They are nothing if not passionate.

The citizens who are currently trying to encourage local elected officials to pass resolutions opposing sections of the National Defense Authorization Act are well organized, educated on their position and motivated by patriotism. These folks believe that provisions on the latest version of the law could be used against American citizens — to detain an individual as a terrorist and to order local law enforcement to help the federal government in that detention.

Most of them are members of Oath Keepers, a non-partisan association of current and former military, police and first responders; and PANDA, People Against the NDAA.

These people sincerely believe that the provisions in this law threaten each and every one of our individual freedoms. Their presentations are thorough, their arguments persuasive.

According to organizers, they’ve only just begun a grass-roots campaign to get local elected bodies — county commissions and city councils — to endorse their resolution opposing the offending portions of the federal law. So far they’ve gotten Coos County commissioners to pass its own version of the resolution. It wasn’t the one that organizers drafted, but at least it was a partial victory. Now they’ve got Coos Bay council members’ ear, even though some councilors and the mayor aren’t interested in discussing the issue.

And these folks have just started. They claim some 30 affiliated group across the state. They’ve got counties like Lane, Douglas, Curry, Jackson and Klamath in their sights. As activist Rob Taylor said in an interview Monday afternoon: “We’re trying to build a wall of support.”

We have no bone to pick with these folks, and told them so in phone conversations Monday. Indeed, the activism they’re practicing is quintessentially American — citizens actively engaged in the conduct of their government.

We disagree with them, however, on the role of local elected bodies in this debate. We feel that there are too many issues that local elected officials could actually be addressing — health and safety concerns, education, infrastructure. These are issues that local residents elected them to deal with. These are concerns where local officials can have immediate impact, with laws and money.

Passing a resolution is just that and only that. It rarely makes things happen, and it takes discussion time away from dealing with issues the elected officials can actually do something about.

The anti-NDAA group counters by asserting that all elected officials take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Agreed, but the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the provisions these folks oppose. They’d argue that a Supreme Court ruling doesn’t matter when it comes to upholding the Constitution. But do you want your city council members arguing constitutional law when your street needs new paving?

The anti-NDAA group should keep on doing what it’s doing: appearing before local governing bodies just like any other advocacy group. That local governing body can listen attentively, then get back to the job it was elected to do.


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