Councilmember Seth Grimes was on hand for the forum, as was Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen. Before the meeting, Mr. Grimes had indicated he might not stay long so he could get home sooner. So he was offered a chance to go first with questions or, as it turned out, remarks.
Councilmember Grimes began by assuring the panelists that the council wasn’t “afraid of looking ridiculous.” He questioned whether it was proper for a city council to take up issues of this nature, and compared the MCCRC’s NDAA/AUMF resolution effort to the story of the drunk looking for his lost car keys under the lamppost rather than where he dropped them. The idea was that since it was Congress that had made the mistake, Congress was where NDAA opponents should turn, whether by voting for better members of Congress, or by voicing opposition to them directly. Grimes cited his own Keystone XL protest as a more “proper” way of opposing a bad policy or legislation than a city council resolution.
Heather Hurlburt replied that there was no arena where politics and advocacy were off limits any more. To be “purist” about how to use local governmental structures was to “tie one of our hands behind our backs.” She added that “elected officials respect things that other elected officials choose to do.” Shahid Buttar noted that “it’s absolutely proper for this community to raise its voice; I would say it’s almost improper not to… Local governments have a role to play on national questions. … The idea of just turning a blind eye because the decision is supposed to be made somewhere else, I think that’s a very passive way to treat your own rights.”
For my part, quite aside from the ‘drunk’ part of Councilmember Grimes’s analogy — which I assume he didn’t think through properly — I think the rest of his metaphor also misses the mark. We’re not looking for a door key we dropped, whether by mistake or in a stupor. We’re looking for help from our city council — a flashlight, as it were — to find and restore the rights someone else swatted out of our hands and into the dark. A public city council resolution, publicly deliberated, could shine that light in a way no council member’s personal protest or note ever could.
Councilmember Daniels-Cohen’s remarks were simple and brief: she had come to listen, and commended the discussion thus far as “incredibly interesting, and profound.”