Debate on Iraq is on city agenda


Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 11:18 p.m.
As U.S. officials argue over whether to attack Iraq, some Gainesville residents want the city to enter into the debate.
The Gainesville City Commission on Monday was asked to consider passing a resolution condemning a possible United States war against Iraq.
The commission voted 4-1 to discuss the resolution at its meeting on Feb. 10.
The resolution was written by the Gainesville Religious Society of Friends and is co-sponsored by the Community Coalition Against War and Terrorism, Emmanuel Mennonite Church, the Alachua County Green Party and Veterans for Peace.
"Gainesville is demographically probably the youngest community in the state of Florida. We have an awful lot of young people who would probably be going to fight this war," said Jean Chalmers, who asked the commission to consider adopting the resolution.
Chalmers, a former mayor-commissioner, said a war would lessen federal and state dollars making their way into city coffers. And losing students to the war effort would hurt sales at local businesses and take away young workers.
"It would really impact business by taking the youngest and the brightest away," she said.
Brenda Bayne said the Gainesville resolution is just one of dozens of similar campaigns across the country.
So far, about 50 cities, including Berkeley, Calif.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Chicago; and Santa Fe, N.M., have passed similar resolutions.
Ed Braddy, who voted against discussing the resolution in February, said it's not the city's business to give its opinion on international matters.
"Most of our citizens presume we're going to be trying to work on projects with our roads, land use, zoning, stuff like that," Braddy said.
"Instead, we want to get involved in geopolitical gamesmanship.
"I think our citizens deserve better." Some commissioners said just because they voted to put the resolution on the agenda next month doesn't mean they support it.
"There was a citizens' group out there that wished to express themselves," said Tony Domenech, who said he is "strongly against" the resolution.
"These sorts of things aid and comfort the enemy, and that's not what I'm about," he said.
Commissioner Warren Nielsen said he's hesitant about the United States entering a war with Iraq.
And he doesn't know if it's his responsibility to express his views on international affairs.
"I'm not sure yet if it's proper, if it's what the citizens of Gainesville would expect of their commissioners," he said.
Chalmers said it's appropriate for a city government to take on any matter that affects the city.
"I don't think any subject is out of bounds for local representatives," she said.
Other commissioners could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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