As first reported in the Mercury, Portland's city council has repeatedly disregarded an anti-war resolution that has been circulating through America's major cities. This resolution asks that, as our representatives, city council members express their disapproval for any unilateral military action by the Bush Administration in Iraq. Forty-three other cities around the country have already considered and adopted the statement. But on Wednesday, Portland's council took the surprising step of shutting down the groundswell of public support by killing the resolution.
What had once been an obscure city resolution in liberal enclaves like Berkeley and Madison, has become perhaps the most steady and recognized anti-war movement in America right now. Its Portland proponents have been lobbying city council since Thanksgiving, and until recently, council members have cold-shouldered the anti-war statement. However, support for the resolution had grown so large that city council was no longer able to ignore it, and two weeks ago, council member Erik Sten agreed to introduce it for a vote.
To most, approving the resolution had seemed like a foregone conclusion. It is largely a symbolic statement requiring no further action or obligation from the city. Plus, it has received more public backing than any recent resolution.
On Wednesday, about 150 residents packed City Hall chambers to urge city council to give the resolution an affirmative vote. This testimony came on the heels of a massive anti-war demonstration throughout downtown Portland, where an estimated 5000 demonstrators jotted down their positive thoughts on the resolution and mailed them to city council.
"The main difference between us and Iraq is that we are a democracy," stated an associate political science professor from Portland State University before the final vote. "You are our city council; you represent us."
Another woman gave a calm but impassioned speech, stopping a few times when she became too choked up. "I really look to you as our spokespersons," she said. "Nuremberg taught us that you do not remain quiet because it is feasible to do so."
Although only six people in attendance spoke against the resolution (as opposed to the 50 favoring it), city council deadlocked in a 2-2 vote, effectively killing the resolution. Council member Dan Saltzman was absent, leaving no chance for a tie-breaker vote. (Even before public input, Saltzman had told the Tribune that he would vote against the resolution.) Council member Jim Francesconi said he saw no point to the resolution, and new council member Randy Leonard refused to render a favorable vote because he "didn't have enough information."
Once a vanguard of liberal ideals, Portland now wears the badge as the only city council in the country to consider this resolution and deny it. In Oregon, both Eugene and Corvallis have already approved the anti-war statement.
Despite Francesconi's "no-vote" and Leonard's apparent inability to pick up a newspaper and inform himself on current political events, the resolution's grassroots movement has been seized by major media outlets as proof-positive that an anti-war sentiment is growing in America. National Public Radio has referred to the resolution several times while conducting interviews with opponents of the US involvement in Iraq. Three weeks ago, the New York Times ran a page one, column one story about the dozens of cities that had considered and passed the resolution. (For the benefit of Mr. Leonard, the New York Times is a daily newspaper that occasionally prints informative stories about the current political situation.)
In assessing the other council members' inability to hear the massive support for the resolution, Sten representative Marshall Runkel explained, "They're deaf, I think." He then added, "no offense to the hearing impaired."
In an apparent rebuff of the council's failure, on Thursday the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners introduced a similar anti-war resolution. Introduced by County Board member Serena Cruz, the resolution will be voted on this Thursday, January 30. The Mercury-endorsed Cruz lost the recent city council election to the Willamette Week-endorsed Leonard.