A push to have Burlington’s city council take a stance on nuclear weapons has ended not with a bang but with a deafening “no comment.”
During a monthly work-session on Monday, the council arrived at a consensus not to endorse a United Nation’s treaty to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons that, according to its supporters, has secured the backing of hundreds of other communities around the world.
By declining to take a position on this matter, the council’s members also declared their intentions to remain neutral on other “hot-button” issues that, like the use of nuclear arms, lie outside their immediate purview as municipal officials. This overall policy was perhaps best summed up by councilman Ronnie Wall during the council’s discussion on Monday.
“If individuals members want to sign their name onto that, I’m fine with it,” Wall told his colleagues that afternoon. “But as a group, where does it end?”
The council reached this decision despite the repeated entreaties of Alamance Peace Action, a faith-based organization that originally approached the city’s leaders in December to ask them to sign onto a resolution in support of the UN treaty.
The council had initially discussed the group’s request in January, although its members didn’t come to any firm resolutions at the time – with Wall and others requesting more time to consider the matter. On Monday, however, those who were previously torn over the issue were no longer in any doubt about how to proceed.
The council’s consensus to remain neutral received further support on Monday from Burlington’s city attorney David Huffman, who insisted that “it would not be appropriate” for the council to take stances on issues outside the city’s domain.
“This council has faced this issue before when people have brought up hot button political issues and asked the council to take a position,” Huffman recalled during the work session.
“Some of these things are beyond the jurisdiction of the council in being able to address.
“If you are keenly interested in an item,” he added, “it doesn’t prohibit you from acting as an individual…[But] I believe the use of nuclear weapons and their prohibition as such would be a little bit above the pay grade [of the council].”
In the end, even council member Kathy Hykes, who had originally urged her colleagues to discuss the proposed resolution, seemed to have made her peace with the council’s stance of neutrality.
“If you spent any time learning what this is about, I think it was worthwhile,” she added. “I think that we can all agree that nuclear weapons are probably not a good idea. But if we were to take a position on it, I think that is another matter.”
See the newspaper’s previous editorial page opinion (Feb. 3, 2022) on the issue: https://alamancenews.com/consideration-of-nuclear-nonproliferation-treaty-what-a-colossal-waste-of-time-misplaced-energy/