City commissioners are being asked to allow for a citywide vote in November on whether American troops should be fighting in Iraq.
Members of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice told commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting that they think a nonbinding vote would be an important way to send a message about the war to U.S. leaders.
"The war in Iraq is without doubt the most important issue facing Americans today," said Allan Hanson, a coalition member. "It is a very crucial issue. I think the voice of the people, in this case the voice of Lawrence residents, needs to be heard."
A majority of city commissioners said they are interested in formally discussing the idea for a November vote at next week's City Commission meeting.
"I see no harm in having a general discussion about it," said City Commissioner Mike Rundle, who was joined by Commissioners Boog Highberger and David Schauner in asking to put the issue on next week's agenda.
The remaining two commissioners, Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Sue Hack, said they would withhold their comments about the validity of the proposal until next week.
Hanson said the coalition is not asking the City Commission itself to take a position on the war. He said the opinions of the five commissioners are no more relevant than any other five Lawrence residents. But getting commissioners to approve placing the measure on the ballot is the only feasible way that the question could be put before voters this November.
The resolution the coalition is seeking Lawrence voters to approve asks the U.S. government to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq on Nov. 8 - one day after the election - and for the withdrawal to be completed no later than July 1, 2007. The proposed resolution cites that the "stated reasons for the American-led invasion of Iraq have proven to be false and groundless."
Hanson said his research indicated that about 30 communities in Wisconsin had similar ballot measures and several communities in Vermont had passed resolutions calling for a troop withdrawal at their town meetings. But he said he was not aware of any community that was planning a citywide vote on the issue for this November.
Douglas County District Clerk Jamie Shew said late Tuesday evening that adding a question to the Nov. 7 ballot still was possible, but that a decision would need to be made soon.
He said his staff members are reviewing a proof of the ballots that will be used in the November election and are set to take them to the printer.
Shew said he would need city commissioners to make a decision on whether to place the issue on the ballot no later than at next week's meeting. Time is of the essence because advance voting for the election will start in about four weeks, he said.
Members of the coalition - who have peace rallies each Saturday outside the Douglas County Courthouse - conceded that any vote by Lawrence residents likely would not have an effect on U.S. policy.
Eutin group welcomed
Families across the city currently are playing host to eight students from Lawrence's sister city of Eutin, Germany.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting recognized the students, who arrived Saturday and will be in the community through Oct. 22.
This is the 16th year the cities have had an exchange program.
Retirement community gains 4-1 approval
Commissioners on a 4-1 vote approved a development permit for a new retirement community on 24th Place Terrace between Crossgate Drive and Inverness Drive.
City Commissioner Mike Rundle cast the lone vote against the project. He said the property should be required to have sidewalks on both sides of the street to serve the elderly population that's expected to live there.
City code changes receive go-ahead
Commissioners gave the city's legal staff the authority to begin cleaning up the city's legal code.
One of the higher-profile changes involves the regulations regarding concealed carry of a firearm. Staff attorney Scott Miller told commissioners the city needed to make changes in its code to match new state legislation.