Archive for March, 2011

Think Global. Act Local.

March 31, 2011

At last month’s Bristol Town Council meeting, East Bay Citizens For Peace (EBCP) asked the town to sponsor an event to discuss the impact of military spending on our communities and pass a resolution to call on the federal government to reduce such spending and instead fund local needs. Shockingly, all five members, including Kenny Marshall, who stated publicly that he would pass the resolution when asked (by me) at a debate prior to the November elections, denied EBCP’s request! It was a moment I won’t forget anytime soon, because it was then when I realized that many local leaders know and/or care very little about the larger issues. They confine themselves solely to the world of local politics, no matter how much regional and national politics shape the crises we face.

For example, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is allowing Bristol-Warren schools to be boxed in by the state, which is cutting aid to the district by more than $8 million over the next ten years. Rather than fully funding the school department’s request of $2.9 million to simply maintain the same services it currently provides — and giving all the stakeholders (i.e. students, parents, teachers, adminstrators, and concerned citizens) a full year to organize and direct their angst at the people most responsible for this mess (i.e. state and federal officials) — the JFC is forking over only a little more than half of the amount.

The decision is a disastrous mistake for a committee that scolded members of the public for being too “adversarial”. Just wait until the administration is forced to start cutting things like foreign languages, art, music, and sports. Then we’ll see some adversity! But the inevitable in-fighting will take the real antagonists off the hook. While communities bicker over what to slash from already tight budgets, the ones who put them in such unworkable positions are hailed as rock stars. If only there were local leaders who refused to let others place them in a box and dared to think outside of it. Well, we may not find them in “America’s Most Patriotic Town”, but they’re out there:

Hartford, CT City Council Votes to Bring Our War Dollars Home Now!

City Council Urges Hartford residents to Attend April 9 Antiwar March in NYC
Unbridled war spending by the federal government and President Obama has drained resources from our communities to keep the wheels of the war machine grinding on. This has also translated into attacks on education and unions, especially in the public sector, as states scramble to make up for budget shortfalls.

Recognizing that the majority of Americans are against the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, 17 groups and individuals with a focus on peace and justice joined together to bring forward a resolution to the city council of Hartford, CT. It said, Bring Our War Dollars Home Now! Money for Education, Jobs, Housing and Healthcare!

On Monday, March 28th the city council of Hartford voted in favor of the resolution. The resolution goes on to urge residents to join thousands on April 9, 2011 for a national march in New York City that says Bring our troops home now, No to War, Cutbacks, Racism, Attacks on Muslims and Immigrants. For info go to UNACPeace.org

With this historic vote Hartford is the first state capitol to pass such a resolution and joins city councils in Portland, Maine and Northampton, MA in saying not another penny for wars and occupations.

Below you can read the resolution:

A resolution of the city council of Hartford, CT calling upon the US government and President Obama to Bring Our War Dollars Home Now

Whereas, the economic collapse has exhausted the financial resources at the local, county, state and federal levels of the US; and

Whereas, the US government since 2001 has spent well over 1 trillion dollars nationally on the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Connecticut nearly 28 billion dollars has gone to war spending and more than $453 million has been taken from the city of Hartford to fund the wars and occupations, and

Whereas, more than 5,700 US troops have been killed, more than 40,000 wounded; and

Whereas, hundred’s of thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded and the ongoing warfare poses great and unnecessary harm to the nation of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and elsewhere in the world; and

Whereas, billions of tax payer’s money is spent to prop up repressive regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world; and

Whereas,
educational services, medical care, housing, other essential public services, infrastructure repair, and family financing throughout Connecticut, especially in cities such as Hartford, have been diverted from a constructive economy to these wars and occupations, and

Whereas,
budget deficits, largely due to war spending, have been used as a pretext to force concessions from public sector unions from California to Wisconsin to Connecticut; and

Whereas, 2010 census data shows that Hartford has the highest poverty rating in Connecticut at 31.9% (nationally, the poverty rating is 14.3%) and

Whereas,
communities of color in Hartford have been hardest hit. Our city has a population that is 41% Latino and 38% African American/West Indian population. Unemployment for people of color is over 40%, and unemployment for people of color is nearly 20% and when employed, people of color make only 60 cents for every dollar made by white workers; and

Whereas, the above mentioned communities are heavily targeted for military recruitment,

Be it resolved that the city council of Hartford call upon the US government and President Obama to end the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our war dollars home now.

Now be it further resolved, that the city council of Hartford support informational events regarding the cost of the wars and occupations to our community; and

Be it further resolved that the city council of Hartford support the right of public sector unions and all other unions to collectively bargain and defend the interests of their members; and

Be it further resolved, that the city council of Hartford urge residents to participate in the April 9, 2011 national march in New York City to end the wars and occupations and bring our war dollars home.

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If Kids Could Vote

March 30, 2011

The following poem was inspired by the many students who spoke out at last night’s Joint Finance Committee meeting. May their optimism and open-mindedness carry on with them into adulthood… and reemerge in others who have lost those qualities.

If kids could vote, they would not be ignored.

If kids could vote, there would be an end to war.

If kids could vote, no schools would need to close.

If kids could vote, all would be fed, sheltered and clothed.

If kids could vote, we would live in a better place.

If kids could vote, our future would be safe.