The Tribune reports that the Portland City Council has voted unanimously to give police the power to impound and tow any vehicle they believe was used in the 'commission of prostitution or drug crimes' (Police get towing rights, May 3). This is in addition to the previously passed authority to impound and tow any vehicle belonging to a participant in (or spectator to) road racing. The cars will be returned upon proof of a valid driving license, insurance and the payment of towing, storage and 'administrative' fees. (That, I presume, is the city's cut.)

I'm sure proponents would argue that, since no loss of liberty is involved, the Constitution does not apply. Still, even in the case of traffic tickets, one has a 'day in court,' should he or she want it, before paying the fine. Here, the city is allowing the police to punish literally anyone they choose, absolutely at their whim. No charge is involved, no evidence, no proof is needed either, simply the officers' 'belief.' Belief?

This is real punishment, too. I imagine that towing, storage and administrative fees can amount to hundreds of dollars. This doesn't even speak to the public humiliation and embarrassment of having your car impounded on the 'belief' that it's been used for, say, prostitution.

What crime, by the way, does a spectator to street racing commit? Does this mean that 'looking at' a street race is an offense? Clearly not.

Didn't Oregonians just pass an initiative outlawing, in spirit, just this governmental behavior? I understand that in 2000, the voters, by approving Measure 3, the Oregon Property Protection Act, prohibited the confiscation of property without prior conviction Ñ though the city is merely 'impounding.'

Still, the spirit of the City Council's action is exactly what the voters reacted against Ñ punishment without conviction Ñ and the council glibly does just that, once again.

Francis P. Ferguson

Northwest Portland

Library enriches lives

of family and students

I was pleased to see the great write-up about the library (Lend a hand to the library, Insight, April 30). But there is so much the article didn't say.

My family and I are longtime library users. We live near the Albina branch, and we use it like crazy. I can shop at Nature's and go to the library to get our weekend movies, books and CDs Ñ all in minutes and all for free for anyone who has a library card.

I can take my child over for story time several times a week Ñ it is fun for him, great for me É and free. I teach junior-high social studies, and the library's books are a great asset for the classes I teach. I can reserve them online or by phone and have them delivered to my house by mail or pick them up at my library. My students can log on to the library's homework help site to get after-school help on the assignments I have given them. I also value the knowledgeable, professional and helpful staff at each branch.

So, when it all boils down, what do I pay for this service? About $10 per month, and it is the best deal in town.

David Finkelman

Northeast Portland

Callison has sense of justice

and knack for details

I'm writing to support the candidacy of Liz Callison for Position No. 2 on the Portland City Council.

Callison has the ability to see the public good in the midst of both technical and political debate. She understands that the future of our country and of our city depends upon our actions today. She has a finely developed sense of justice, human and political rights, and human needs. Callison has blended these in a dedicated, concerned and honest approach to life and public service.

Callison also understands budget and project management. She has worked with citizen groups representing diverse points of view and helped them to achieve their goals. She also understands the critical need to protect both our children and our environment, which seem to go naturally hand in hand. She is hardworking, intelligent, persevering and professional.

John Legry

Southeast Portland

Troubling experience deflates

enthusiasm for MAX

For safety reasons, I may never ride the MAX train in Fareless Square again.

During rush hour on April 15, I boarded a train downtown to go to Lloyd Center. I took the only available seat in the front car. As the train neared the Pearl District, a very dirty, gaunt man in his 20s worked his way to my seat from somewhere near the back of the train. I watched him ask every rider in my car for money. That was innocent enough, I thought, but he was deadly.

As he approached, I noticed open, bloody, infected, quarter-sized sores on his face and hands. The one on his hand looked like an impetigo infection. He was picking at them with his long, dirty fingernails while asking each rider for money, and telling each person he approached: 'I have AIDS. Would you like to make a donation?'

The man, while waiting for a response, would pick at one of the wet wounds. He seemed unsteady on his feet and held on to the vertical and horizontal bars and straps with the hand he used to pick at the festering sores.

We both disembarked at the Rose Quarter Ñ I to look for a security guard or police officer to register a complaint about a dangerous rider whose weapon could cause more death than a shotgun: his sores and the hand he picked at them with.

No public security officer was in the immediate area, so I knocked on the driver's window.

While I recounted my story to the driver, she said, 'You are not the first person to complain, and he is not the only problem panhandler, but our hands are tied' by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

I looked in the direction of the infected man. He was aware of our conversation, and he was grinning at us while looking back over his shoulder. The thing that disturbed me most was the knowing leer on his face.

As the train, filled with children and adults, moved on, I shuddered and walked from the Rose Quarter to my car thinking death had smiled at me.

As I understand it, when a person with AIDS spits at a police officer, that can be construed as an attack with a deadly weapon. Is this any different? Do riders on public transit have any rights to be protected?

Alton Jones

North Portland

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