WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — Leaders from some of the 90 city councils that have adopted resolutions opposing military action against Iraq warned today that the costs of war would devastate already crippled municipal budgets and deprive citizens of crucial services.
Carrying blue-and-white placards with the outline of a dove, representatives cities including Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore and Santa Fe, N.M., met here to urge President Bush to heed citizens' concerns about war, and to call on Congress to oppose any pre-emptive military strikes.
"The war will be financed by deficit spending and drastic cuts in domestic spending," said Joe Moore, a Chicago councilman.
"In either case," Mr. Moore said, "my neighborhood and neighborhoods throughout the nation will suffer the consequences of a sagging economy and even more cuts in federally funded projects and programs."
Chicago's resolution, adopted on Jan. 16, passed by a 46-to-1 vote. "Chicago is not San Francisco or Berkeley or Madison, Wisconsin, which are well known as liberal," Mr. Moore said. "That Chicago would join in underscores the depth and breadth of the opposition across the country."
The antiwar effort, called Cities for Peace, is being organized by the Institute for Policy Studies, a political action group in Washington. The project director, Karen Dolan, said, "Over 100 additional city council campaigns are under way throughout the nation, and we learn of more every single day."
Most of the campaigners came here today from states that President Bush did not carry in 2000.
"This is a movement," said Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, who spoke to the group. "These are not fringe groups or leftovers from Vietnam. This is cutting through the heartland of America."
Mr. Conyers told the group he would file a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Boston to block President Bush from starting an invasion of Iraq. Mr. Conyers, joined by five other members of Congress and a group of American soldiers and their parents, maintain in the suit, which was filed this afternoon, that the Constitution gives only Congress the power to declare war.
"Get it?" Mr. Conyers said to the campaigners. "Only Congress."
A decade ago, members of the House and Senate filed a lawsuit against President Bush's father to avert the Persian Gulf war, but they were rebuffed by a federal judge.
The municipal peace advocates said the council resolutions reflected nationwide antiwar sentiment.
"It's a neighborhood-based resistance," said Nick Licata of Seattle. "We have 1,000 people with antiwar signs on the street, and 50 different community groups organized against war."
A councilman from Ohio, Jay Westbrook, said, "We're patriotic in Cleveland," as he huddled with the windblown group that gathered at the White House gate to deliver a packet of resolutions to President Bush. "But we see cities being put at greater risk, with less money, and there's an underlying sense that it's for the sake of controlling oil in the Middle East."
Some cities have rejected antiwar resolutions on the grounds that local councils should not be making foreign policy. Organizers said antiwar efforts had failed in Portland, Ore.; Minneapolis; and Los Alamos, N.M.
But Mr. Moore of Chicago said, "Few decisions will have a more profound effect on the quality of life in our cities than the decision to go to war."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company