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Mayor reconsiders cost-of-war counter

Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan announced Tuesday that he would reevaluate his decision to install a digital sign on Binghamton City Hall that would display the cost of American wars.

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The decision to reconsider the installation of the “Cost of War Counter” came after criticism that the sign would be a slight to military service members.

The electronic sign, which was planned to display the millions of taxpayer dollars that Broome County residents pay to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is part of the Broome County Cost of War Project, an awareness campaign to encourage community dialogue about the financial costs of war on local residents.

Unveiled April 14, the sign was set to hang on the side of City Hall overlooking State Street, across from the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. In total, Broome County residents raised about $6,000 in donations to fund the counter. No tax dollars were used to pay for the sign.

Susan McAnanama, the Cost of War project coordinator, said she initiated the project to address the “invisible topic” of how much the government spends on war.

“Whether you are pro-war or anti-war, this will at least do something to have both sides heard,” McAnanama said before Ryan’s Tuesday announcement.

But Paul, a Vietnam Veteran living in Johnson City who requested that his full name not be disclosed for privacy reasons, said he thought Ryan could have concentrated more on local politics within Broome County — gangs, infrastructure and student safety — rather than on federal politics.

“He needs to fix problems [that] he is responsible for,” Paul said.

Ryan supported the Cost of War Counter as a way for mayors to fulfill their responsibilities to preserve city infrastructure. Ryan joins mayors Richard Daley of Chicago and Thomas Menino of Boston among a growing number of political leaders against the amount of military spending.

“We are all making the connection that it is now impossible to provide the essential services that our citizens expect and deserve if we continue to spend so many dollars on one part of government — our military,” Ryan announced during the public unveiling of the sign at City Hall.

The counter would have displayed weekly financial statistics provided by the National Priorities Project (NPP), a research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data to examine how tax dollars are spent.

A study by NPP reported that an average family in New York paid $5,024 in federal income taxes in 2008, of which $1,477 were directed to the military. The study also stated that Binghamton taxpayers have contributed over $138.6 million to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001.

The War Resisters League, a secular pacifist organization for nonviolent revolutions, estimates that the 2009 federal fiscal budget dedicated $954 billion, or 36 percent of income taxes, toward current military funding out of a total of $2,650 billion available federal funds.