Okay, I’m back: just in time for Portland to sign on to Department of Peace

Okay, so I stopped blogging for quite a while. But today I went and testified at City Hall in support of the resolution for Portland to become one of the cities calling for a Department of Peace. I was one of 11 people who testified in support of the resolution (which passed), and here’s my testimony:

I decided to come to City Council because today is the 22nd anniversary of my brother’s murder in an act of political violence in 1985, when I was 15 and he was 20 years old. For much of my life since then, I have found ways to work to prevent violence, and as part of that, I’m here today to ask you to add Portland to the growing list of cities supporting the Department of Peace.

Although my brother’s murder was unique in that it was politically motivated, it unites me with millions of people across our country who have lost loved ones to other acts of violence — domestic violence, violence connected to drug addiction, or to economic desperation. This experience is far too common in our country, in our state, and in our local community. It’s part of why we need more national work for peace.

And part of why I call Portland home is that peace work is part of the fabric of our city. We are home to one of the oldest domestic violence programs in the country, and a newer program that supports family members of murder victims in the African-American community. We are host to youth anti-violence programs, neighborhood dialog programs, international relief work, sister city programs. From programs with local to international impact, Portlanders keep ourselves busy working for peace.

The Department of Peace proposal carries with it the potential for us to fund peace development in a way we’ve never seen. With a Cabinet level position that directs and more importantly, funds peace work from the federal to the local level. I’m asking you to support this legislation because down the road, it has the potential to add resources to many extraordinary, home-grown organizations working for peace in Portland.

There will be some folks who will say we can’t create this Cabinet level position, that because a Department of Peace does not exist now, it can’t exist. I hope you choose to reject such cynicism. It’s only because of fear that people are say no to possibility. They may also say that cities calling for the change can’t make it happen. But local commitment makes all the difference in anti-violence work. Just over 20 cities have already signed on, making Portland a leader if we sign on now. This proposal may take a while to pass, but the time to act is now to give it momentum and reflect our city’s commitment to peace.

I am proud to be a Portlander, a city where so many of us who have experienced violence now find ways to work for peace.

I hope you vote to support this resolution, to position Portland as a leader in this national movement and reflect our city’s commitment to peace.

Thank you Commissioner Saltzman, for your leadership on this issue, and thanks to all of you for your service to Portland.

Other testimony came from parents (including the mother of an active duty marine), a pastor, a spiritual healer, a man who reminded the City Council about their regretful failure to pass an anti-Iraq war resolution shortly after the invasion of Iraq, and the leaders of the local Peace Alliance chapter. The commissioners all had something positive to say before each voting for the resolution.
And I would be remiss not to mention one other highlight of the City Council meeting: the performance by Portland’s Teen Idols.

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