LOS ANGELES MAY TAKE STAND ON IRAQ WAR - OR MAY NOT
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12, 2002 -- The City of Los Angeles on Thursday may become the largest municipality in the nation to take a formal position on a possible war with Iraq - and the issue has already sharply divided normally like-minded members of its City Council.
Two competing resolutions are scheduled to be heard at a meeting of the council's Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations committee tomorrow morning, and could be forwarded to the 14-member City Council for a vote on Friday.
Both resolutions state they oppose a war with Iraq on humanitarian grounds, but the stronger of the two rejects any unilateral attack by the United States on the regime of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, while the other urges diplomacy first and war only as a last resort.
The first, crafted by Hollywood-area Councilman Eric Garcetti, weighs in on the human and financial cost of the war - estimated at $9 billion to $13 billion dollars per month - and worries aloud about the possibility of a possible preemptive nuclear strike by the United States, an option Presdent Gerge Bush says he will hold open if Iraq attacks with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons it is believed to possess.
"The 'first strike' use of nuclear weapons in such a war, as proposed by members of the [Bush] Administration, would create instability and a precedent for destructiveness that has thus far remained outside of the realm of possibility," the Garcetti resolution states.
The other, introduced by Hollywood Hills representative Tom LaBonge and Mayor James Hahn's sister, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, is backed by the council's lone Arab-American, former police union head Dennis Zine of the conservative western San Fernando Valley, and downtown Los Angeles representative Jan Perry, one of just two black councilmembers. It expresses support for U.S. servicemen, notes that 271 LAPD officers and 326 other city employees are military reservists who may be called up, and urges the President to exhaust all diplomatic measures before going to war.
"We give our unconditional support to U.S. military personnel serving at home and abroad in their tireless battle against global terrorism," the LaBonge motion said.
LaBonge, a city official for 27 years before taking office in 2001, the son of a police officer and an active NFL cameraman famed for his intimate knowledge of city processes and his district, is one of seven brothers who have all been active in his campaigns. Both he and Garcetti live in Silver Lake, a liberal community east of Hollywood.
He tested Garcetti and won last year when Garcetti proposed painting the famed Hollywood sign red, white and blue in honor of the victims of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. LaBonge represents neighbors of the sign who swiftly oppose any special use of it. The resolutions, however, don't seem to be a reprise of that struggle, and at first glance, the two would also seem to have switched political sides.
In an early test of the stronger antiwar resolution, Garcetti - a young, brainy, movie-star handsome former college professor and son of a former two-time Los Angeles District Attorney, now in his first term on the council - barely prevailed, winning six votes to get it referred to the rules committee. A seventh councilman, Nick Pacheco, has also indicated his support, according to published reports.
But former Federal prosecutor Jack Weiss, whose council district includes most of the affluent and famously liberal West Los Angeles, said he would not support either resolution because they were not the proper business of the body.
"It's not the sort of work we should be doing," the Los Angeles Times reported him saying. That's two brave stands Weiss has taken in recent weeks - the other for a new policy adopted by the city's police commission that would end time-consuming responses to unverified burglar alarms, many of which originate in his district.
Weiss's position was echoed at a meeting of the interim board of the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council (HUNC) on Tuesday evening. In email messages, Hahn and LaBonge had urged Neighborhood Council leaders across the city to hurry up and take a stand if they wanted to do so.
"We do not control the timing of this matter and suggest that if you do wish to discuss the subject with your members, you do so soon," wrote Erik Sanjurjo, LaBonge's senior legislative deputy, in an email to several Hollywood-area Neighborhood Council leaders.
Hahn's director of communications, Courtney Chesla, sent out an email over Hahn's signature saying, "The City Council is currently reviewing 2 motions relative to the war in Iraq. Both of these motions are attached. Your neighborhood council may also want to weigh in on this action item."
At the meeting of the Hollywood neighborhood group, interim board chairman Joel Fisher, a political science professor, defended the messages as "informational," but at least one speaker said the attachment of a flyer urging NO WAR ON IRAQ was not a neutral statement.
Antiwar activist Russell Brown, who has organized many of the neighborhood council meetings here, said he included the flyer because council members "wanted us to pass it on." He is anything but neutral about the issue, though, he said later.
Most of those at the Hollywood board meeting indicated that they, too, oppose the war but didn't want to go on record without first consulting the larger community. The board finally agreed without a vote to let the matter rest.
At least 65 smaller cities across the nation have passed antiwar resolutions, but none are nearly as large as Los Angeles, whose 3.75 million residents are generally regarded as some of the most liberal voters in the nation.
In Hollywood, where support for a war with Iraq is hard to find, a major rally sponsored by the International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition plans a mass march and rally beginning at the world-famous intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Vine Street on Saturday morning. The A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition also has backing from the Coalition for World Peace, Interfaith Communities for Justice and Peace, and the well-known Not in Our Name Project.
A.N.S.W.E.R. is also urging student walk-outs at hundreds of high schools on Feb. 21 to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, according to the flyer, distributed in an agenda packet at the HUNC meeting at Hollywood's First Presbyterian Church.