New York mayors have long reserved the right to their own foreign policy, whether or not it jibes with what the striped-pants set is saying in Washington. Edward I. Koch and Rudolph W. Giuliani were singularly outspoken.
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
On occasion the City Council has also chimed in on something international besides a pancake house, typically by renaming a street. In that manner, it has expressed opinions on Israel (with Yitzhak Rabin Way and United Jerusalem Place), Cuba (Brothers to the Rescue Corner), South Africa (Nelson and Winnie Mandela Corner) and Nigeria (Kudirat Abiola Corner).
But the city has now been left in the dust on America’s defining foreign entanglements of this generation: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Monday, with no detectable New York involvement, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution urging President Obama and Congress to get their act together and “speed up the ending of these wars.” The conflicts are costing the United States $126 billion a year, the resolution said, and the money would be better spent on repairing America’s broken economy and infrastructure and on reducing the federal debt.
“It’s time to bring our investments back home,” Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles said as he assumed the presidency of the mayors conference at its annual gathering, held in Baltimore. “We can’t be building roads and bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar, and not in Baltimore and Kansas City.”
The resolution could hardly be considered flamingly radical, not with its call to end the wars “as soon as strategically possible” and to withdraw American forces “in a measured way that does not destabilize the region.” That’s a far cry from, “Out — now!”
Indeed, “it reflects in large part what the president believes,” Mr. Villaraigosa said Monday evening in a phone interview from Washington after he and other mayors met with Mr. Obama at the White House. By coincidence, the president is planning a speech for Wednesday to announce the scale and the pace of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.
Carefully worded though the mayors’ resolution was, including a requisite expression of support for “our brave men and women in uniform and their families,” it was a striking departure for the conference. The group normally leaves foreign and defense matters to the pros. The last time it spoke up like this was 40 years ago, during the Vietnam War.
It did so more daringly back then. In June 1971, it passed a resolution calling on President Richard M. Nixon not only to pull all United States forces out of Vietnam but also to do so in nothing flat — by the end of that year. A leader of that antiwar action was New York’s own, Mayor John V. Lindsay.
Over the decades, New York’s chief executives have tended to stand aloof from their brother and sister mayors. But Mr. Lindsay, who had national ambitions, got into the thick of things over an unpopular war. Not that his resolution changed anything. And a year later, the conference did a full 180, voting a new resolution that supported the Nixon administration on Vietnam. The war dragged on.
There’s no reason to expect this latest resolution to be any more of a catalyst for bringing the troops home. That said, it is an unmistakable sign of how weary of these long wars the country has become, and how much pain the nation’s cities have felt since the economy headed south three years ago. New York is no exception, though there has been no comparable formal expression of dismay from the mayor or the City Council since the invasion of Iraq eight years ago.
But don’t view the Baltimore resolution as an antiwar protest, Mr. Villaraigosa cautioned. “We saw this as a jobs issue, pure and simple,” he said. Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia, the conference’s new vice president, made a similar point. “We don’t consider this to be a quote-unquote war resolution,” Mr. Nutter said by phone. “We actually consider it to be an economic policy resolution.”
“I think,” he said, “that it’s mirroring what’s really going on in the country.”
For full local Times coverage, including news that a large number of court-appointed receivers for distressed properties in New York are politically connected lawyers, that prosecutors charged that nearly all of the $600 million paid to the main contractor for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s CityTime project has been tainted by fraud and that the police suspect that the gunman who killed four in a Long Island pharmacy on Sunday was addicted to painkillers, see the N.Y./Region section.
Here’s what City Room is reading in other papers and blogs this morning.
Rikers Island is requiring provocatively dressed female visitors to change into baggy, bright green T-shirts to diminish illicit conjugal visits and make it more difficult to smuggle contraband. [Daily News]
The mother of one of the teenagers shot by a man in Marine Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday defended the shooting. [New York Post]
The Department of Transportation is finally examining increased bus service to La Guardia Airport. [Second Avenue Sagas]
The “prosperity theology” evangelist Creflo Dollar would like to turn the long-barren Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a mega-church. [New York Post] (Also see The Daily News.)
A Bronx mother charged with beating her 5-year-old son to death said she intended to discipline him after he broke their television, prosecutors said. [New York Post]
History lives on at the Wu Tang Physical Culture Association in the East Village, at least until the Germania Flats building that houses it is demolished. [Vanishing New York]
Rice High School, traditionally a city basketball powerhouse, will close June 30. [Wall Street Journal]
Designers have come up with a floating pool shaped like a huge plus sign that will float in the East River, possibly off Brooklyn Bridge Park, if the design is acceptable. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]
Consolidated Edison has agreed to remove cables by the end of the year that block the Bronx Kill from small boats. [Daily News]
A dilapidated house in Queens is a great example of an urban home that could be haunted. Do you know of any good ones in the city? [Scouting New York]
The owner of restaurant Petit Abeille plans to build beehives near his restaurants to harvest fresh honey, to the consternation of apiphobes. [DNA Info]