WASHINGTON – Councilman Marc Elrich came downtown Thursday to tell President Bush and Congress that Takoma Park, and plenty of other cities, oppose a preemptive attack on Iraq.
“Our goal here is to stop a war with Iraq,” Elrich said.
Nearly 50 city officials from across the country stood in stiff winds and freezing weather outside the gates of the White House. The group brought with them the resolutions their cities had passed opposing U.S. military action against Iraq, and now they wanted to give them to President Bush.
They are called Cities for Peace, a rapidly growing coalition of local elected officials and concerned citizens across the country working to get city councils and other civic bodies to pass similar resolutions.
So far, the group consists of 90 cities and towns representing more than 22 million Americans that have passed such resolutions.
Takoma Park and Baltimore both passed resolutions on Oct. 28, and Greenbelt drafted a letter in lieu of a resolution.
For Takoma Park the idea came up from the grass roots – citizens brought it to the council to be put on the agenda.
“The council was not divided,” Elrich said. “We felt the resolution best represented our constituents’ sentiments.”
More than 17,000 people live in Takoma Park. The city boasts that it is a nuclear-free zone and has an award-winning recycling program. And even residents who are not U.S. citizens can vote in local elections and hold local elective office.
“No war against Iraq (should) be undertaken,” the Takoma Park resolution reads, “without the agreement of United Nations Security Council . . . and a vote in the United States Congress.”
The federal government doesn’t have enough money to meet its obligations now, he said, and they’re cutting state subsidies. “And city and towns are at the end of the domino effect,” Elrich said.
Elrich said that his jurisdiction has yet to get the federal funding for first responders, health care costs have gone up 30 percent and the schools are suffering.
“These are the areas that we think need attention,” Elrich said. “If we win a war in Iraq, nothing will change.”
The group never got in to see Bush, nor anyone else from the administration, despite arguing their importance at the gates and the insistence that they had an appointment. “We are mayors, we are councilmen, we’re not the usual suspects,” said Joe Moore, an alderman from Chicago, to a guard.
Bush is out of town, the White House said.
“The President welcomes the fact that this is a democracy,” said Taylor Griffin, White House spokesman. “Bush doesn’t want to go to war, but in the interest of peace, Saddam must be disarmed.”
The group did meet with like-minded members of Congress, including Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.
“The polls say most American people favor a war – that’s biggest pile of propaganda that you will ever hear,” Conyers said. “Most people oppose the war. We are not in the minority, we are the majority.”