February 27, 2007

DNT Article on City Council Resolution

The city of Duluth has joined hundreds of cities and counties nationwide asking for American troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

A resolution opposing the war in Iraq was approved 6-2 at Monday’s crowded City Council meeting, with At Large Councilor and Navy Reserve Officer Roger Reinert abstaining. Councilors Russ Stewart, Laurie Johnson, Don Ness, Jim Stauber, Russ Stover and Greg Gilbert voted yes, and Councilors Tim Little and Garry Krause voted no.

Stewart read the entire resolution to the audience and Stover, council president, asked for speakers to be calm and respectful while addressing the council.

Speakers from the audience, numbering about 15, as well as councilors spoke with eloquence and emotion, whether for or against the resolution.

Councilor Johnson, who joined Stewart in submitting the symbolic measure, was in tears as she described living with a veteran of war.

“We can’t continue to hide under a rock,” she said. “It hits us right here at home in great numbers.”

The resolution, to be sent to President Bush and federal and state lawmakers, would support troops by urging the president and federal lawmakers to “commence planning an orderly and comprehensive withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq,” and ensure compensation and care upon return.

Local activist Joel Sipress, who helped organize a rally before the meeting supporting the resolution, wanted it to be stronger.

“Because our national leaders have let us down, we need our local leaders to speak up,” he said.

About 30 people from the Northland Antiwar Coalition gathered in the City Hall lobby, where Sipress encouraged supporters to be civil.

“We’ve all been touched by the war,” he said, speaking before the council, adding this decision was not a partisan issue. “We can set aside our past disputes and … show that there is a broad consensus in Duluth that wants to end the occupation in Iraq.”

Little voted no because he doesn’t believe the issue falls under city business.

“We’re not in a position to second-guess the federal government,” he said.

The resolution could be detrimental to survival of the 148th Fighter Wing, said David Ross, president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

“At a national level, the Guard tracks, records any type of initiative [such as the resolution],” he said. “We have to be aware of the unintended consequences.”

The base was recommended for closure in 2005 but was kept open after intense lobbying from the community and elected officials.

Stauber, retired from the military, wanted to make clear that he supports troops but also encourages the president to find a way to end the occupation in Iraq.

“There is nothing wrong with sending a message of support to our troops,” he said.

The language of the resolution was changed so that it no longer singles out the Minnesota National Guard, with wording borrowed from a resolution recently passed by the Minneapolis City Council. Stauber thanked Stewart for reworking the resolution.

Stewart, who began his effort in January, said sending messages from every level of government is important.

“If enough communities and state legislatures make their voices heard, it will be felt,” Stewart said. “Some people are angry about the resolution. I’m angry too. Angry we’re involved in a war of choice against a country that did not attack us; didn’t have the capacity to attack us. We have to suppress that anger and get to working toward solutions.”

[the article above is from the Duluth News Tribune of Feb. 27, 2007. It was written by Jana Hollingsworth.]

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