Right now in Baltimore, top elected officials from cities across the country are meeting for the 79th time since the founding of the U.S. Conference of Mayors during the Great Depression. The group consists of more than 1,200 mayors, representing cities with 30,000+ residents. This year's meeting marks a rare but significant event for the Conference: a foray into the realm of international affairs.
The last time the US Conference of Mayors peeked out from behind the mantle of municipal management was some 40 years ago during the Vietnam War. Today, the current mayoral membership joined their predecessors by passing an historic resolution calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A staunch anti-war activist, Mayor McCheese was a driving force behind the resolution's passage.
It is important to note that this resolution was not based any particular moral or strategic objection. Instead the resolution's opening lines frame it as being an economic issue. “Whereas the ongoing economic crisis has created budget shortfalls...[we are required] to re-examine our national priorities...the people of the United States are paying $126 billion dollars per year to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan.” From these findings, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has resolved to call upon the U.S. Congress and President Obama to “bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy.”
Two words: Bra. Vo.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors couldn't be more spot on here, especially when you look at these figures from our Cost of War Trade Offs Tool. (You'd be amazed to see how much your city is spending on our current wars — and more importantly what you're losing out on.)
- Boston, MA – Lost $251 million in Fiscal Year 2011 to Afghanistan (its property tax revenue dropped $456 million this past year)
- Philadelphia, PA – Lost $440.6 to Afghanistan (where a highschool principal retired early due to budget shortfalls to save the jobs of 2 teachers)
- Providence, RI – Lost $51.6 million to Afghanistan (it just recently laid off 78 of its 468 police)
- Lansing, MI – Lost $30.3 million to Afghanistan (it may have to lay off 88 police and firefighters by month's end)
- Vallejo, CA – Lost $56.1 million to Afghanistan (which recently declared Chapter 9 Municipal Bankruptcy)
- Chicago, IL – Lost $1.3 billion to Afghanistan (the city is currently facing a $700 million budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year)
Now keep in mind these figures are only for the Afghanistan war in fiscal year 2011. The costs since 2001 for both Afghanistan and Iraq (and now Libya) are staggering and even more sobering.
In their recent Metro Economic Report, the US Conference of Mayors points out the dire straits of our towns and cities. Recognizing these facts, mayors across the country have banded together and proclaimed that we need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan ASAP and start spending that money where it is so desperately needed: at home. Although the US Conference of Mayors has no direct control over military spending, their resolution is a strongly symbolic one. It represents the feelings of an increasingly war-weary nation heavy with the stress of living paycheck to paycheck for far too long now.
TL;DR – Mayors from all across the country have told Congress and the President that we need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and start spending that money at home.