A VALUABLE ASSET
Editors, Daily Planet:
The purpose of a commission is to serve the citizens of Berkeley as best it can in the way it seeks to. It is healthy to have controversy and debate on issues from commissioners, but it is unhealthy when a commissioner is attempting to undermine a commission’s purpose as Commissioner Wornick is doing. His article stresses important points, but his arguments have little to do with the Peace and Justice Commission or its main goals. Relating fire stations and schools to Peace and Justice makes me wonder if perhaps Wornick is a bit confused. He opposes the issue which is good for establishing new strategies to work for Peace and Justice, but perhaps Wornick is looking at other issues, and needs to be a part of a commission that deals with issues like state of our schools and fire stations. It solves no problems, and eases no tensions between political ideologies when individuals seek only to criticize and undermine without looking to build.
The Peace and Justice Commission is a valuable asset to our city and continues to serve the Berkeley community and to reflect Berkeley’s ideas in our nation and world. I am extremely grateful to have those commissioners working for efforts such as the Department of Peace, and hope the ideals of Peace and Justice we all strive for can be met with healthy debate and cooperation.
ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL
Editors, Daily Planet:
I am writing to you from the far away land of Michigan, where I currently enjoy wonderful weather, beautiful fresh water lakes, and am surrounded by the greens that our summers bring. However, it was not long ago that I had the pleasure of visiting your beautiful city when things were not so pleasant in my home town. I thank the citizens of Berkeley. You have a lovely community.
I would like to respond to an op-ed piece by Jonathan Wornick, that was recently published in your paper with regard to the Department of Peace Resolution your City Council recently passed. It simply astounds me that someone so interested in seeing that city resources be well spent does not seem to have the insight to recognize the basic tenet of this bill, which is fiscally conservative in nature. Meeting violence at the causal level saves dollars now spent on the symptoms, while not solving any problems. Our jails, health care system, military expenditures are all examples of major expenses that could be mitigated addressing the problems of violence at the front end of the equation, rather than trying to poorly manage the symptoms of the underlying causes of violence at a cost we are increasingly unable to afford. Budgets are tight, schools are closing, billions are being spent overseas on a war largely admitted to have been based on “bad intelligence”...and we are paying the price at the local level, are we not?
Having a Department of Peace at the federal level to research the underlying causes of violence both in this country and abroad, and using best practices to address conflict with non-violent solutions, certainly is an issue that would and should affect every town, city and municipality in our country. It follows that the citizens of this country should have an impact through their local governments on what the national politicians do or omit to so do.
If there is any room for criticism it may be that the citizenry, through its local elected officials, has failed to be vigilant with regard to our federal government, and should become more involved, not less. It would do us well to follow Jefferson’s words carefully: “All politics are local.” Nothing that has ever been accomplished in terms of social justice issues has been done from the top down. Growing grass roots efforts have been at the forefront of every meaningful demonstration of social justice on the planet.
The cities of Hamtramck and Detroit, Michigan have also passed similar resolutions in favor of a cabinet level Department of Peace. We do not advocate an unrealistic ideal, but propose a very practical and fiscally responsible law which makes these issues a national priority that would have as its goal the purpose of better enabling and expanding the chiefly ad hoc programs that currently attempt to deal with violence in our cities, states, country and the world, all of which affect each and every one of us.
As an attorney, I cannot imagine anyone, who feels remotely responsible as a citizen in a democracy, advocating that one should not be concerned about national politics because it is not their job on the local level to so involve themselves, as politicians or otherwise. Quite the contrary...it is your job Mr. Wornick. Et tu, Councilman Wozniak? May I suggest that if you are uncomfortable with where you are sitting, that you consider changing your seat.
Bravo to the Berkeley City Council for understanding its role. Keep shining your light—we can see by it all the way over here in the state of Michigan!
Editors, Daily Planet:
People wondering why Berkeley took longer then neighboring cities to endorse the creation of a federal Department of Peace should understand that some people oppose Berkeley’s proud history of speaking out on national issues, a point driven home by the commentary “Opposed to a Department of Peace” (Daily Planet, July 12), which was riddled with misinformation that this reply seeks to address.
