Committees on Governmental Operations with Civil Service and Labor Int. No. 1621 and Res. No. 976
Opening Statement by Council Member, Daniel Dromm
Good afternoon. I am Council Member Daniel Dromm and I will be chairing this hearing for the Committee on Civil Service and Labor in place of I. Daneek Miller, the regular chair of the Committee. I would like to thank my co-chair, Fernando Cabrera and welcome everyone to today’s hearing. I would like to also acknowledge and welcome my colleagues who have joined us.
Today’s hearing is on two pieces of legislation related to nuclear disarmament on which I am the chief sponsor. Intro. 1621 would create a nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons-free zone advisory committee, and Res. No. 976 calls on the New York City Comptroller to instruct the pension funds of public employees in New York City to divest from and avoid any financial exposure to companies involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons, reaffirms New York City as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, joins us in the ICAN Cities Appeal, and calls on the United States to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
“Nuclear disarmament” is the term for the process of reducing and eradicating nuclear weapons while ensuring that countries without nuclear weapons are not equipped to develop them. Interestingly, the scientists who were instrumental in the creation of the first atomic bomb, from the Manhattan Project, were the first people
to call for nuclear disarmament as they saw the true potential of nuclear weapons and the devastating outcomes that could result. In the waning days of the Second World War, 70 scientists including Albert Einstein signed the Szilard petition, which urged President Roosevelt to not use the bomb on Japan. However, this petition never reached the president, and on August 6th and 9th, 1945, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, forever changing the world and sparking international support for nuclear disarmament.
Since then, the frightening prospect of nuclear annihilation hung over and continues to hang over the world. During much of the Cold War, the problem was largely bilateral: the Soviets and the Americans were the two superpowers that possessed nuclear arms in large numbers. Over time, a limited number of other nations joined this contemptible club.
Now, the specter of nuclear weapons is even scarier. We have a world leader, namely the “very stable genius” sitting in the White House, whose erratic tweets seem to encourage a nuclear arms race. Moreover, there is the very real concern that non-state actors such as terrorist groups will gain access to this deadly technology.
New York City should be leading the way, for its own sake as well as the rest of the world. The core questions then become: what can we do to end the investment of city pension funds in the institutions that support the production and sale of nuclear arms? Res. 976 answers this by calling for the divestment of such funds. The follow up question is: how can we move forward to ensure our city does all it can to address nuclear proliferation? Intro. 1621 answers this by establishing a committee to convene the sharpest minds to focus on the city’s role in one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Today’s hearing brings together some of the top advocates working in the field, including the Nobel Prize-winning International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, to discuss the questions: why is New York City invested in its own destruction, and what are we going to do about it? The city’s commitment to divest from private prisons and fossil fuels certainly helps point the way forward on this context. I look forward to the day when the city will not only divest but also engage in proactive efforts to help tackle the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons.
In addition to the Government Operations Committee staff, I would particularly like to thank the Civil Service and Labor Committee staff who helped prepare for this hearing: Nuzhat Chowdhury, Kevin Kotowski, and Kendall Stephenson.