- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

CALAIS, Vt. (AP) — Packed into their 140-year-old Town Hall on a clear, frigid morning, some residents of Calais — population 1,552 — took care of business.

They talked about fire department contracts and the town highway fund, appropriated $2,500 for a town swimming program and boosted the property-tax exemption for disabled veterans, all without much debate — and no rancor.

But when Article 23 came up, the mood changed. That was the one calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Gus Seelig, the moderator, asked the crowd of about 125 people to keep it civil. “We’re not going to attack our neighbors,” he said. “They’re still going to be our neighbors when we’re done here today.”

With that, the debate began. It was scene that played out across Vermont on Tuesday at the state’s annual Town Meetings, when voters gather in town halls and gyms to debate issues big and small.

Twenty-nine towns approved nonbinding calls for impeachment investigations, according to the Rutland Herald and Times Argus newspapers and Dan DeWalt, a Newfane select board member who organized the impeachment-resolution drive.

The towns of Dorset and Stamford rejected the resolution, and moderators in some other communities blocked it from being considered, said Mr. DeWalt, who barnstormed across Vermont with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan last weekend to drum up support for the measures.

In Roxbury, voters approved both the impeachment resolution and a companion measure calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

In Middlebury, Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, was the Town Meeting moderator. He at first tried to block a vote on the two resolutions, reasoning that they were brought up under new business, meaning no vote could be held, according to the Rutland Herald and Times Argus.

He changed his mind when voters made clear they wanted to weigh in on the resolutions, both of which were opposed by wide margins.

“It became clear that no one was going home until they had the chance to discuss the resolutions and vote on them,” said David Rosenberg, a political science professor at Middlebury College who attended the meeting.

In Calais, Marion Gray, 60, the stepmother of a service member killed in Iraq, called it “treasonous” to spend taxpayer money on impeachment proceedings, and said the United States had more to lose by pulling out.

Ray Lemay, 66, whose son is a U.S. Navy officer, said the polling place was where such grievances should be addressed. His voice halting, he looked toward Mrs. Gray, who was across the room. “I’d hate to see my son in the same boat as Mrs. Gray’s. But if it happens, it happens. It was a good cause.”

Several speakers said they objected to the notion that war opponents don’t support the troops.

“It is not treason to question our government,” said Tom Treece, 40. “This has nothing to do with the troops. It’s about what the administration is doing.”

Mrs. Gray said it was supporters of the measure who were being used. She said the passage of the resolution — in a 94-22 vote — would have no effect.

“It goes nowhere, folks,” she said. “Neither forward nor backward.”

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