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Local Protest Links Afghan War, City Budget Cuts

by Melinda Tuhus

NEW HAVEN, CT - Four men stood in front of City Hall with signs calling for redirecting military spending to meet human needs at home. Why weren’t more people joining them?

Four men stood in front of City Hall with signs calling for redirecting military spending to meet human needs at home. Why weren’t more people joining them? (Photo: New Haven Independent) Not Cairo—and not Madison, Wisconsin, either, where tens of thousands of union members and their supporters have gathered at the state capitol over the past several days to oppose the new Republican governor’s efforts to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights.

But that didn’t mean the small, quiet protest in New Haven Friday didn’t garner local support. Its message: If the country didn’t spend so much money fighting wars abroad, it would have more to spend at home—and avoid the kind of police and school cutbacks facing cities like New Haven.

New Havener Deborah Taylor was passing City Hall with her toddler, Hunter, in tow. She said she “absolutely agrees” with the sentiments on the signs the protesters were holding. “More money is going to war and less to public education,” she said.

Taylor said she worries about the quality of education that will be available to “my little guy” in a few years. Plus, her husband is a teacher.

She said a second concern is the environment; the House Republican leadership in Congress is trying to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of ensuring clean air and clean water. “We need to go to clean energy, and I don’t mean ‘clean’ oil or ‘clean’ coal,” Taylor said. “If you don’t have your environment, you have nothing.”

The protesters point out that Mayor John DeStefano is calling for belt-tightening among city workers to bridge a $5.5 million gap in the current year’s budget and a projected $22 million gap in the next fiscal year’s.  Meanwhile, according to the National Priorities Project, New Haven taxpayers will pay $84 million for FY2011 in total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending—or $1,766 per household— which is “more than enough to cover the projected budget deficit,” Lowendorf said.

His group is calling for an end to the wars, bringing the troops home and funding local needs.

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