There was no burgeoning grassroots anti-war movement in Los Angeles a year ago. But now, in this spread-out, segregated, traffic-bogged, indifferent metropolis, enough people have signed petitions and gathered with signs at street corners to get the City Council paying attention: Resolutions on a war in Iraq are now before the council.
But it remains to be seen whether the movement has enough pull to get a resolution passed.
A council committee will hold a public hearing on two Iraq resolutions at a specially called committee meeting on Thursday, February 13. The one favored by activists is the more unequivocal anti-war statement presented by Councilman Eric Garcetti and co-sponsored by Councilwoman Ruth Galanter. Councilman Tom LaBonge offered an alternative, which asks the federal government to exhaust diplomatic options before resorting to war. Either resolution could go to the full council for a vote as early as next week. Activists have already claimed a victory in Santa Monica, which passed an anti-war resolution this week.
The Garcetti motion has seven of the eight votes it needs to make L.A. the nation’s largest city to adopt an anti-war resolution. But interviews with council members underscored that getting to eight will be tough. One of the swing votes was thought to be Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, but a spokesman characterized her as a virtual “no.”
“Wendy is not going to support the motion,” Matt Szabo told the Weekly. “She feels that the City Council has too many challenges at the local level to be spending valuable time and resources debating issues well beyond its jurisdiction.” Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents the liberal Westside, expressed similar reservations. The best hope for vote number eight may rest with City Council President Alex Padilla.
Garcetti insisted that the matter of war very much matters to Los Angeles: “This squarely affects my job as a council member. War would bring economic consequences to this city. War means city workers would have to go abroad and fight. War means federal dollars going abroad when we need them in the city. There is a clear connection between my daily life and the cost of an overseas war.”
Councilman Nate Holden concurred, noting that local governments have often been way ahead of the feds, as when cities adopted policies to oppose the former apartheid regime in South Africa. In the case of Iraq: “We have men and women serving in the military, and their lives are in harm’s way. The decision to send them there has not been justified to date. People in my district are scared to death of the war.” Holden is not impressed with the LaBonge alternative, should it be advanced as a compromise: “LaBonge’s motion is milquetoast.”