Council OKs resolutions panning Trump budget

By Chris Suarez, The Daily Progress.

Charlottesville’s City Council approved a resolution Monday calling on Congress to reject the military-heavy federal budget President Donald Trump proposed last week, citing concerns that the city could face challenges if cuts to several federal programs and agencies are approved.

Prepared by Councilor Kristin Szakos, the resolution echoes critics who have rebuked the budget proposal for diverting discretionary spending for human and environmental needs to increase the nation’s military budget by $54 billion.

The council also voted to approve a resolution Councilor Kathy Galvin introduced Monday night, calling for the preservation of federal funding for domestic programs administered by the city. The council unanimously approved Galvin’s resolution, but Mayor Mike Signer abstained from voting on Szakos’ resolution, saying he had reservations about its language.

In an interview before Monday’s meeting, Szakos said the city would suffer if funding for local social and education programs is cut.

“The cuts that are proposed will make life very hard for our residents and make running the city harder,” she said.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the federal departments of health and human services, state, agriculture and labor would suffer cuts between 20 percent and 31 percent if Trump’s budget is adopted, according to The Washington Post. Funding for Veteran Affairs, Homeland Security and the Department of Defense would increase by 5 percent to 10 percent.

Szakos said funding for afterschool programs and reduced-cost and free lunches could be on the chopping block, and that the city’s plans for redevelopment of public housing could be set back if funding for the Community Development Block Grant program is cut.

The idea for the resolutions arose as early reports about the president’s budget proposal said it would contain a heavy emphasis on military spending and cuts for a litany of agencies.

The resolutions are similar to others the council has adopted, amounting to little more than a request that congressional representatives and other high-ranking elected officials take action on topics that Virginia localities have no authority over.

In 2012, the council passed a resolution stating its opposition to war against Iran. That resolution also cited a 2011 U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution that decried the nation’s military spending.

“We’re telling our congressional representatives that if you want to serve the people and don’t want lives to be hurt, this is how you should vote,” Szakos said. “We are the government closest to the ground and to our constituents. I think people in Congress appreciate that sort of input.”

Szakos said her resolution was inspired by a draft resolution that was proposed and endorsed earlier this month by a coalition of local organizations, including the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, Indivisible Charlottesville and the local chapters of Veterans for Peace, Amnesty International and the Democratic Socialists of America, as well as commonwealth’s attorney candidate Jeff Fogel.

David Swanson, author and director of the international pacifist movement World Beyond War, said Trump’s budget proposal does nothing to benefit American citizens because it pays for military spending increases with massive budget cuts elsewhere, offering little in the way of overall budget reductions that could lead to tax cuts.

The original draft proposal that Swanson shared with the City Council earlier this month alluded to Mayor Mike Signer’s declaration that Charlottesville will be a “capital of the resistance” against the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration.

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