reasonable alternative or "opt-out" for scanners...if we say that pat downs aren't reasonable, then it gets kicked up to Congress. So TSA's "mandate" is hardly a settled issue and therefore its legitimacy is vulnerable to public opinion.

The local gov't represents the local residents in these "cooperative" relationships - if the residents say 'no' then the local gov't must represent us, even if just symbolically via a resolution. While we must "implement and enforce regulations imposed by the TSA" (S. 13-1-3 B5) - we have a say in it...a resolution is just that - "a say" - it's not legally binding, rather, it just let's the feds know we aren't going to lay back and enjoy it.

At the end of the day, sure...the feds are going to do what they're going to do; but we can put up our dukes and say, loudly, we're not going down without a fight.


The people have spoken. Council, please listen.