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Council rejects resolution on airport body scanners on 4-3 vote

Friday, February 18, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The Austin City Council will stay out of the body scanner debate after all. Members Thursday rejected on a 4-3 vote Council Member Bill Spelman’s resolution that would have issued a formal set of questions about the devices to the city’s U.S. Congressional delegation. Council Member Laura Morrison was the co-sponsor.


Council Members Randi Shade and Chris Riley joined Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez in opposing the idea. Each Council Member has now offered a detailed set of reasons for their vote. But the proceedings themselves and their final outcome might also reveal much about newly revamped Council proceedings in light of recent complaint about the Council’s pre-meeting discussions.


As for the resolution itself, Leffingwell remained concerned about its implications. “I don’t want to leave the impression that we’re not in favor of that safety,” he said. “I don’t want the City of Austin’s name to appear on a list somewhere that opposes the security measures that are being taken.”


As he did Wednesday, Leffingwell then again raised the possibility that the city could be cut out of some federal grant money, should the resolution pass.


Council Member Sheryl Cole, also worried about the resolution’s effect on potential federal grants, tried to remedy that problem with a slight language change. That effort ultimately proved to be futile, however, when Riley announced his intention to vote against it. “While very valid concerns have been raised … we have the ability to raise those questions without going through the full blown process of a resolution,” he said.


Martinez and Shade stayed with the positions they had taken at Wednesday’s council work session (see In Fact Daily, Feb. 16). That sealed the measure’s fate.


But the vote didn’t solely illuminate various Council members’ positions on the potential invasion of the body scanners. In the past, a negative head count might have been discovered long before meeting day, and the proposing Council member likely would have pulled a similar, doomed-to-failure resolution from the agenda.


The Council discussion came after a handful of speakers—who came with a vocal support group—urged Council to pass an even stronger resolution than the one Spelman proposed.

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