More than a dozen Takoma Park residents told the City Council Monday that they oppose a proposed amendment to the city's stringent nuclear-free zone law that would allow city officials to buy products from nuclear weapons contractors if no other suppliers could be found.
The city's nuclear-free zone ordinance was adopted a year ago and includes provisions barring municipal investments and contracts with companies involved in nuclear weapons production. Takoma Park is believed to be the first muncipality in the country to bar investments and contracts with nuclear weapons producers.
Residents argued that a waiver would weaken the ordinance and would make the council appear to be shying away from what several called a "moral responsibility" to uphold the ordinance.
"When [President] Lincoln came forth with the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was abolished. Lincoln didn't say slavery was abolished and then add, 'Unless we can't get cheap labor,' " argued resident Jay Levy. "Takoma Park can't say complicity with nuclear weapons makers is abolished and then say, 'Unless it is not reasonable.' "
But some residents and council members said the ordinance has to be changed because a broad range of companies is in some way involved in the nuclear weapons industry.
The amendment, expected to go to a vote next month, would allow the City Council to make exceptions to the no-nukes rule on public health grounds or for financial reasons. Already exempt are purchases under $500 that do not have to be put to public bid.
Last spring, when the city asked for bids for much-needed police radio equipment, only General Electric and Motorola, both contractors on Minuteman and MX missile projects, responded.
City officials said they have since been able to find a radio manufacturer that is not involved with nuclear weapons production. Opponents of the waiver maintain that the city would be able to resolve similar problems that may arise.
"What products do we see as unavailable in this great land of ours?" asked Mayor Sammie A. Abbott, an ardent supporter of the nuclear-free zone law who is against the proposed waiver.