By MADELYN HOFFMAN
According to a recent news article, the 2013-14 Bloomfield Board of Education budget will raise taxes on an average-assessed Bloomfield home by $281 and outsource the district’s child-study teams, cutting 17 jobs.
Before this final budget was approved, there was discussion about the need to layoff from 80 to 100 teachers and some administrative staff. There was also a proposal to place a question on the November ballot to raise additional tax money to provide funding for extra-curricular activities and parts of the sports schedule. While the teacher layoffs and ballot question was not included in the approved budget, the public criticized the Board of Education for taking them on an emotional roller coaster ride.
Bloomfield is certainly not alone in its budgetary “roller coaster ride,” whether it be for education or the ability to provide other vital public services. Towns and cities all over the country are facing budget shortfalls and finding it difficult to maintain the level of services their residents have come to expect. In March, because the U.S. Congress could not agree on sensible budget cuts, automatic budget cuts of 10 percent across the board, or sequestration, took effect, making it even more challenging for local governments to provide services to their residents.
It is astonishing that on June 6, the House Armed Services Committee passed its Defense Authorization or $638 billion in defense spending, including a $5.1 billion increase for the war in Afghanistan above the Pentagon’s request and $52.2 billion more than the budget caps set by sequestration. This budget amount represents almost 57 percent of all the funds the U.S. Congress can decide how to spend. Only about 6 percent of the total 2014 budget will be allocated toward education.
On June 21 and 22, at its annual meeting in Las Vegas, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the nonpartisan association of U.S. cities with populations more than 30,000, will consider a ground-breaking resolution calling for U.S. leadership in global elimination of nuclear weapons and redirection of military spending to domestic needs, also supported by Mayors for Peace.
Mayors for Peace was founded in 1982 by the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their mission is to promote peace through gradual nuclear disarmament. Their membership now exceeds 5,600 member cities in 156 countries, including 197 U.S. cities, with six in New Jersey: Hoboken, Hope, Irvington, Jersey City, Montclair and Perth Amboy.
The resolution’s lead sponsor is Mayor Donald Plusquellic of Akron, Ohio, a past USCM president. Mayor Plusquellic is also a vice president of Mayors for Peace. As of June 4, there were six additional co-sponsors.
Mayor Plusquellic writes in a letter to all mayors in Mayors for Peace, “As we mayors know all too well, the budget sequester enacted in March is impeding the economic recovery in cities by making deep cuts to vital federal programs. In contrast, Pentagon spending has grown by 50 percent in real dollars in the last 12 years, not including war spending….I believe that our nation’s deep economic crisis can only be addressed by adopting new priorities to create a sustainable economy in the 21st century.”
Mayor Plusquellic’s letter continues, “To that end, the resolution calls on the President and Congress to terminate funding for nuclear weapons modernization, and to properly balance military spending with spending to reinvest in programs to provide basic human services, create jobs, rebuild infrastructure and meet the needs of America’s cities.”
The resolution specifically opposes the B61 nuclear bomb life extension program, which the military admits has no military purpose. If approved, 400 B61 bombs, the oldest bombs in the U.S. arsenal, will be “modernized” for $10.4 billion. An additional $1 billion would be allocated to the U.S. Air Force to “increase the accuracy of the bomb” and more than $336 billion would be allocated for developing an F-35 joint strike fighter to carry these bombs.
New Jersey Peace Action urges residents to contact U.S. Rep. Frelinghuysen at 973-984-0711 to express opposition to this wasteful spending.
NJPA also urges Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy to co-sponsor the USCM resolution before June 20, vote to support it at the USCM’s annual meeting and then issue a public statement after the convention. Since last year’s resolution, “Calling on Congress to Redirect Military Spending to Domestic Needs” passed overwhelmingly, this year’s is likely to pass as well.
Support for this well-documented resolution will indicate the mayor’s support for moving the money from wars and nuclear weapons construction and upgrades to local governments for use in funding education, health care, jobs creation, infrastructure repair and more.
Genuine security begins with adequately funded communities. Instead of continuing to argue over how to spend the relatively small amounts of money relegated to programs other than the military, it’s time to advocate for change.
The writer is executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, based in Bloomfield.
via Bloomfield opinion: Military versus municipal funding | NorthJersey.com.