U.S. Conference of Mayors Adopts Resolutions Opposing Trump's Military Budget Increase

Posted July 12, 2017

MP3 Interview with Toni Harp, mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

mayors

At the close of its 85th Annual Meeting on June 26, the United States Conference of Mayors for the 12th consecutive year, adopted a strong resolution put forth by a coalition called Mayors for Peace, which called on President Trump to lower nuclear tensions, prioritize diplomacy, and redirect nuclear weapons spending to meet human needs and address environmental challenges, which was sponsored by Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa and 19 co-sponsors.

The Mayors Conference also unanimously passed two complimentary resolutions, one which opposed the Trump administration’s proposal to move $54 billion from human and environmental spending at home and abroad to military spending, sponsored by Mayor Svante L. Myrick of Ithaca, New York. The other resolution called on cities across the U.S. to hold public hearings to explore what they could do with funds, if major cuts were made to the nation’s military budget. The resolution also urged cities to pass motions locally demanding reductions in military spending, moving the money saved to fund cities and sending the resolution to members of Congress asking for their response. That resolution was submitted by New Haven, Connecticut Mayor Toni Harp, whose city passed such a resolution in February.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus visited Mayor Harp in her office recently, and spoke with her about the resolution she initiated as well as the differing responses to her call for reductions in military spending since the advent of the Trump presidency. [Rush transcript]

TONI HARP: It’s something the Mayors for Peace have done resolutions for years at U.S. Conference of Mayors, and our resolution was made a part of an overall resolution of that organization and supported by that organization. It went before the International Committee, which I am a member of. And in all honesty, this year, probably for the first time, there was push back. There were a number of people who didn’t want to vote on it, and after some discussion, it was voted upon.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And where did the pushback come from, or what was the rationale?

TONI HARP: Many of them felt it was an affront to the Trump administration.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And ... ?

TONI HARP: Well, clearly some of them were Trump supporters and they felt like it went a little bit too far, and so a number of us felt the opposite way and felt it was really important, especially when we look at some of the proposals in the budget that impact cities, that we have always argued in the U.S. conference that we get what we have always gotten from the federal government to support our cities, but beyond that, we actually try to push for more. And so this resolution that looks at our federal spending on our war apparatus and sort of moving into peacetime operation just made sense in light of an administration that actually wants to pour more dollars into our Armed Forces and our war apparatus. It’s going in the exact opposite way we thought we were going, I don’t know, two years ago.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Do you feel that resistance is growing to the Trump administration in ways that could be effective, or do you fear that, with the federal government re-establishing its priorities in a very different way, that you’re going to have a hard time in the future?

TONI HARP: Well, I think we’re in a very precarious place in America. You have in North Korea a very unstable leader, who now claims he can get a nuclear warhead to American lands, and we have a president who doesn’t seem to be at all concerned that the world really cannot have nor contemplate a nuclear war, and really uses language and tweets that I think endanger the American people. Having said that, and then decides he’s going to use the resources of the American people not for Medicaid, not for food programs – SNAP or food stamps, not for Meals on Wheels – not for Youth at Work, not for any of the labor programs, and is going to use it so it can play this game with the rest of the world that really leverages all of our lives, I’m very worried about it, and I think other mayors are too.

When you look at the cities in America, almost all the cities are blue, which means they care a lot about communities, people, and making sure they have the resources to care for people, but oftentimes they’re in red states, and the way in which our democracy has been designed with the Electoral College, makes a red state like Wyoming have more say – or an individual in that state – have more say than people in a blue state with more population have, and then the few get to decide where the many go. And that is a problem, and it is dangerous, and I’m worried about it. I think most mayors are.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You said most cities are blue, but there were Republican mayors there.

TONI HARP: Oh, there absolutely were Republican mayors there, and not all of them are blue, but some of the major cities typically with the larger populations are blue, in the U.S. oftentimes in red states, so it creates a bit of a problem, but most all of those cities that are blue, they are standing behind the Paris Climate pact, they are standing behind and fighting for the resources the people in their cities need at the federal level, and they’re putting pressure on Congress to really be a balance of power. Again, you know, Congress is largely Republican, but in the cities that are represented by these folks, there is still a lot of pressure. They’ve got to go home to say why they don’t want to pay for medical care for people, why they don’t want to make sure that poor people who can’t afford food, don’t have access to it, and so hopefully, at the local level, holding our federal leaders' feet to the fire, we can move away from what appears to be somewhat suicidal.

BETWEEN THE LINES: But you did say the resolution passed unanimously, is that right?

TONI HARP: Yeah.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So even the Republican mayors thought it was okay.

TONI HARP: Yeah, they thought it was okay.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I wonder if that’s because they thought it didn’t require … I mean, every city could do what it wanted to, I guess.

TONI HARP: Well, I think part of it is you are bringing decision making back to the local area in a way that’s very bright, because what happens is that you are able then to help people at the local level understand what’s at stake. And hopefully it’ll start a movement. (laughs)

For more information, visit United States Conference of Mayors at usmayors.org and the U.S. Peace Council at uspeacecouncil.org.

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