City Councilor John Tobin last month voted in favor of a Boston City Council resolution calling for US troops to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and for military budget cuts to free up domestic spending.
It was a dramatic turnaround from his longstanding opposition to council debate of national policy, particularly the ongoing wars—a major issue in the past two council elections.
“I can’t say if I was [council] president I would’ve let it in,” Tobin said of the resolution, which a majority supported in the Feb. 14 vote, in a Gazette interview. But current president Maureen Feeney did, and Tobin said he had no problem voting on council business.
“I voted for it,” said Tobin, who represents most of Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. “I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t want to see our men and women come home, and come home safely…I’d prefer they come home.”
The resolution is only a symbolic protest vote.
Egleston Square-area City Councilor Chuck Turner, who authored the resolution, and at-large City Councilor Felix Arroyo, a JP resident, have long tried to get anti-war debate into the council. Former council president Michael Flaherty repeatedly banned such discussions as not germane to city business. But Flaherty also voted in favor of the current resolution.
Tobin’s opponents in the past two council elections supported allowing such debates. At one point, Tobin unsuccessfully proposed a middle-ground solution of allowing such debates to be raised after the official council session ended, but while city TV cameras were still on.
After years of opposing a council war resolution, Tobin found himself on the other end of the criticism. Councilors Sal LaMattina, Jerry McDermott and Steve Murphy spoke in strong opposition to the resolution and its discussion in the council.
“I think those councilors who say we shouldn’t talk about it and [then] stand up and pontificate about it for 20 minutes—it’s hypocritical,” said Tobin, who did not speak prior to casting his vote.
Tobin said he was comfortable supporting the resolution because it did not
include a lengthy hearing. And, he said, he was persuaded by Turner’s language, which tied the war into city budget concerns.
City budget items impacted by federal budget cuts include $250 million in backlogged school building repairs; loss of Boston Housing Authority security programs; fewer police officers; and cuts to school arts and music programs.
“It’s a trickle-down effect [from war spending],” Tobin said. “You try to put those initiatives forward and you’re told there’s no money. Terrorism is going on in our streets.”
“This is not about the war, [or] whether people support the war or don’t support the war,” Tobin said. But, he acknowledged, the Democratic sweep of last year’s Congressional elections was “a clear indication that there’s a growing, growing dissatisfaction with the way this thing is headed.”
“Now we have 3,000 dead soldiers,” Tobin said, and thousands of veterans returning with physical and emotional wounds. Tobin, whose grandfather and father served in the military, has opposed plans to merge local Veterans Affairs hospitals.