Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 1993
Anti-nuke Initiative OK'd by D.C. Votersby Jim Clardy
An anti-nuclear initiative was approved yesterday, despite its denouncement by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Initiative 37, which seeks a constitutional amendment abolishing all nuclear warheads, coasted to an easy victory, 41,008 to 31,904.
Mrs Norton said over the past few days before the election that she would ignore the request regardless of how theinitiative fared at the polls, saying the Constitution shouldn't be amended to address issues such as disarmament and peace.
While declaring that "no issues are of greater importance than disarmament and conversion to a peacetime economy," Mrs. Norton said the appropriate way to address those concerns is through legislation. She also expressed concern that such an amendment would hurt the upcoming vote in the House on statehood for the District.
"The Constitution is reserved for bedrock principles such as basic rights and due process and for stuctural changes in government," she said. "This is why there have been only 27 amendments to the Constitution in over 2 years of American history."
The measure's passage was "a first step in letting the people of this country take the power to govern themselves. What Norton does or doesn't do is irrevelant," said Chicken Robinson of Proposition One, a non-profit group that helped get the initiative on the ballot.
Proposition One leader William Thomas said issues such as income taxes and prohibition are addressed in the Constitution.
"That had nothing to do with individual rights or due process," he said.
Mr. Thomas, along with his wife Ellen, has maintained an anti-nuclear vigil in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, since 1984. They along with dozens of volunteers collected the signatures of 17,000 registered city voters to put the issue on the ballot.
"We're spending tens of billions of dollars on wartime machines. If that money was going into human needs, it would foster happiness and contentment among the people. That's something in the Declaration of Independence," said Mr. Thomas.
"It's sends the message tot he leaders that they better start listening to the People," said Mrs. Thomas.
"The legislators said we should take it to the constituents. We took it to the constituents and they said yes," she said.
About 30 people gathered in Lafayette Square gathered to celebrate the returns last night.
Burt Glass, the disarmament campaign coordinator for Peace Action, a nationwide lobbying group, said Initiative 37 goes far beyond the hundreds of anti-nuclear petitions passed by city councils around the country during the early 1980's.
The initiative was not ignored by voters, many of whom called it "unrealistic." Some peace activists blasted Mrs. Norton for her 11th hour appeal to reject the measure.
"We've got to make a statement and educate people. ... People need to take more interest in things like this and speak out more," said Josephine Butler, D.C. Statehood Party chairman and one of the first city residents to advocate a freeze on nuclear weapons. Mrs. Butler served on the Nuclear Freeze Commission created during the Barry administration.
Mrs. Butler said she was "disappointed" in Mrs. Norton.
"I am always disappointed when politicians try to tell voters how to vote," she said.
"There are no checks and balances. It's altruistic," he said, calling the proposal a "wonderful idea" that's "not based in reality."
Ward 1 voter Tracy Pilzer agreed but still voted in favor fo the measure.
"At first it seemed kind of silly. I don't think it's very realistic," she said. "But on the other hand it covered a lot of things. I do think it makes sense to convert defense spending."
Jonetta Rose Barras contributed to this report.