LB Council Avoids Civic War Over Requested Report On Iraq War's Potential Negative Impacts Locally:
City Management Offers Verbal Report, Council Votes 9-0 To Receive And File
Stream of Public Speakers Blasts U.S. Policy; No Individual Or Group Speaks In Support
Councilwoman Kell: "I Don't Think That We Should Put Our Men And Women On The Line...Because George Bush Wants To Get Saddam."
City Management Delivers Verbal Report
(March 5, 2003) -- At its March 4 meeting, the LB City Council avoided a LB civic war over a U.S. war with Iraq...defusing a potentially explosive item by 1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal that had asked the City Manager to "investigate...the potential negative impacts to the City of Long Beach should the United States go to war."
Councilwoman Lowenthal accepted a verbal report on the spot (adding she'd like to receive additional figures later) and the Council then voted unanimously to "receive and file" (take no further action on now).
This didn't deter a stream of public speakers -- all opposed to U.S. military action in Iraq -- who used the Council podium to blast U.S. policy, President Bush and U.S. military action in Iraq.
And ELB Councilwoman Jackie Kell drew nearly a minute of sustained applause from the crowd when she concluded a lengthy statement by declaring, "I don't think that we should put our men and women on the line, their lives on the line, because George Bush wants to get Saddam."
We post transcript excerpts below.
In introducing her agenda item, Councilwoman Lowenthal said, "[W]hile tonight I don't expect a report back from the City Manager, I know it's going to take time to compile...I do feel it's a report that we need to have in the future, so we can better understand the impact of the budget," adding "It was not my intention this evening to sponsor a resolution in any way that was intended to be 'peace resolution.'"
Councilwoman Lowenthal moved to "request the City Manager to give a report."
Which he did (details below).
And delivering the report verbally opened the door to avoiding a high visibility Council fight over whether to seek such a report at all.
Acting City Manager Miller said the "two specific questions which are embedded in the request, I think, we could respond to tonight or in two weeks, it really is up to the Council as to your interest."
Mr. Miller then proceeded to present a report on the spot. He indicated City Hall had 45 Reservists who are employees; 23 work for LBPD [caveat, see Chief Batts statement below], 5 work for LBFD.
Mr. Miller indicated City Hall has received about $10.4 million for homeland security funding, comprised of roughly $4.3 million for the Port, $4.4 million for the Airport, $340,000 for the LBPD, over $200,000 for LBFD, and about $1.1 million for the LB Dept. of Health. Beyond that, requests are being made for additional homeland security funding to meet additional needs (total Port, Airport, LB Energy, LBFD, LBPD) totaling another $26 million.
LBPD Chief Batts later indicated that LBPD has 27 reservists when recruits are included...and 11 LBPD reservists have already been called to active duty. Chief Batts also said:
"The other issue that comes along with war is what is going to be the impact on the city the day that we declare war? We have about 70 critical facilities that are in the city and it becomes incumbent upon us to make sure that we have security of those facilities...I am secure that we would be able to respond...Currently we're in contact with Terrorism Early Warning Group which is running out of the Sheriff's Dept. and also the Joint Terrorism Task Force which is run by the FBI. I have a weekly, or if not a daily, update on information coming in..."
LBFD Chief Harbour indicated calling 5 LBFD reservists to active duty wouldn't have an impact on the Dept...and from a terrorist standpoint, LBFD would respond and is prepared.
A hearing city management's report, 9th district Councilman Val Lerch indicated he'd favor having the verbal report be the end of it. "Rather than bringing this back...I would just like to have it done tonight and be done with it," Lerch said.
That struck a responsive note with the Mayor...who promptly asked Councilwoman Lowenthal if a verbal management report, including one from LBPD Chief Batts and LBFD Chief Harbour would suffice.
"I trust that's all that we can get in terms of budget impact this evening, and if you find that there are other figures that you could put together for the public as well as the Council, I would appreciate your providing that later on," Councilwoman Lowenthal said. As if to underscore that would be it, the Mayor said (apparently to Lerch), "It won't come back unless there are additional figures..."
But that didn't prevent a stream of public speakers -- all opposed to U.S. military action in Iraq -- from blasting U.S. policy, President Bush and U.S. military action in Iraq.
No individual or group spoke in support of White House policy. If any Councilmembers supported the administration's actions, they held their tongues.
