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Northampton council uses resolutions to call for gun control, closing of Guantanamo

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Northampton City Council President William Dwight
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Eugene Tacy, Ward 7

In addition to a resolution adopted on first reading June 27 against the use of drone aircraft for military and surveillance use, the council also signed off on separate measures that demand the government close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center and adopt regulations of “reasonable and effective” gun control measures.

“Everything we’re supposed to do is defend the constitution,” City Council President William Dwight said during the council’s June 20 meeting. “In fact, almost every issue that we’re talking about resolution-wise ... (is) to that point.”

The Guantanamo Bay resolution, approved by a 7-1 vote in the council’s second, required vote June 27, calls for all of the prisoners housed there to be charged or released. The resolution said that keeping the prison open “represents the continuation of a repudiated foreign policy and stain upon the character of the United States.”

The resolution states that more than 100 of the 166 remaining prisoners have been on a hunger strike for about 100 days to protest the lack of basic human and legal rights, with 86 of those prisoners having been cleared for release since 2010 by an inter-agency task force.

“It is wrong for any country, for any reason, to detain someone for over 11 years and not charge him with any crime,” the resolution says.

It asks President Obama to make good on a pledge to close the prison more than five years ago.

“This is so inhuman, of what is occurring here with the type of treatment that these people are going through,” Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne L. LaBarge said in support of the resolution.

In casting the lone dissenting vote, Ward 7 City Councilor Eugene A. Tacy said he is not comfortable voting for something he knows little about.

“I really do not have a clue as to why it’s still open, why it hasn’t closed,” Tacy said. “I don’t know anything about it. But apparently something is amiss because the president has not closed it.”

Ward 3 City Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels, who sponsored the resolution, said Tacy should not need special information to vote yes on this measure.

“You just need your common sense and your understanding of natural rights, which Guantanamo Bay is a violation of,” he said.

The council also took a stand in relation of gun control, backing a resolution at the urging of the city’s Youth Commission, which felt compelled to speak up following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December.

Members of the commission presented a petition to the council in May calling for a resolution, which the council wrote and approved on second reading June 27 by a vote of 7-1. Tacy voted against it.

The measure calls for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines. It asks Obama to propose such measures and Congress to vote on them.

Dwight called the effort of the youth as “real and genuine,” especially given that the high school went into a lockdown shortly after Sandy Hook and there have been concerns at the middle school.

“I feel a moral duty for a number of reasons to advance this ... these are quite reasonable calls,” he said.

More than 250 middle and high school students ages 13 to 18 from throughout the region signed the petition in an initiative launched and carried out by youth.

In speaking with the council, several commission members said they were hoping to have their voices heard on such an important topic.

Though he supports universal background checks, Tacy said he can’t support the other demands.

Legacy Comments8

Again, I agree completely with the politics, but I'm skeptical about the efficacy of this approach. Then again, maybe it's just a matter of City Council and the Gazette giving disproportionate reporting space to these resolutions over all the other stuff the Council does. Here's an idea: why doesn't the Gazette publish a brief timetable of everything City Council gets done for the town in every given week? That might give us a better sense of their more "grounded" work for the town.

I live in Sunderland, but I am proud just to live near Northampton. The 6 city council members are some of the few people treating the closing of Guantanamo with the urgency that I think it deserves.

It's well known that politicians pay little attention to these small-group resolutions, suspecting rightly that they don't necessarily represent public opinion, which is usually not consulted anyway. I believe a more appropriate response would be to allow a few minutes on the agenda for such items and for councilors to voice their brief personal opinions and promise of individual political action if they wish. Then to invite the public to follow their example. What they shouldn't be doing is taking a great deal of time away from pressing issues actually within their purview and using their constituents as implied proxies.

I live in Sunderland, but today I am proud just to live near Northampton. The six members of the Northampton City Council are the only people out of 300,000,000 Americans who got it right. Closing Guantanamo has become a national emegency: Just what information do Eugene Tacy and the other 299,999,994 Americans need to form a conclusion? We have held people without charges for more than a decade. We have prisoners who have not been charged with a crime, but are "too dangerous to release." We have declared a never-ending global war on terror and we define "terrorists" as people who defend their own countries against foreign military invasion and occupation. We shrug at a military budget that is nearly equal to that of all other nations combined and then we fight over adequate budgets for our schools. We barely blink at policies that would have been abbhorrent 15 years ago, in part because we feel powerless to influence the direction of our government. If concern for justice and humane treatment of those in our custody is not reason enough to move you, how about concern for our standing in the international community?

Once again the council must be bored with the job of running Northampton so they spend time debating issues that are global and have nothing to do with what they were elected to do. Nobody cares, Northampton, these resolutions are not going to change anyone's mind in Washington. Now can you get back to dealing with local problems??

I thought the city council was supposed to discuss and run the city's business not spend their time discussing subjects that they have no control over. They cut off Mr Tacy's comments regarding the override but have time for this nonsense. Get back to running the city!!!

It's easy to see why the City Council failed in developing a budget that didn't require an override. It appears they are high on ideals, not so much when it comes to rolling up their sleeves.

(suesox) Has there been a new Council subcommittee formed for the generation, review, writing, and presentation of global resolutions? I am not saying I disagree with the stands the Council has taken on the issues mentioned in today's Gazette. I am troubled by what I consider a flawed process.

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