A GENUINE HERO of the GREAT RECESSION - a MAYOR who is doing something about his city paying HUGE TAXES used by FEDERAL GOV for PIRATE OIL RESOURCE WARS

Binghamton mayor Matt Ryan will put a big 'cost of war' sign on City Hall

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (AP/WSYR-TV) - The mayor of Binghamton, a city with its share of economic torment, said he plans to hang an electronic "cost of war" sign outside City Hall to drive home how much taxpayer money is being spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two-term Democrat Matthew Ryan hopes that tallying the ongoing expense in a prominent place - a side wall of City Hall above a main thoroughfare - will stimulate debate on the nation's spending priorities.

The move has been greeted with praise and scorn as well as questions about whether an arguably political statement belongs on the side of a public building.

"If we're against war, we should be against war because it's not the proper policy from a military and a political point of view, not from a cost point of view," said Army veteran George Shea, a retired high school teacher. "Their purpose is good, I just feel that's not an appropriate way to get the debate going."

Taxpayers in this city of 42,000 residents, 140 miles northwest of New York City, "have paid almost $140 million toward the cost of these two wars since 2001," Ryan said in a telephone interview. "In the city of Binghamton, that would pay for 2,675 public safety officers for one year.

"I'm really sick and tired of sitting around having to tell my public safety officers and Department of Public Works they're going to have the cut their budget this much more. ... We can't have another nine, 10 years of this kind of spending and survive as a nation," Ryan said.

Asked about the propriety of putting the sign on City Hall, Ryan said it would be "somewhat inappropriate" for a mayor to put on display what he feels about war. "But I think just having the people know the actual numbers is a service to the people, and that's why I'm doing it," he said.

The $6,000 sign being installed next week with his approval is paid for by the Broome County Cost of War Project, a local peace activist group with 135 members that promotes the peaceful resolution of global conflicts, said spokeswoman Susan McAnanama.

The key numbers highlighting the wars' cost to local, state and federal taxpayers will come from the National Priorities Project, a research group that analyzes federal data, and icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks military casualties in Iraq.

Facts posted on the 4-foot-wide sign will be updated weekly, with U.S. troop levels and military death tolls likely to be substituted during the Memorial Day week, McAnanama said.

"We were lucky the mayor agreed to it," she said, noting the group couldn't afford to rent billboards.

"We are not putting up opinions on the side of the building. It's all statistics. But it's about opening up a dialogue. We felt that people were not allowed to talk about the cost of the war. If you talked about it, you were like looked at as unpatriotic.

"Why are we spending so much money on war? Why are our local arts groups fighting over the crumbs? Why does half our city live below the poverty levels? These are the questions that I want to raise. ... We're going to put the facts up, and let people ask the questions themselves."