The crowd attending the Council meeting was so overwhelmingly supportive of Councilwoman Lowenthal's motion that Mayor Beverly O'Neill limited public comment to two minutes (instead of the usual three).
ELB Councilwoman Jackie Kell's Remarks
The audience cheered wildly after 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell delivered the following remarks strongly opposing U.S. military action in Iraq. Reading from what appeared to be a prepared statement or notes, Councilwoman Kell declared:
I just wanted to respond to all of you out there who made signs and came down here to display them. We're very much aware of your feelings and I wanted to address what you've done here.
We know that Saddam is a brutal dictator, and yet he hasn't as far as we know committed any actual crimes against the United States. And a war with Iraq would result in many U.S. casualties. Our own citizens who serve overseas in that war will come home in body bags. We'll have many dead and many wounded people.
And then if Saddam knows that it's the end for him he may try and take as many people as he can with him. Not only will we see our fellow countrymen die but we'll have many innocent citizens in Iraq who'll end up dead, wounded and permanently disabled.
We know that our allies, we are alienating our allies, who think...that this war would be a mistake. We don't know if [British] Prime Minister Tony Blair will survive politically if this war takes place.
Canada, Mexico are not happy. Germany, France, Turkey also oppose Bush's war.
United States citizens -- you, what you are doing here tonight -- are telling us, along with so many thousands of other people in the United States that this war is immoral...
...The United States has also not initiated a war. We are not a country that initiates war and it sets a dangerous precedent. Then, when after it's all said and done, we would not only spend more than $100 billion fighting this war, but we'd spend billions more trying to put Iraq back together, even if it's under a better form of government.
But I want you to know that I appreciate you expressing your views and I agree with you that we should do everything we can to settle this in a different way. There are many brutal dictators on this earth. Saddam is only one of 'em. But I don't think that we should put our men and women on the line, their lives on the line, because George Bush wants to get Saddam."
Kell's remarks drew nearly a minute of sustained applause.
The best one of the two Republicans on the Council, 8th district Councilman Rob Webb, could muster in response was that "Whatever side of the equation you have on this, my belief is, and I would suggest to everybody that we should pray hard for our Commander In Chief and our President of the United States, whether you're for war or against war..."
Webb's remark prompted audible audience displeasure.
The Council's other Republican, Vice Mayor Frank Colonna, said nothing at all...and no other Councilmembers spoke in support of current U.S. policy.
Several public speakers chided the Council for not passing a resolution opposing U.S. military action in Iraq (about 100 cities have done this, including L.A.).
Some excerpts of public testimony
Allison Shaw: "Education is our hope for the future. It is now held hostage by distorted priorities. We are never told there is not enough money to bomb people, yet as a part time instructor I am always being told there is not enough money for scholarships, support and supplies. [applause]...At Long Beach City College, student reservists are called up and must reluctantly withdraw from their classes. Isn't it our job as citizens of a democracy to support troops by making sure that their dreams and their lives are not sacrificed for an immoral and illegal war?...
Gabrielle Weeks [sp]: I wanted to quote [CIA Director] George Tenant...He said that by starting a war with Iraq, that's the most likely way to make us targets for a terrorist attack...
Latrice Dixon: Bush is about to drag America into an unjust war and the city of Long Beach right along with it...I charge the City Council to wage a war on poverty...I charge the City Council to wage a war against hunger...AIDS and HIV...the failing educational system, and yes, we must also wage a war against police terror and brutality in our communities...
Dan Breznof [sp]: [Saddam Hussein] is absolutely no threat to anyone with the United Nations inspectors on the ground there. We need a leader who understands that diplomacy is based on reconciliation, cooperation and good faith negotiation, not bribery and bullying...
John Freese [sp]: I'm speaking to you tonight of the LB Chapter of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club national has passed a resolution against a unilateral American war against Iraq for environmental reasons and for moral reasons. The effect of a war in Iraq will be terrible on the environment, not only in the middle east where there will be fires and damages from the war...but because of that, every effort should be made to avoid a war that is not necessary. This war is not necessary. This war is occurring because of the oil in the middle east...
The Mayor then asked Councilwoman Lowenthal for her motion (although Lowenthal had already moved to "request the City Manager to give a report.") Councilwoman Lowenthal said, "I expect to get more of that information about the impact, particularly on the police department, if reservists are called up"...and moved to receive and file city management's report.
The Council voted 9-0 to receive and file city management's verbal report.