County votes to back G.I.s
Lines drawn, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution of support for U.S. troops in Iraq after a sharp debate on whether local government should even get involved.
Before a standing-room crowd of about 400 that spilled into the Rood Administrative Center hallway Tuesday, three supervisors voted for wording that backed the troops and President Bush. Two abstained, saying local government was no forum for foreign affairs.
Supporters of the resolution stood and applauded, while opponents stayed seated. One man yelled “shame on you,” and County Executive Officer Rick Haffey pulled down a taped-up sign that said, “Do Your Job.”
At issue was the wording, as both sides asserted they supported the troops.
The resolution drafted by Board Chairwoman Sue Horne and Drew Bedwell expressed gratitude and said the board “joins with Nevada County citizens in support of the President of the United States and those who are fighting to protect our safety, liberty and security as a free nation.”
Supervisor Robin Sutherland joined Horne and Bedwell in the vote. Supervisors Peter Van Zant and Barbara Green abstained.
Horne, fighting back tears, acknowledged the divisiveness but called it unavoidable.
“I do not pretend to believe that I represent the views of all of Nevada County citizens on this issue,” she said. “A leader must be willing to take a stand for what he or she believes … regardless if there is opposition to that action.”
Van Zant’s abstention came after he earlier withdrew two optional drafts of a war-related resolution. He said he was swayed by constituents on both sides of the issue who considered it no place for county government, particularly as it contends with budget problems. One of his drafts mirrored Congress’, which voted to support the troops without taking a war stance.
“There is no way we are going to get out of this chamber without someone getting mad,” he said after the hour-long public hearing.
Resolution opponents, many wearing “peace” stickers, considered the wording pro-aggression and too divisive.
“I do not support this war. I support our troops,” speaker Tony Hardwick said during his three minutes allotted to each speaker. “It’s none of your damn official business.”
Mark Calhoun claimed 90 percent of the world, including most residents in allied Spain, is against the war and that Bush has perpetuated myths to draw support.
“Your resolution, the way it was worded, is buying into a pack of lies,” he said.
Resolution backers – many dressed in red, white and blue – wore yellow ribbons. A few toted signs, one saying, “Another Family Supporting President Bush and Our Troops.”
Margaret Metroka, whose husband Sean, a courthouse worker, is stationed in the Gulf with the First Marine Expeditionary Force, talked about she and her children being disheartened by the sight of protesters.
She broke down reading her statement before another wife of an officer, Alexa Curtis, helped.
One man, a former Air Force pilot dressed in his flight suit, asserted the board majority represented the county majority and that protesters were “misguided.”
A Gulf War veteran, Krystan Hougeson, couldn’t understand how anyone could support the troops without backing the president. His sign said, “Bush is a Troop.”
As each side spoke, applause could be heard outside board chambers, where proceedings were played over speakers.
Van Zant later encouraged the sides to hold a town hall meeting and discuss their differences, an idea met with mixed reactions.
“We could always get together for a polite discussion on how we could get together and support our entire community,” Alexa Curtis said.
Metroka, however, predicted any discussion would perpetuate the debate.
Deborah Cohen, of the Peace Center of Nevada County, said she would join in talks, but she said one resolution backer she talked with wanted no part of it.
Other cities and counties have taken different directions on the war issue. At least 28 California cities, among more than 200 in the country, have passed anti-war resolutions, according to the citiesforpeace.org Web site.
Nevada City’s city council earlier decided to avoid the political fray.
It’s unclear how many jurisdictions have passed resolutions of support to the troops and president.
Yuba County’s supervisors were scheduled to vote on one Tuesday night. El Dorado County has taken no position but recently extended by a year pay and benefits to deployed county employees.
HOW THEY VOTED
Sue Horne: yes
Drew Bedwell: yes
Robin Sutherland: yes
Peter Van Zant: abstain
Barbara Green: abstain
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