We speak with a member of the Bloomington City Council which has passed several bills and resolutions opposing the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act, promoting fair elections through a verifiable paper trail and seeking a higher minimum wage. [includes rush transcript]
- Andy Ruff, Bloomington City Council.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m broadcasting from Bloomington, Indiana, and we’re joined by the President of the Bloomington City Council here in our studio at Indiana University, Andy Ruff. Thank you for being with us.
ANDY RUFF: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Among the many resolutions and bills you have passed, your very prolific City Council, you passed a resolution against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Can you talk about it?
ANDY RUFF: Yeah. A few months before the actual invasion, we passed a resolution by a supermajority, it passed with a supermajority of Council Members. And basically it said we oppose the invasion of Iraq as a community statement. A resolution is the formal way for a local legislative body to make a policy statement for their community. We opposed the invasion of Iraq without direct and clear evidence of imminent threat to this country and without the support and agreement of the international community. And we passed that and directed that to be sent to our Indiana Congressional delegation in Washington, the Office of the President, etc.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did they respond?
ANDY RUFF: Not a direct response from a lot of the recipients, but some of the Congressional delegation members, Baron Hill and others in Washington, Indiana representatives did respond.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you have passed a whole series of resolutions and bills. Can you talk about some that you think are the most significant that have national implications?
ANDY RUFF: Well, you mention national implications, and I think it’s important that though these are local statements, taken collectively with communities around the country — how many passed resolutions opposing the invasion of Iraq; 100 or more? — I think it makes an extremely strong statement, and I think at a time in our nation’s history like this, when you have the neoconservatives and religious right really dominating the three branches of government at the federal level, these local statements are extraordinarily important for communities to make. It’s the one way you can have a voice — a formal and official voice of dissent on some of these issues. And some of the other issues that we have passed resolutions on have been the PATRIOT Act. We passed a resolution once again by supermajority opposing the — asking the PATRIOT Act be repealed as violations of Constitutionally protected rights and civil liberties. And once again, we directed that to our Congressional delegation. And we passed a resolution promoting fair elections with transparency, guaranteeing transparency, measures to be implemented to guarantee transparency and a verifiable paper trail for all voting.
AMY GOODMAN: The idea of having a receipt, a record of a vote in a computerized voting machine.
ANDY RUFF: And we passed — well, we — other things we have done as sort of response to federal policies. We’ve recently passed a living wage, a local living wage requirement, living wage law in response to the failure of our federal and state government to adequately adjust federal minimum wage. And that law, that local law requires local businesses receiving contracts for public work and local firms receiving economic development subsidies, tax abatement, etc. It requires that they pay a wage level far above the federal minimum?
AMY GOODMAN: What is it?
ANDY RUFF: It’s $10 an hour. And they can — 15% of which can be a health insurance benefit.
AMY GOODMAN: So you can get $8.50, if you are given health benefits.
ANDY RUFF: If you are given $1.50 equivalent, at least, in health benefits. And we recently passed that piece of legislation. We —- once again, that passed by supermajority. We passed -—
AMY GOODMAN: Nine people on your City Council?
ANDY RUFF: Nine people on the City Council. So most of these votes have been — may have been 7-2; if someone was absent, 7-1. I think we had an 8-1 on one of them.
AMY GOODMAN: You have 7-2, Democrat-Republican?
ANDY RUFF: Yes. But our republican colleagues locally here in Bloomington have been very good to work with. And they hear the arguments, and they will honestly consider and contribute and have an input into the development of the language of this legislations.
AMY GOODMAN: What you’ve called the NAFTA highway?
ANDY RUFF: Yeah, we — it’s I-69. Interstate 69, there’s been a push for several years now to extend Interstate 69 from Indianapolis southwest to Texas and next through the Mexican border. And it’s being pushed as the NAFTA superhighway link to facilitate the furthering of NAFTA, of the goals of NAFTA. And it would go through — be a new terrain road through Bloomington and through Southwest Indiana.
AMY GOODMAN: And it starts in Canada.
ANDY RUFF: It starts in Canada, Port Huron, Michigan, on the border. We have been very active for several years opposing that on the grounds that — well, we oppose the current global trade agreements like NAFTA in their current form, and that this would be supporting that, but primarily, locally, we have tremendous — it’s fiscally irresponsible to use for our limited transportation dollars. We should be promoting a more sustainable transportation future, and the environmental destruction that would result from a new terrain highway and the impact, negative impact on communities along its path of this thing. So we passed that resolution recently, and we also just this past week, we developed and approved a sustainability commission as part of our community’s major sustainability initiative for developing policies and working with the community agencies and businesses to try and take a path locally, while the federal government is denying global warming, climate — humidity-induced climate change, and not signing the Kyoto Accords. We’re trying locally to take some steps through the sustainability initiative to develop more sustainable policies and ways of living and ways of doing business here in our own community.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Andy Ruff, I want to thank you for stopping by here in your neighborhood at Indiana University. Andy Ruff is the President of the Bloomington City Council.
ANDY RUFF: Thank you.