Publication Date: Friday, March 21, 2003
Council averts war stance
Council averts war stance
(March 21, 2003)
by Candice Shih
One night after President Bush issued a 48-hour ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, the Mountain View City Council decided not to take a position on the looming war.
Although about 60 people, mostly from the antiwar group Mountain View Voices for Peace, and Council member Matt Neely supported an anti-war resolution, the remaining council members present agreed that they should issue no opinion on Iraqi military action. Council member Mary Lou Zoglin was not present.
Council member Greg Perry initiated the discussion. "It was my hope to not let this mutely go by," he said.
Nonetheless, Perry concurred that he did not have the information needed to take a position on the war. He said that most of the people who voted for him in the recent election would want him to take a position, but he had to think for himself.
Council member Rosemary Stasek agreed that she didn't have enough information. Appearing on the verge of tears, she tried to assure the audience at the council meeting that she did care about the situation and wants to visit Iraq, as she did Afghanistan.
Mayor Mike Kasperzak, Vice Mayor Matt Pear, and Council member Nick Galiotto also declined to take a position on the war, although Galiotto firmly expressed his anti-war sentiments.
For Neely and the antiwar demonstrators who attended the meeting, the council's decision was a mild letdown.
"For me, it's a bigger story that all these people came," said MVVP chair Lenny Siegel. Like others in the group, he was not expecting a favorable outcome from the meeting, but considered the participation from the community a success.
"It was a public discussion of a public issue and we need that," said Tian Harter. "A lot of the political system is a lot about political theater."
Pat Shields, who helped organize the Mountain View peace rally in January, was nonetheless disappointed with the result and said it was the council's responsibility to lead the community on the issue.
Recognizing that the possibility of the council responding to the war was gone, Neely said he will likely increase his antiwar effort by walking and attending vigils.
Voices for Peace members comprised many, but not all, of the people who spoke during the time made available for public comments. The newly resurrected group, which has recently held well-attended vigils in Mountain View, wore signs including "not bombs," "jobs," "housing," "day care," and "books." They were intended to show what government money can be used for other than bombs.
But during the meeting a local couple pressed the council to support its citizens in the armed services. And Sue Graham, a former Mountain View-Los Altos High School trustee, was the sole voice asking the council not to take a position.
Although she is against the war, she spoke out when she realized only one side was being heard. Graham argued that council members can react to the war as private citizens but should not take a position as a body, which would be divisive and alienate Mountain View residents who do support the war effort.
"We don't need that. We've got a budget crisis," she said.
E-mail Candice Shih at firstname.lastname@example.org