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Last night, when Earl Blumenauer and I were on the phone…

Representative Earl Blumenauer had a telephone “town hall” last night, with hundreds of people on the phone at the same time while he answered questions about Iraq, immigration, and impeachment, and asked us questions like, “Has the cost of invading Iraq been too high?”

Of the close to 500 people (including me) who voted on that question, over 80% said, “Yes, the cost has been too high.”

Some guy who got through with a rambling question asked “But shouldn’t we support the troops?” (in a much longer version) as if it’s supporting people to initiate a civil war and then leave them there until it ends. And then Blumenauer fielded an anti-immigrant question but nicely turned it around and made clear that as someone who is himself a descendant of immigrants (as I am) he believes that we need to have a fair path to citizenship for everyone.

I wasn’t expecting Earl’s call — some weird machine called my house and I almost hung up, but now I’m glad I didn’t. I just put the phone on speakerphone and listened while I cleaned my kitchen (stopping twice to vote by pressing the number 6 or 7 on my phone). Just goes to show that if our Senators and Representatives want our feedback, they can go about getting it. Then there’s no excuse for not supporting the troop withdrawal that a majority of Americans want.

Blumenauer’s office has my phone number on file, I’m sure, because I email Representative Blumenauer with some regularity.

Take a minute to tell Representative Blumenauer that you’re against the ongoing occupation of Iraq. Maybe he’ll call you to find out what else you think.

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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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Portland Passes the Resolution

Portland has passed the resolution calling for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Of course, I was there for the vote, but here’s a snippet from one of the victory emails:

By unanimous vote, the Portland City council adopted our resolution to bring
the troops home from Iraq and fund human needs!

A “standing room only” crowd witnessed moving testimony from more than 50 people who made the case for the resolution. Those testifying included military families, veterans and Iraqi-Americans, labor and faith group leaders, youth and students and those who work on health care, education, housing, homelessness, environmental justice and other human needs issues. The presenters made a strong case for the many local impacts of the war on the Portland community and why we need to speak up as a city for peace.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this campaign–those who signed the petition, gathered signatures, volunteered, spread the word and showed up for the hearing. This was truly a group effort and it showed!

Portland has spoken: now we have to make sure our federal officials act on behalf of our wishes to bring the troops home from Iraq and to change our policies to reflect Portland’s priorities.

So, now I have to focus on Congress. I think I only reach about 250 people or so: we signed up about 150 people in person, plus we dropped fliers in various public places, made about 100 buttons, and I know that we generated online sign-ups as well. I think it’s going to take longer than I thought to reach 1,000, which is also fine because now I’m thinking I don’t want to stop until the troops are withdrawn anyway and we have started paying reparations… this may be a while.
So, stay tuned… next stop: activating our wonderful Oregon congressional delegation to withdraw the troops and correct so much of what we’ve done wrong to the people of Iraq.

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We’re Getting the Word Out

From what I can tell, we’ve managed to:

  • Send hundreds of emails to Portlanders promoting the resolution. At least ten people have told me that they’ve emailed anywhere from ten to 260 people (I think most people are closer to the ten-person mark).
  • Collect about 150 signatures in person. I’ve been turning over petition sheets to the campaign as we’ve been collecting them. I personally gathered signatures at the Portland Farmer’s Market and outside the NW Portland Trader Joe’s. People were for the most part appreciative and pleasant, with many people taking buttons to wear or fliers about the hearing. I also know people have collected names at their church, workplace, and one concert.
  • Leave fliers anywhere I go that has a bulletin board or a counter. Me and my assortment of friends have dropped around 250 fliers (the cute quarter-page ones with the portland peace dove).
  • Create a specific flier about why occupation is bad for public health (thanks, Elizabeth).
  • Mention the resolution at at least three Thanksgiving gatherings.
  • Begin sending emails to the Mayor and City Council members in support of the resolution.

Now I’m turning attention onto turnout for the hearing this week, with some more emailing, including a call for people to email their support directly to the Portland City Council.
My best estimate is that I’ve only activated about 200 Portlanders. Shoot, 800 to go. But, I’ve asked my friends for an update this week, so I’ll post an updated number when I have it. I want to keep working on this anyway, it just may take longer to reach 1,000 people than I thought.