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 Nation’s 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 citizen’s views, they also voiced reservations concerning the proposed resolution’s 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 public’s wishes without consideration for other mechanisms to represent the peoples’ 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 Iraq’s 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 President’s 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 Administration’s 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 Nation’s best interests. However, each of us should realize that we wield a power greater than all that described above. The power to vote.