Mayor John Engen cast the deciding vote at the Missoula City Council Monday night, giving Missoula voters the chance to voice their approval or disapproval on the Iraq war this coming November.
The council agreed to place a non-binding referendum on Iraq, with a stated intent to “influence the United States Congress,” up for a vote in the next election. Proponents of the measure say if Missoula voters speak out against the war, Montana’s representatives may take it to heart and help end the war.
Before the vote, veterans, peace activists and concerned parents lined up outside the City Council Chambers waiting for their chance to talk.
“As a citizen I am greatly frustrated by the tendency of our leaders to ignore us,” said Sue Bradford, a Missoula educator in favor of putting the referendum on the ballot. “It is a very important step in supporting the democratic process.”
But local jeweler, Jim Adair, who has a son in the Marines, echoed others in the crowd, maintaining the council has no say in foreign affairs and the measure is an insult to the armed forces.
“Not one of you were elected to advise the president or the Congress on international issues,” he said. “If you want to do the right thing, support our troops.”
However, Mayor Engen said the war is the city’s business.
“The minute you all came down here it became a city issue,” Engen said. “Don’t allow this to divide you, allow this to inform you.”
Council members, Jon Wilkins, Jack Riedy and Jerry Ballas, all veterans, all voted against the resolution.
“It does not support our troops,” Ballas said. “I believe it puts them in greater harm.”
Voters will now have the final say this November.