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Friday, June 15, 2007

If the People Will Lead, Will the Leaders Follow?

I love these stories-they're another good indication that there are stirrings of life in the republic, that perhaps the people are slowly regaining the ability to lead after nearly three decades of being brutally whipped into submission by politicians and bloodless corporate hacks. If little bitty Arrowsic, ME-symbolic of the small town average American that the Bushies insist they are looking after-is willing to take this step, can the rest of the union be far behind? Portland, are you listening?

Tiny town takes a stand against Iraq war

Arrowsic votes 71-17 for a resolution to bring the troops home, but an observer calls it just 'a priceless historical anecdote.'

June 15, 2007

— By DENNIS HOEY
Staff Writer

ARROWSIC — There were no signs proclaiming victory. The town office, as it is on most days, was closed.

It was business as usual on the day after Arrowsic became the first community in Maine to endorse a resolution calling on President Bush and Congress to immediately stop all war funding and bring the troops home from Iraq.

Town Clerk Heather Baker said the measure was adopted at Wednesday night's annual town meeting, with 71 residents voting in support and 17 opposed to the resolution.

A petition filed by residents got the resolution on the town meeting warrant, Baker said.

The resolution recognizes the men and women serving in Iraq and their sacrifices, but says the war is taking funds away from basic services at home such as health care and education.

"If there is any question about whether or not this issue is appropriate for our town meeting and discussion at the local level, we only need to consider that if $450 billion is being spent by our country on Iraq, that's $450 billion that is not being spent here at home," said Paul Schlein, the resolution's principal supporter.

Schlein said Arrowsic joins about 300 other communities across the nation that have adopted similar anti-war resolutions.

Town officials said they will send a letter to President Bush and to Congress, explaining the decision.

"I felt it was an opportunity for the people to send a message to the federal government," said Sukey Heard, a selectwoman who voted to place the resolution on the warrant. "But I doubt very much it will change anyone's mind."

Christian Potholm, a Bowdoin College government professor, political author and pollster, said the president won't pay any attention to Arrowsic's stance.

But, he added, "It's a priceless historical anecdote. For the last 30 years I have always referred to Arrowsic as the 'Peoples Republic of Maine.' The town always seems to vote in reverse. If I want to know what is not going to happen in the rest of the state, I turn to Arrowsic."

MaryEllen FitzGerald, president of Critical Insights, a Portland polling firm, said she is not surprised by Arrowsic's support for the resolution. A poll of 600 Maine households in April produced similar results.

She said that poll showed that 73 percent of those surveyed disapproved of the way President Bush was handling the war in Iraq. Only 22 percent supported the president's troop surge.

"We have been finding there is very little support in Maine for any aspect of the war," FitzGerald said.

An AP-Ipsos poll released on June 7 reflects widespread discontent with how President Bush is handling the war, with just 28 percent of those surveyed saying they were satisfied.

Baker, Arrowsic's town clerk, opened Town Hall for a few minutes on Thursday to check voting records at the request of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Baker said the town has 396 registered voters: 162 Democrats, 80 Republicans, 137 unenrolled and 17 Green Party members.

The town office is open only on Wednesday afternoons and Friday mornings.

When Baker opened the doors and passers-by noticed that cars were parked in the lot, residents stopped to talk about the vote. There's no post office, general store or other natural meeting spot in this tiny midcoast town surrounded by rivers.

Like many Arrowsic residents, Andreas Von Huene works out of his home. Von Huene, a sculptor and engineer, lived in the Middle East for several years. He supported the resolution.

"I think the war is wrong," Von Huene said.

He said there is little hope the United States can change the situation in Iraq. "Our cultures are close enough that we think we understand one another, but we don't. We are different in some very subtle ways."

Jeremy Blaiklock, a 37-year-old landscaper who is the town's animal control officer, voted in support of the resolution.

"The war in Iraq was a bad idea," Blaiklock said. "I supported the resolution .because every message we can send to our government is important. It may be a drop in the bucket, but if the American people send enough drops, some day the bucket might overflow."

"I voted for the resolution because I feel the war in Iraq is immoral," said Roger Heard, who is chairman of Arrowsic's Planning Board and a volunteer firefighter. "But I also think the vote is a reflection of what is going on in the country."

Mercer Blanchard made a motion to take no action on the war resolution. His effort failed by a vote of 63-31.

"My motion had nothing to do with the resolution or the war issues. I just didn't feel it was relevant to the town's business. This was the wrong place to address it," Blanchard said.

Schlein said the war is putting financial pressure on small towns to raise taxes.

"The war in Iraq underlies and undermines everything we do in this country," Schlein added.

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