Dove-ville: Locust Grove wages peace on Iraq

Published November 21, 2002, in issue #42 of The Hook


Santa Cruz, California; Ithaca, New York; Locust Grove Neighborhood Association?

What do these communities have in common? They've all passed resolutions against war in Iraq.

And while Santa Cruz is known for its liberal tendencies, and the Utne Reader calls Ithaca America's "most enlightened city," neighborhood associations don't normally weigh in on foreign policy.

That didn't deter Garnett Mellen and Sarah Peaslee. The president and vice president of the neighborhood association surrounding Locust Avenue took action.

"The greatest concern for both of us was war in Iraq," says Mellen, and Peaslee was inspired by Ithaca's resolution against the war. She and Mellen, who have never been politically active beyond honking to show support for the living wage campaign or writing letters to elected representatives, brought up the idea of a resolution to the dozen or so people who showed up for the October annual meeting.

"I was really surprised no one spoke out against it," says Mellen. The rest of the neighborhood was advised through emails or letters, and only one resident responded.

"That was amazing," Mellen says. "I thought the general population supported the war."

Peaslee describes the neighborhood as "a much more liberal one than I've ever lived in." At the November 12 meeting, the five Locust Grovers present approved the resolution.

Gerry Berg is the neighbor who questioned the appropriateness of a neighborhood association trying to involve itself in foreign affairs. Since the resolution passed, he's reconsidering whether he'll remain a member of the association.

"We have elected representatives to deal with Iraq," he says. "We don't elect people to the neighborhood association to deal with issues of foreign policy. What next? Resolutions on genocide in Rwanda? Recommendations for funding aircraft carriers?"

Berg, who describes himself as a lifelong Democrat and who supports the war, also questions how democratic it is to have a handful of people claim to represent the neighborhood, although he concedes he didn't attend the meeting.

"I wouldn't like to think I have to show up at a neighborhood meeting to have my say on foreign policy issues," he says.

However, Center for Peace and Justice activist Clarence McClymonds, who lives on the Martha Jefferson Hospital end of Locust Avenue– not part of the Locust Grove Neighborhood– thinks it's a good idea and says he'll suggest it to his own neighborhood association. "It's a way of letting various administrations know that people out in the boondocks are talking about it," he says.

Mellen and Peaslee sent the resolution to Congressman Virgil Goode, Senators John Warner and George Allen, and City Council, and plan to let President George Bush and the United Nations have a copy, too.

Will Charlottesville City Council issue its own resolution against war with Iraq? Given that Council once passed resolutions declaring the city a nuclear-free zone and called for a moratorium on the death penalty, such action doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility.

What about local Republicans are they going to find a neighborhood association to issue a counter resolution in support of the war in Iraq? Top local Republican Bob Hodous doesn't think so, but he's chuckling over Locust Grove's initiative. "That's one of the beauties of the United States," he says, "that people can say what they want."