Maine Anti-War Campaign Nabs Resolution Victory in State's Largest City

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Portland Daily Sun (Maine)

Maine Anti-War Campaign Nabs Resolution Victory in State's Largest City

by
Casey Conley

City councilors have approved a resolution calling on Maine's U.S.
Congressional delegation to oppose new funding for military campaigns
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Unlike similar measures
which have come before cities and towns in other part of the country,
the resolution approved 7-1 Monday night didn't question war rationale
or the justness of the campaigns themselves. Instead, the resolution
argues that we no longer afford the wars given the fragile economy and
deep budget cuts seen in communities across the state and the nation.

The
nonbinding resolution was sponsored by Councilors John Anton, Dan
Skolnik and Dory Waxman. Councilor John Coyne was the only councilor to
oppose the measure.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who works for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, was not present for the vote.

In
an interview Tuesday, Skolnik said he hoped the measure would increase
consciousness "among four or five extremely influential people. And
they are (Maine's Second District Congressman Mike) Michaud, Pingree,
Snowe, Collins and (President Barack) Obama."

He said the
measure also tries to demonstrate "the fact that cities and towns like
ours are really hurting and the fact that the military industrial
complex isn't."

Although Skolnik revised and edited the
resolution down to its current form, a rough draft was written by Gary
Higginbottom, a 60-year-old consultant who lives in the West End.
Higginbottom, who isn't paid by any campaign or political cause, says
the resolution came about "from frustration on the part of Maine people
whose money is going into warfare at a time when we can't afford to pay
for our schools."

Based on his calculations, Portland's share
of war expenses come to $15 million a year. Higginbottom arrives at
those figures by dividing the total cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars by
Portland's total population.

These wars are "not paid for by
some sugar daddy that has no impact on us. The cost of this is the cost
we bear in taxation we pay now or indebtedness because we are paying
for the wars essentially ... on the government's credit card," he said.

Through
the Web site BringOurWarDollarsHome.org, Higginbottom and about 60
others are trying to get other Maine cities and towns to take a
position on the issue. He says residents from Deer Isle approved a
similar resolution at their town meeting this year and that councilors
in Brunswick and Bath may also vote on the resolution.

Although
the resolution is nonbinding -- which means it doesn't compel Pingree,
Snowe or Collins to vote one way or another -- Higginbottom and others
say they are hoping to highlight the war's costs at a time when city
and state budgets across Maine are stretched thin.

"We are
faced with major issues on how to pay for our school system,
infrastructure and police, and yet $15 million going right down drain
out of the economy," he said.

Although he hadn't heard about
the resolution until asked about it by a reporter, Willy Ritch, a
spokesman for Chellie Pingree, said the Congresswoman already opposes
additional war funding.

"Congress is likely to consider
additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the next few
months and Congresswoman Pingree has urged Congressional leaders to
allow an up or down vote on that funding," he said. "If given the
opportunity to vote on such a bill she would vote against further
funding."

Attempts to reach spokespersons for Sens. Snowe and Collins were unsuccessful after hours Tuesday evening.

Emails sent to Councilors Anton and Waxman seeking comment on the resolution weren't returned my press time.

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