UPDATE! Durham County has already had great success with its flagship Cost of War campaign in the City of Durham. Due to this Durham Town Hall Meeting, in the Fall of 2011:
- The Durham City Council called upon the president and Congress “to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy and reduce the federal debt.” (Read full resolution here.)
- The Durham County Commissioners called “upon the United States Government and President Barack Obama to responsibly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our war dollars home”. (Read full resolution here.)
- The Durham Board of Education called “upon the US government and President Obama to end the wars and military presence in Afghanistan and other areas of the world that have not attacked the US and reinvest those dollars in the future of our children.” (Read full resolution here.)
- 20 members of the NC General Assembly sent a strong letter to our NC Congressional delegation calling for the need to “redirect tens of billions of dollars from excess military spending and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq toward meeting urgent domestic needs.” (Read full letter here.)
Report from Town Hall Meeting
One day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, nearly 100 Durham residents gathered to hear how NC’s 4th District elected officials would respond to the question: How will you carry our message to Capitol Hill to bring the war dollars home and fund our communities?
US Congressional Representative David Price congratulated the organizers for building a coalition and acknowledged that war and military spending are out of proportion. He warned, however, that his opponents in Congress intend to dismantle the New Deal and Great Society programs, regardless of military spending levels. “We have our work cut out for us,” he said.
Congressman Price was responding in part to remarks from NC Peace Action Director, Betsy Crites, that deficit hawks are ignoring warnings from economists against cutting deficits during a recession and instead are directing their scalpels at the very programs that would save jobs and strengthen our economic security. The so-called Super Committee of 12, charged with cutting $1.3 trillion, needs to start with serious cuts in the military budget, which accounts for 58% of discretionary spending, and the extravagant waste on wars of choice, before even considering cuts in domestic spending and the social safety net. She said wars and military spending must be on the table.
Eddie Davis, the former President of the NC Association of Educators said cuts in education will have serious consequences. To just stay even will require voters to approve a ¼ cent increase in sales tax. Rhonda Robinson told of repeated trips to the emergency room because she could not afford health insurance or the expensive medicines to prevent epileptic seizures. Nick Wood, a labor organizer, spoke about the worsening unemployment, now over 10%, as state government and corporations lay off more and more people. Starla Tanner astounded the audience with the affects of cuts to NC Central University since 9/11 amounting to 57 fewer faculty slots, 452 fewer courses, and 12,000 fewer seats. Gabriel Sanchez of El Centro Hispano, which serves 10,000 clients, spoke of how El Centro is laying off a quarter of their staff due to state budget cuts.
Local elected officials listened and responded supportively. Durham’s mayor, Bill Bell, said “you have no problem with me” and has since assigned a staff person to work on the resolution for the City Council. City Councilpersons Cora Cole McFadden and Eugene Brown also voiced support. Chair of the Durham County Board of Commissioners, Michael Page and Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Brenda Howerton all said they would support a resolution such as that proposed. State Assembly representative Paul Leubke summarized the message saying that pressure on state and local budgets is being caused by decisions at the federal level, and that excessive military spending is one of the key problems that has provoked the deficits that now affect us locally.
The Durham Town Hall Meeting was hosted by Durham People’s Alliance and NC Peace Action.