The opinions given below are entirely my own and do not reflect an official Palo Alto Human Relations Commission position.
As a newly appointed member of the HRC, I have witnessed both the passion of our citizens and the professionalism of our Commissioners with respect to a wide range of issues.
However, one issue, a Resolution calling for the impeachment of our Nationís President, left me and many others disappointed and frustrated.
My disappointment reflects the fact that, impeachment aside, as it is clearly inappropriate; discussions regarding alternatives were inadequate. While several Commissioners expressed their agreement with the citizenís views, they also voiced reservations concerning the proposed resolutionís controversy, failure of similar motions, and the anticipated negative reaction of the City Council. While I understand these reservations, I do not believe they are grounds to dismiss the publicís wishes without consideration for other mechanisms to represent the peoplesí will. I believe it is these issues which provide the greatest opportunity to build relationships between diverse populations and should be taken up, albeit with sensitivity and understanding. Regardless of their personal feelings and political alignment our Government has the duty to help articulate and carry forward the views and wishes of the public, as this is our Democratic process.
My frustration stems from the facts that the passion displayed by the citizens advocating impeachment before the HRC did not balance with objective evidence, and that the citizens appeared closed to other options. While each citizen who addressed the HRC expressed their sadness, outrage, and opposition to the war in Iraq, they mistakenly manifested these emotions into grounds for impeachment. One such argument was that the Administration lied about having just cause to wage a war to remove what was Iraqís government. However, this argument has no basis as the threats believed to be posed by the Saddam Hussein governed Iraq did not originate with the current Administration; rather they had been expressed continually by the previous two Administrations and their accompanying Congresses. Furthermore, both the House and Senate passed a Joint Resolution authorizing the Presidentís use of military force against Iraq. Another argument alleged the invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation, namely Iraq, to be illegal. However, this too has no merit for reasons previously stated and the fact that the provisional, interim, and the newly elected Iraqi Government, as recognized by the UN, have welcomed the presence of the US. Other arguments alleged the Administrationís use of illegal searches, detention, and torture. Unfortunately, these arguments fail just as those described above because the actions they reference have also been directed under powers granted the President by the Congress. More importantly, the Administration has won favorable rulings in cases relative to these actions that have been brought before the courts.
Thus, while the citizens presenting these views were upset with the Administration, their arguments were not commensurate with impeachment. Nor were their numbers, as reflected by those in attendance, anywhere near adequate to be judged as representing the will of the people. Therefore, the HRC had no alternative other than agreeing not to support the proposed resolution.
This, as I stated earlier, left me disappointed and frustrated as I believe it is an example of an avoidable type of chasm that can exist between the public and Government institutions. Therefore, the following suggestions are aimed at providing some mechanisms to bridge such divides.
First, requests for action brought to a Government institution should be objective and non-partisan. Second, requests should be supported by credible information sources as opposed to those that are sensational in nature. The uneducated opinions of celebrities should not be cited. Third, proposals should have a logical argument, standing on precedent if possible, such that they are defendable in any forum. Fourth, arguments should stand on as much common ground as possible for the given community and requesters should be willing to compromise and provide evidence indicating their voice speaks for a verifiable number of the community. Fifth, arguments should be commensurate with the requested actions. Sixth, presenters with common requests should organize their resources to make optimum use of the time limits allotted each individual at civic meetings. Seventh and last, emotions should be used for emphasis not logic.
Hopefully, these suggestions will improve the relationships between the public and their Governmental representation and in doing so will alleviate some of the disappointment and frustration felt by those working towards change they feel will serve the Nationís best interests. However, each of us should realize that we wield a power greater than all that described above. The power to vote.
Posted by Mac, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2006 at 11:18 pm
I think its fantastic that people here do care very much about the world they live in. I think Donald also makes some excellent points. I think he's right.
My comment relates more to the general act of cities and towns passing resolutions on national politics. I generally feel its a rather feeble waste of time. No one in the world cares if Palo Alto has called for the impeachment of the president. It makes it look as if we don't understand the presidential impeachment process, and stupidly think we can start that process here. Its similar to declaring Palo Alto a "Nuclear Weapons Free Zone." Everyone knows that if a military installation existed here, it might house nukes whether we wanted them to or not. Again, its just the way I believe passing such measures looks - tiny and pathetic.
I think the HRC should focus exclusively on Palo Alto related business. Everyone is free to contact their US Senator or Representative to express a view on impeachment, and that seems like it carries more weight.
I also don't like the idea of the HRC passing a resolution that essentially says "All of the people of Palo Alto want the president impeached." You don't necessarily speak for me or anyone else. Many of us hold more complex views that don't completely endorse the president or his actions, but recognize the futility and possible danger in impeachment proceedings.
Posted by out of towner, a resident of another community, on Jun 20, 2006 at 1:13 pm
What a concept, a Government that answers to the will of the people and addresses the concerns of the minority. Too bad more officials do not share Mr. Mendozaís philosophy. I applaud is idealism, but think heís wasting his time with these people since you canít reason with folks on the fringe.
As for the ďimpeachment movement,Ē these people need to find better causes to champion. It is these types on the fringes that help make our Government unresponsive when real issues come up.
Posted by A concerned citizen, a resident of Stanford, on Jun 22, 2006 at 3:01 pm
Mr. Mendozaís arguments sound good but then again the arguments brought up by those calling for impeachment do have merit, just read the "Downing Street Memo," and the resolutions proposed in the Senate by Senator Russ Feingold and in the House by Congressman John Conyers Jr. In fact there have been volumes of text, including a 182 page, 1,022 footnote Congressional report put together that substantiate many of the claims Mr. Mendoza dismisses.
I disagree with Mr. Mendozaís arguments but am glad that he is willing to listen and raise the topic for debate. The debate should happen and we should start it here rather than wait until itís politically popular!
And as for the first commenterís reply, what could be more important and relevant to Palo Alto than who their President is? Thinking this is not important to local issues is exactly why we get the kind of corrupt Government we get!
I wonder if following his recommendations for working with the Government will help with other officials.