Bombs, banks, and buildings
Ethical issues at forefront of Woodstock board meeting
by George Pattison
Woodstock's image as an emblem of peace and idealism surfaced in sharp relief at the December 9 meeting of the Town Board, as a citizens group deplored the local manufacture of military weapons components, board members weighed the morality of the town's ties with a local bank, and a fair, consistent policy on the use of public buildings remained elusive.
In a presentation to the board, five residents - Dee Dee Halleck, Tarak Kauff, Laurie Kirby, Joel Kovel, and Ellen Povill - expressed concern over the Woodstock company Ametek Rotron's production of devices for military applications that include, according to the group, a missile launch system that is sometimes used to deliver cluster bombs, attack helicopters, tanks, and armored personnel carriers.
A statement to the Town Board, signed by 14 members of the citizens group, Middle East Crisis Response, read, in part, "We are surprised and dismayed to learn that Woodstock's largest manufacturing facility - according to its own promotional materials - makes components for many weapons systems. Some of these systems are being used to commit major violations of international law. . .We believe that the people of Woodstock can and should work together with local businesspeople and the town government to create a local economy that is sustainable and ethical."
The group emphasized that its goal was to persuade Ametek Rotron to convert its operations to the manufacture of "peaceful and environmentally positive products" and that it did not wish to jeopardize employees' jobs. The company reportedly employs more than 375 people at its Hasbrouck Lane facility.
In a subsequent interview, Kauff reported that he, Halleck, and another member of the group, Dutchess County resident Fred Nagel, met on December 8 with Ametek Rotron officials Charles Lohwasser, who is vice president and general manager in the parent company, Ametek's aerospace and defense division, and Larry Bruck to discuss their concerns.
Kauff described the meeting as cordial. "Both Charlie and Larry were very gracious and made no attempt to rush us. They take a lot of justifiable pride in the company's technical skills," he said. Kauff added, however, that the officials, who favored the term "defense" over that of "military," defended the company's activities as legal and legitimate and declined to dwell on the "ultimate result of their work." The meeting concluded with an agreement to continue the dialogue, said Kauff, who is a 17-year Woodstock resident and a member of the antiwar organization Veterans for Peace. Lohwasser could not be reached for comment on December 10.