This is a city with a history of supporting the U. S. Navy. And on Tuesday, the City Council was not about to change that tradition.
The Long Beach Area Citizens Involved asked the council to consider the potential danger presented by nuclear weapons on ships berthed at the Long Beach Naval Station. Without public discussion, council members quietly shelved the request by voting to "receive and file" the letter from the 600-member activist group.
Sid Solomon, president of Citizens Involved, was not surprised. "There's no movement in Long Beach for that today," he said.
About two years ago, a coalition of community groups tried to force the council to consider for the first time the potential danger of nuclear weapons on Navy ships at the port. Then, too, the group did not get very far.
"I think we're getting into an area of federal domain," Mayor Ernie Kell said before Tuesday's council meeting.
Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who represents the district that includes the naval base, agreed that the city cannot tell the Navy what it can store at the port.
"I don't think there's anyone on the council who would prefer nuclear weapons on the ships," Braude said. "(But) we can sit here until we're blue in the face saying we don't want nuclear weapons and it's not going to change anything."
Whether there are nuclear weapons based in Long Beach is "an issue we don't know very much about," Kell said.
Indeed, the Navy neither confirms nor denies that any ship based here carries nuclear weapons. According to the authoritative Jane's Fighting Ships 1987-88, which lists all warships throughout the world, the Long Beach-based battleships New Jersey and Missouri carry armament that includes Tomahawk missiles, which can be fitted with either conventional or nuclear warheads. (The Missouri and an escort, the guided missile frigate Curts, arrived in Long Beach on Tuesday after a six-month stint in the north Arabian Sea near the Persian Gulf.)
Councilman Tom Clark said that referring the issue to the council's Public Safety Committee for public hearings--as requested--would lead to bad feelings with the city's second-largest employer. And if the goal is for the city to take an anti-nuclear stand, "I don't think the council will do that," Clark said.
In his letter, Solomon congratulated the council for recently urging U. S. Sens. Alan Cranston and Pete Wilson of California to vote for ratification of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Solomon then asked the council to take it a step further and act on a request by resident Richard Rose, a member of the Peace and Freedom Party, to review the potential hazard of nuclear weapons.
But with the issue killed two years ago, Solomon said he had expected little response from the council this time around. "Sometimes, we write a letter just to get on the record about something," Solomon said.