Anti-war advocates seek council action

Rakes to introduce resolution declaring opposition to war in Iraq

February 12, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

A group of peace activists hopes that the Howard County Council can be persuaded to become the first suburban county government in Maryland to pass a resolution opposing a possible war with Iraq.

But the activists face a challenge in their effort to move the Howard council to weigh in on an international issue. Although one councilman has agreed to sponsor the resolution, at least two others believe it would be inappropriate, as have politicians in other jurisdictions.

Three social action and church groups, Patapsco Friends Meeting, Howard County Friends of Latin America and the Howard County Green Party, agreed at a meeting last week with residents to form an anti-war group called the Howard County Coalition Against War.

The coalition is lobbying council members to pass a resolution opposing the war. The proposed resolution was drafted by Sherri Morgan, a former clerk at the Patapsco Friends Meeting.

Councilman David A. Rakes, a east Columbia Democrat, plans to introduce the resolution Tuesday.

"It's the right thing to do. It's the least thing I can do," he said. The cost of a potential war "will make less money available on federal and state levels and will affect our ability to balance our budget."

However, Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western Howard Republican, said yesterday that he would not be in favor of such a resolution.

"I support the president, and I will support whatever decision he makes," he said. "I just think that as a county councilman, I certainly don't have the information to make those decisions."

Councilman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, said he agreed to write a letter to President Bush favoring continued inspections after meeting with members of the Coalition Against War.

But Ulman said he did not think the council should vote on an international issue. "I'm not sure that the County Council is the right forum for taking up those issues," he said.

As part of its campaign, the coalition is using estimates of the economic and social costs to Howard County of a war in Iraq that were prepared by the National Priorities Project, a liberal Massachusetts public policy research group.

The figures were developed for use by Cities for Peace Project, an anti-war effort of the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal Washington think tank.

A $100 billion war in Iraq could cost Howard County taxpayers an estimated $112.4 million, according to a National Priorities Project Web site.

As many as 75 small towns and cities in 27 states have signed an array of resolutions opposing military action in Iraq, according to Cities for Peace. State legislatures in Maine and Hawaii have passed resolutions as well, they say.

In December, the Baltimore City Council passed its own, reaffirming the United Nations' charter and opposing threatened military action against Iraq by the United States.

Morgan, 39, a Scaggsville lawyer and social worker, began drafting a proposed resolution in December. Morgan used the Internet to research what other communities had successfully passed.

"As a national phenomenon, I think it [the resolution effort] sends a very strong signal to our decision-makers," Morgan said.

The resolutions present "a formal and informal opportunity for there to be civic dialogue on this topic," she said. "It encourages people who maybe have been somewhat cowed by a lot of the rhetoric that attacks people's patriotism if they disagree" with making war on Iraq.

But many local politicians believe local governments should not be debating such issues.

"When there is resistance, it's not at the level of disagreeing with the problem but saying this is not a local issue," said Karen Dolan, a Cities for Peace project coordinator.

"The morality of this doesn't have state boundaries. It's very difficult in this global society ... to say that any of these issues aren't local," Dolan said.

The Institute for Policy Studies is to deliver 30 of the resolutions from around the nation to the White House tomorrow.

The coalition has planned a community meeting from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 2 at Owen Brown Interfaith Center to discuss possible effects of a war with Iraq on Howard County. Del. Elizabeth Bobo is to speak.

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