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Binghamton, NY Mayor Reconsiders Cost-of-War Counter

Kai Liu

Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan announced Tuesday that he would
reevaluate his decision to install a digital sign on Binghamton City
Hall that would display the cost of American wars.

The decision
to reconsider the installation of the "Cost of War Counter" came after
criticism that the sign would be a slight to military service members.

electronic sign, which was planned to display the millions of taxpayer
dollars that Broome County residents pay to fund the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, is part of the Broome County Cost of War Project, an
awareness campaign to encourage community dialogue about the financial
costs of war on local residents.

Unveiled April 14, the sign was
set to hang on the side of City Hall overlooking State Street, across
from the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. In total, Broome County
residents raised about $6,000 in donations to fund the counter. No tax
dollars were used to pay for the sign.

Susan McAnanama, the Cost
of War project coordinator, said she initiated the project to address
the "invisible topic" of how much the government spends on war.

you are pro-war or anti-war, this will at least do something to have
both sides heard," McAnanama said before Ryan's Tuesday announcement.

Paul, a Vietnam Veteran living in Johnson City who requested that his
full name not be disclosed for privacy reasons, said he thought Ryan
could have concentrated more on local politics within Broome County -
gangs, infrastructure and student safety - rather than on federal


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"He needs to fix problems [that] he is responsible for," Paul said.

supported the Cost of War Counter as a way for mayors to fulfill their
responsibilities to preserve city infrastructure. Ryan joins mayors
Richard Daley of Chicago and Thomas Menino of Boston among a growing
number of political leaders against the amount of military spending.

are all making the connection that it is now impossible to provide the
essential services that our citizens expect and deserve if we continue
to spend so many dollars on one part of government - our military,"
Ryan announced during the public unveiling of the sign at City Hall.

counter would have displayed weekly financial statistics provided by
the National Priorities Project (NPP), a research organization that
analyzes and clarifies federal data to examine how tax dollars are

A study by NPP reported that an average family in New
York paid $5,024 in federal income taxes in 2008, of which $1,477 were
directed to the military. The study also stated that Binghamton
taxpayers have contributed over $138.6 million to the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars since 2001.

The War Resisters League, a secular
pacifist organization for nonviolent revolutions, estimates that the
2009 federal fiscal budget dedicated $954 billion, or 36 percent of
income taxes, toward current military funding out of a total of $2,650
billion available federal funds.

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