The statement that the Peace and Justice Commission reviewed the “…legislation to save our elected officials from wasting their time and our money” is factually incorrect. First, a resolution is not legislation, it is a recommendation. By law of the Peace and Justice Commission act as a liaison between “…groups organizing around issues of peace and social justice and City government…” and advises the City Council on matters related to “…issues of peace and social justice, including …ending the arms race, abolishing nuclear weapons…and the reallocation of our national resources so that money…is spent on…the promotion of peace.” (Berkeley Municipal Code § 3.68.070)
Saying his vote against a Peace Department was a message that City Council should do their job is ironic considering that a Peace and Justice Commissioner’s job is to read and apply the law quoted above and anyone properly doing that job would understand reviewing the Department of Peace proposal was based on our statutory responsibility, not some unsubstantiated notion that it might save time or money. I respect Mr. Wornick’s right, as an appointed official, to vote however he desires. Just as he should respect the competence of Kriss Worthington to decide which issues merit consideration by the City Council, since Mr. Worthington, was, after all, elected to make such decisions.
Berkeley was the first city in the nation to divest from South Africa and pass economic sanctions against the repressive regime in Burma. In both cases other communities, and eventually Congress, modified these Berkeley-born ideas to create National Policy. In 1986 the voters adopted the Nuclear Free Zone Act, which specifically calls for City Council to work for peace. The council also enacted the legislation quoted above creating a Peace and Justice Commission for the specific purpose of advising the City Council on issues of Peace and Justice. And the Berkeley City Council unanimously voted, not once, but twice, to oppose the invasion of Iraq. This is powerful historic evidence that Berkeley voters want our local officials to promote peace and social justice, so the commentary’s premise that the job description of the mayor or City Council does not include taking such positions is clearly erroneous.
Commissioner Wornick also states “… we already have a Department of State working for peace all over the world…” causing one to wonder if Wornick is aware that Secretary Powell went before the U.N. to justify war with Iraq based on the false premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The commentary also ask how Department of Peace supporters would feel if Donald Rumsfeld was appointed to run it. Recent pharmaceutical scandals involving Vioxx as a cause of heart attacks and stroke, and Viagra for causing blindness show how wrong things can go when the wrong people are placed in positions of power, but without a Food and Drug Administration things would be far worse. Should we really abolish the National Parks Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Forestry Service, and every other department in government because the president can make bad appointments?
Indeed, we need not go to Washington. Right here in Berkeley some Peace and Justice commissioners oppose virtually every resolution calling for peace. That hasn’t dissuaded citizens from approaching the Peace and Justice Commission to get the City Council to endorse efforts toward peace and social justice, nor should it. And if they fail to get the commission recommendation they seek it remains their First Amendment right to go directly to their elected officials, as they did with the Department of Peace item. This, despite the displeasure it causes politically conservative folks, is how representative democracy is supposed to work.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Like most Berkeleyans and our mayor, I am proud of Berkeley’s progressive tradition. From his editorial, “Opposed to a Department of Peace,” it appears Peace and Justice Commissioner Wornick is directly opposed to the mission and values of a commission he is responsible to uphold. A diversity of viewpoints on a commission is expected, but it is counterproductive for a commissioner to undermine a commission’s very mission. Since “Warnik” is more concerned about school and Fire Department issues, why not resign and offer his services instead to a PTA or the Fire Safety Commission? We call on Mayor Bates; Councilmembers Wozniak (who appointed him) Capitelli, and Olds; and School Board members Riddle and Rivera to appoint Commissioners who support citizen efforts towards peace. We are appreciative of the cooperative Peace and Justice commissioners who do our city proud by donating hundreds of hours to worthy efforts such as the Department of Peace, saving city staff both time and money. Of course the City Council focusses on practical local needs, and can also address global issues of local concern, without spending inordinate amounts of time thanks to the work of dedicated commissioners.
So Jonathan Wornick opposes the idea of a Department of Peace. As they say, it’s a free country. Mr. Wornick can have his opinion while the rest of Berkeley has theirs. But judging from the vehemence of his letter, it seems to me that the only reason he’s on Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission is so that he can fight against everything it stands for. Not very community spirited.
Personally I think that the idea of a Department of Peace is a brilliant and revolutionary idea whose time will come. Think of it, a cabinet level officer to advise the president concerning, non-violent solutions to world problems. And if the U.S. does this, will not other nations follow? And if the Department of Peace idea catches on world wide, could war become obsolete? A brave dream but one worth dreaming. If you think about it, it’s Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission expanded to the federal level.
People like to make fun of Berkeley with its own “foreign policy,” but Berkeley’s caring international activism helped bring down apartheid. We will help make this dream come true as well.
DEPARTMENTS OF WAR
Wornick has it wrong.
The State Department is actually the second Department of War, the first being the Department of “Defense.”
We need a Department of Peace.