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Act to stop the war, but not as councilmember

Tom McHenry Berkeley
Tuesday October 23, 2001


I’m saddened to see that members of our City Council are again trying to use their elected positions to promote their personal political views on national issues, by expressing them as letters from the “City of Berkeley”. 

While I applaud the courage and conviction of Ms. Spring and others’ personal beliefs in the uselessness of the war in Afghanistan, and encourage her and others to work tirelessly as individuals to promote those views, it is a deep misunderstanding of our representative democracy, and of the rule of law, to think that election to a position of responsibility for the civic affairs of our town is a lucence to advocate a personal political position in the name of us all. Its a divisive, indeed, corrosive view that is widespread in our community; many board and commission members similarly seem to think that appointment to a position of responsibility somehow validates their personal views and opinions, regardless of the actual legal scope of their mandate – witness the recent ZAB meeting where a member rejected the findings of the Design Review Board, the legal entity entrusted with aesthetic decisions, because he personally thought a design was “ugly.” 

The legal charter, and social contract, we have with our City Council is that they run the city. Its an honest and important job, and done with intelligence and dedication may give its members greater credibility in their individual endorsement of larger political views, or their search for a larger constituency. They are welcome to it. But please, do not presume to make those endorsements, or seek that constituency, in the name of us all...Whether or not we agree with those views, it is abuse of our trust to attempt to do so. 


Tom McHenry