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City’s anti-war resolution snags on point of law

City’s anti-war resolution snags on point of law

Apr. 09, 2003
By Ken McLaughlin
Mercury News

Making foreign policy can get messy, the Santa Cruz City Council found out this week.
The council was all set Tuesday to adopt a resolution calling for the United States and its coalition partners to pull their troops out of Iraq, but it got entangled in state legislation, the Brown Act, California’s open-meeting law.
Council members held a three-hour town meeting Monday night at the Civic Auditorium at which dozens of speakers accused President Bush of behaving like a “monster,” among other things. No one spoke in favor of the war.
Louis La Fortune of the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition called for the creation of a countywide “weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone.” He announced that activists plan to conduct a “weapons inspection” Friday at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Bonny Doon.
Despite the anti-war fervor, however, the four council members who attended Monday’s town meeting on the war decided not to pass any resolution until Tuesday afternoon so that all seven council members could vote.
Before the meeting, however, City Attorney John Barisone advised the city clerk’s office that the council “didn’t post a notice of continuance within 24 hours” at City Hall.
Before getting the news, Vice Mayor Scott Kennedy wrote his own resolution. Like one drafted earlier, mostly by Councilman Ed Porter, Kennedy’s resolution called for a troop pullout. But Kennedy added a demand for a cease-fire in Iraq enforced by the United Nations. He also called on Congress to determine whether Bush “has committed impeachable offenses by launching an illegal and immoral war.”
Obviously disappointed that it couldn’t take any action Tuesday, the council, the first in the country to oppose the war last fall, eventually decided to postpone the action for two weeks. But it also decided against reopening the issue to more public debate.
Councilman Mike Rotkin, a self-styled socialist-feminist, said he has always been in favor of passing resolutions on national and international issues the community felt strongly about.
“But we have some pressing local municipal issues to deal with,” he said.
In any case, peace protesters plan to search for weapons of mass destruction at Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space.
A spokesman for the company indicated Tuesday that they won’t find any.
“The Santa Cruz facility builds component subsystems and tests systems for the U.S. military,” said Buddy Nelson. “There are absolutely no weapon systems on site at Santa Cruz.”
Nelson said the company respects “these individuals’ rights of free speech and would expect these individuals to respect our employees and property.”
Contact Ken McLaughlin at kmclaughlin (at) or (831) 423-3115

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Council Kills Meaningful Anti-War Vote by Delay

Council's delay on this issue was a bad idea and had questionable legal basis. It seemed ultimately a political decision to please Councilmember Kennedy.

Councilmember Porter (and to a lesser extent Mayor Reilly) to their credit, were trying to push for a quick resolution on April 7th, the night of the Town Hall meeting.

Kennedy effectively blocked this, saying he wanted it to be unanimous with the entire Council there (Rotkin, Matthews, and Primack were absent). He wanted to push the resolution off for two weeks (to present his own more comprehensive resolution, it seems). He kept resisting the idea of a vote the next day at the regular City Council meeting, saying there wouldn't be enough time for the other Council member to see the tape. Finally Porter, Reilly, and Fitzmaurice voted to continue the matter until the next day.

On Tuesday April 8th, Reilly unilaterally announced that they wouldn't be discussing the resolution, though it was on the agenda. The Council then proceeded to spend 45 minutes talking about how and when to talk about it.

Porter continued to urge it be done in two days. Kennedy, going out of town for 10 days and with his own modified resolution in hand, wanted it postponed for two weeks. Reilly suggested they pass both resolutions--since time was an important consideration.

Rotkin's major concern was that there be no new public input (of course). He pressed this point repeatedly--in line with his usual desire to give maximum public time to endless Council verbiage but shut down the public as soon as possible.

In so doing, he interrupted pro-Bush speaker and City Council candidate David Essalius, who was asking that there be full information afforded the community well before the session, so there could be meaningful discussion and a clear understanding of what was happening.

Rotkin's successful move, however, was to eliminate any public comment at a future Council session, even though very little of the public discussion on April 7th at the town Hall meeting concerned the Porter resolution (and none of it dealt with the Kennedy resolution)

Reilly swung over the "wait two weeks" side since it seemed that a special Council meeting in two days would only have 4 members--a quorum, but not enough for Kennedy's "unanimous consensus".

As with her postponing the Town Hall meeting from March 19th to April 7th--when she could muster less than 150 people there--this was another "death by delay" decision.

Moreover, it seemed to have been unnecessary and orchestrated behind the scenes.

Activist Becky Johnson pointed out that an emergency or "urgency" action can be taken with an urgency finding and a vote of 5 members of the Council without any prior agenda-izing. On Tuesday April 8, there were 7 Councilmembers there, 6 of whom presumably supported a strong resolution.

I called Reilly, Porter, and City Attorney John Barisone but received no response to my inquiry as to whether my legal reading of the situation was correct--that is, whether they could have used this urgency process.

I suggest that Kennedy's desire for unanimity or for his own resolution and Reilly's desire to "go along" has resulted (again) in no action being taken on a matter of critical importance to many of us.

Porter also rolled over for this "death by delay" approach. As with alternate sites for Camp Paradise, meaningful modification of the Sleeping Ban, the Downtown Ordinances rush to ratify police selective enforcement, the killing of the Citizens Police Review Board, and the most recent "homeless begone" city-wide permit parking--Porter comes out with fine-sounding rhetoric but votes for repressive laws.


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