Council silent on war and peace
December 10, 2002
Although Aspen’s elected officials individually expressed anti-war sentiments, as a collective body, they remained on neutral ground Monday.
City Council members declined to take any action on a proposed resolution opposing U.S. war with Iraq. The resolution was brought forward by a previously seated council headed by former Mayor Bill Stirling.
All but one current council member voiced reluctance to take a stand on the international issue. Several pondered whether Aspen as a whole supports the resolution’s conclusion: “Now therefore be it resolved that we urge the President and members of Congress to use the power of this nation not to wage war with Iraq but to pursue a peaceful alternative.”
“Personally, I agree with you 100 percent, but I don’t think it’s clear we would represent the city of Aspen by going forward with this,” Councilman Tim Semrau said.
“I can’t tell you the number of phone calls and e-mails I’ve gotten, not on [the resolution’s] merits, but, ‘Why are you taking a position?'” added Councilman Tony Hershey. “I don’t think it’s a role of the City Council.
“I don’t feel comfortable taking a position on this issue.”
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Councilman Tom McCabe urged citizens to contact their congressional representatives to make their thoughts on the topic known.
Only Councilman Terry Paulson was willing to take action on the resolution. The council’s collective opinion carries more weight than do the views of its individual members or citizens, he reasoned.
Paulson also noted the possible economic repercussions of a war.
“We have an economic responsibility to this community, and war, for a resort community, is disastrous,” he said.
The economy is not the only potential local victim, said Frank Peters, a member of the 1989 council which proposed the resolution. It also included Michael Gassman, Steve Crockett and Bill Tuite, along with Stirling.
“The local resource that we may be giving up to this issue or issues like it is our children,” Peters said. “I feel the worst thing I can do is to say nothing.”
“Because Aspen is so well known, ours is a shot that will be heard around the world in a way that other communities are not,” added Stirling, noting the city’s past history of taking stands on national matters.
“You should stand up and be heard and carry the word for us,” Crockett said. “I urge you to take a stand, please.”
Mayor Helen Klanderud voiced her personal support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Iraq, but she, too, was reluctant to speak for all of Aspen.
“Well, evidently the rest of the world won’t get to know your thoughts about peace, and I regret that,” Stirling said. “I worry we’re not speaking out enough and our voices are not being heard as they could be.”
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]