August 22nd, 2007

© 2007- The Press Democrat


The Sebastopol City Council plunged once again into global affairs Tuesday, supporting a peace activist's proposal to encourage talks between the United States and Iran on nuclear issues and ending the war in Iraq. Without comment or a formal vote, four council members endorsed a proclamation presented by Barbara Briggs-Letson, a retired nurse who traveled to Jordan last year for anti-war talks.

Citing ``unsubstantiated U.S. accusations'' about Iran's nuclear program and involvement in Iraqi violence and ``threats from U.S. officials to attack Iran,'' the proclamation called on Congress to bar funding for any military action against Iran without the lawmakers' authorization. The proclamation also advocated talks ``without preconditions'' between the United States and Iran, saying negotiations ``would likely result in improved relations between our two nations.'' Briggs-Letson said the measure was drafted by Code Pink, an anti-war group that hopes to collect endorsements from city governments across the country to ``get our representatives to show some backbone.''Sebastopol is the fourth city to accept the proclamation, she said. ``Once again, Sebastopol is stepping out in front with leadership,'' Briggs-Letson told the council. Congressional Democrats, she said, are not.

In an interview, Briggs-Letson said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Democratic leaders ``committed to getting us out of Iraq and now they're waffling.'' Briggs-Letson gave the council copies of a petition supporting the Code Pink measure, signed by more than 200 people, she said. Only nine people attended the council meeting, which lasted less than 30 minutes. Mayor Sam Pierce was absent.Sebastopol's five-member council has taken similar steps into national and international issues the past. In 2005, the council called for worldwide abolition of atomic weapons, and last year advocated a congressional inquiry into grounds for impeaching President Bush. With a Green Party majority since 2000, the Sebastopol council in 2006, the last election year, faced no challengers to the incumbents. The city, which voted only 18 percent for George Bush and 78 percent for Democrat John Kerry in 2004, also is a self-proclaimed nuclear free zone. ``I support this kind of action at the grass roots,'' Carlisle Holland, a Sebastopol osteopath, said Tuesday regarding the Iran measure. ``It's needed and there aren't any voices at the national level.'' Holland said he thinks the United States will go to war with Iran to prevent China from obtaining the nation's oil. ``Why not?'' resident Loring Vogel said, also supporting the proclamation. ``Somebody needs to take some action.'' Vogel said he doubts the United States will invade Iran ``because it would destabilize our economy.'' Retiree Bill Clarke said he has been skeptical of the council's penchant for the tackling national and international issues. ``They are out of their league,'' he said. ``They ought to take care of the city's business.''

Susan Piernan, a newcomer to Sebastopol, said the resolution ``is not going to change anything,'' but she appreciates local government for supporting her views. ``George Bush won't take my phone calls,'' Piernan said. Noting that Mill Valley had also declared itself a nuclear free zone, Piernan said such steps are ``a statement -- and maybe people will look at it.'' The Sonoma City Council refused to take on the war in February, when three out of five members refused to consider a resolution urging Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. The measure was introduced by Sonoma Councilman Ken Brown, a Vietnam war veteran, and dozens of supporters packed the council chambers. Councilman August Sebastiani said ``it isn't our job to set national agendas.'' You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or

Infobox: PD VIDEO Visit to hear what Sebastopol residents have to say about the City Council calling on Congress to encourage relations between the United States and Iran.