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Nuclear Weapon Ban Resolution

It wasn't nuclear war, but there was certainly dissension among Lansing Town Board members Wednesday as they debated whether or not to vote on a resolution calling on the federal government to sign a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.  The discussion was in response to Lansing resident Dennis Osika's plea a few weeks ago to pass such a resolution.  Wednesday's discussion centered on whether the Town government should reach beyond its jurisdiction on issues of concern, or simply conduct Town business.

"Not doing this does not mean that we don't take this seriously," argued Supervisor Ed LaVigne. "But when you grow up with the bomb you realize what you can and cannot do.  My point is we need to discuss town issues when we do it as a town.  If you want to write private letters to Congress and the State Assembly and State Senate, they're more than happy to receive them, but I get very concerned when we start a precedent down this road when we were elected to take care of the Town.  Because we don't address this with a resolution does not mean we're not concerned about it.  It means we are trying to address what we were elected to do, which is the town."

Osika presented a sample resolution at the November 14th Town Board meeting.  The resolution calls for renouncing first strike capacity as an option; ending the authority of the president to launch a nuclear attack without Congress's approval; taking US nuclear weapons off 'hair trigger' alert; cancelling a $1.7 trillion plan to replace the US nuclear arsenal; and pursuing a verifiable agreement for nuclear states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

LaVigne argued that the Board should make it part of its minutes (public record) that it supports Osika's concerns, but not go as far as to pass a resolution.  Bur Councilman Joe Wetmore said he wants the Board to pass a formal resolution that should be passed and sent to state and federal representatives.

"I go the other way," he said. "I think it's important for us to speak out on issues from time to time, as they come before us and as they are important.  I think this is an important issue.  We're watching our government take a step that I personally think is problematic.  I think nuclear weapons are a dangerous thing, and starting the arms race again affects this town economically, and it potentially affects us if something goes wrong.  If you look over the history of nuclear weapons we've come so close so many times to something going wrong."

Councilman Doug Dake supported LaVigne, saying that it is obvious that everyone is against nuclear weapons, and opposed stating the obvious in a formal resolution that goes beyond town jurisdiction.

"I don't think our representatives have any different view than we do," he said.

However, Councilwomen Andra Benson and Katrina Binkewicz supported Wetmore.  At first Binkewicz said that a letter to Osika from LaVigne acknowledging his concern would suffice, but later said "stating something that's obvious is a message" federal and state officials should receive from the Town.

"I feel that I'd like our representatives to know how the Town of Lansing stands," Benson said.  "I think in my lifetime maybe something will happen, but it might in my children's and grandchildren's.  I'd like to have it on the record that we stood against more nuclear weapons.  I'd like our representatives to know that."

LaVigne said that passing resolutions on matters beyond the Town's jurisdiction is a waste of time.

"How much time are we going to debate these issues, and what's the next issue that we're going to debate?  We were all concerned about re-firing the power plant, which is a resolution we passed 5-0," he said. "What happened to that one? (Buzzer sound)  Sorry!  There was a clear message... nothing!  And that was three Democrats and two Republicans that voted for that one.  Nothing."

But Wetmore said he feels they have been effective, and said he would write a draft resolution and pass it around for editing.  LaVigne said he preferred to 'put it to bed' with a statement on the record that the Board supports Osika's concerns.

"I am sensitive to his concerns and concerns of anybody who comes here to speak during Privilege of the Floor or shares information," LaVigne said. "My question is what is the role of the board?  He put this information out there, and if we need to put it in the public record, that's fine.  I think we're going down the wrong road.  If we pass a resolution on this, what is our duty as the town?  My opinion is it's to take care of town issue.  What's next?  North Korea missiles?  What's next?  Impeachment?  My personal opinion is that he's had his time, and it's in the record."

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