no peace in Houston

If you didn’t notice, a few weeks ago the Houston city council finally debated and voted on two propositions opposing a war in Iraq unless certain conditions occur.

Unfortunately the city council, like many other current politicians (the governor re: the budget), failed to show real leadership.

Here’s a Houston Chronicle article, and a letter of mine they printed in response, then a later ed/op by two California authors.

Feb. 26, 2003, 11:20PM
Houston council rejects two antiwar resolutions
Members argue over role in foreign policy

By KRISTEN MACK
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

Houston City Council rejected two resolutions Wednesday opposing a U.S. attack on Iraq before U.N. weapons inspectors get more time to finish their work.

The resolutions were sponsored by Councilmen Gordon Quan and Carroll Robinson. Quan’s proposal failed outright, and Robinson’s was killed after a thwarted attempt to amend it.

“The results were what I thought they would be, but we have a right to debate the issues,” Mayor Lee Brown said.

Brown agreed to put the resolutions on the council agenda after weeks of lobbying by community activists to have the city take a position on war with Iraq.

Council members opposing the resolutions said it was inappropriate for a local body to weigh in on foreign policy decisions. But supporters said such a move was entirely appropriate, because the results and cost of a war would have a direct effect on the city’s finances.

“I resent like hell that citizens are being played by the spin that this is not our jurisdiction,” said Councilwoman Ada Edwards.

Quan’s resolution called for council to oppose unilateral military action against Iraq, which he said would cost billions of dollars that would be better spent nationally and locally. The proposal was rejected 9-5 with little debate.

Council voted 8-6 to refer Robinson’s resolution back to him, essentially killing it. The proposal had encouraged Iraq to comply quickly with United Nations resolutions to disarm and encouraged war only as a last option. It also called for withdrawing U.S. military forces based overseas and using the savings for such domestic programs as education and universal health care.

Councilman Mark Ellis offered a last-minute amendment to Robinson’s proposal, backing the use of force “if necessary” to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The amendment failed 11-3.

Most council members opposing the resolutions said they did so because council should not take any stand on issues of international importance. Although few said so publicly, the majority also support President Bush’s policies toward Iraq.

“Clearly, people decided on a political point of view and took the Republican position,” Robinson said. “This shows a lack of thoughtfulness and the inconsistency and hypocrisy of partisan politics.”

Some council members said they were elected to fix potholes and deal with the city’s budget, not to set foreign policy.

“This is irrelevant and counter to what people elected me to do,” said Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. “The (Bush) administration has the expertise and knowledge that will allow them to make decisions on whether we should go to war. We need to get back to the business of the city.”

Other council members, including Carol Alvarado, said the council has a moral obligation to debate potential war, especially when local governments would have to spend more money on emergency planning as a result.

Nearly 100 other cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, have approved resolutions opposing unilateral war against Iraq.

Ken Freeland, spokesman for the Houston Coalition for Justice Not War, said council’s vote had sealed Houston’s reputation as a city of small-town thinkers.

“It’s clear that Houston is not a mainstream or global city,” he said. “Council has no perspective when it comes to addressing larger issues propelling our country.”

my response, along with someone else of the opposing opinion (which i obviously disagree with, but am willing to include)…

Feb. 27, 2003, 8:39PM
The City Council on war

No show of leadership

Regarding the Feb. 27 Metro cover article, “Houston council rejects two antiwar resolutions”: The majority of the Houston City Council showed an utter lack of leadership in refusing to debate the most pressing issue to all Americans right now: whether it is reasonable and responsible to interdict in Iraq rather than continuing to contain them.

To claim that local governments have no say in the affairs of state is laughable. The federal government gives localities money, and they give us (unfunded) mandates. Cities and states have resolutions written into their procedures to specifically state opinions on topics that cannot be directly addressed, particularly ones that need to be addressed at a higher level.

If you believe that it is a reasonable decision to employ force in Iraq, then say so — and perhaps even try to help the other side see your point of view (democracy has room for more than one opinion). But if you’re not willing to broach issues that are important to everyone, not ready to lead, perhaps you, Houston City Council, should get out of the way.

Bill Shirley, Houston

Proud of our patriots

The fourth-largest city in the nation has a City Council that stood like patriots and not as a herd of sheep in refusing to join other city councils in the antiwar protest. What’s more important is that our council members are aware of those who orchestrated and are directing the protests, both overseas and here at home, and they refused to be intimidated into submission.

Houston news media are [virtually] silent on the Workers World Party (a Marxist organization), which originated the protest overseas and whose ANSWER [International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] did the same in this country. I learned of it by reading New York and Washington, D.C., newspapers and from Internet sources. So have other Houstonians.

We can be proud of our elected city officials, who know what the score is.

Hazel O. Edwards, Houston

the later ed/op, i’ll include in a reply to this…
-b