Evanston says ‘No’ to waging Iraqi war

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Evanston’s aldermen issued a nearly unified message to President George W. Bush on Monday night: Don’t invade Iraq.

“It’s our absolute obligation to send word to Washington to say how we feel,” said Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), who drafted the resolution to reflect many Evanston residents’ opposition to a pre-emptive strike against Iraq if weapons inspections reveal the nation violated United Nations agreements.

Evanston City Council voted 8-1 in support of the resolution. It joins more than 35 U.S. cities that have already passed similar measures, according to the Cities for Peace campaign, a project run by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The think tank is tracking dozens more resolutions pending in other cities including Chicago, where the city council is scheduled to vote on its own version Thursday night.

“We are joining our voices with national and international (voices),” Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) said.

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) voted against the resolution, saying the situation is too complex for simple judgments.

“We have what I consider to be a cherished civilization,” Moran said. “And not by our choice, but by the choice of others, that civilization is under attack.”

He said he is especially concerned with the welfare of U.S. troops currently stationed in the Middle East and asked the council to support them.

Rainey clarified her position: “(The resolution) does not reflect a lack of support for people in the army,” she said.

She added that she was impressed by Moran’s “very moving” speech. Moran spoke for more than his allotted five minutes with the approval of other aldermen.

Rainey said she is concerned a war would “decimate” city, state and federal budgets. She spoke with the Community Development Association, she said, and it “advised me to be very wary of what will happen.”

Several members of Neighbors for Peace, a local activist organization, spoke during the meeting’s citizen comment portion.

“Let’s not take a lot of time for this, let’s just pass it,” member Chris Granner urged aldermen.

The potential unionization of the city’s non-union employees also was discussed at the meeting, with about 10 employees and residents speaking during the meeting’s citizen comment portion.

City Manager Roger Crum delivered a report to aldermen about the unionization efforts of nearly 300 city employees, which was first announced at the Dec. 16 council meeting.

Crum met Friday with representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is trying unionize about 300 of the city’s remaining non-union employees.

Although AFSCME asked the council to voluntarily recognize the new union, Crum said the aldermen were not ready to do that yet. The employees should “have the right to vote” for the creation of the union, he said.

Nonetheless, Crum said he hopes some employees would be well served by AFSCME representation. The union is currently negotiating a new contract with the city for another group of employees it already represents.

“We believe there is value in the union,” Crum said.

Ray Summers, president of AFSCME Local 1891, urged the council to discuss fair wages, job security and respect in the workplace.

But Sunshine Voelker, the recreation program manager at the Chandler Newburger Center, said the unionizing effort has not gained support from a majority of the affected employees.

Voelker, who said she had been misled by union organizers, urged the aldermen not to voluntarily recognize the new union.

“If the union is passed, the city is a closed shop,” she said.

In other business, the council voted 8-1 to approve an ordinance that requires children under 18 to wear helmets while riding their bicycles.

“We have enough young organ donors,” Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said.

The ordinance allows police officers to give children tickets that carry fines between $10 and $750 — and would require a court appearance in the afternoon during school hours, prompting Ald. Stephen Engelman (7th) to vote against it.