Business Owners React to Marine Corps Vote

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Some Berkeley business owners say they have received such a negative response from the recent City Council resolutions against the Marine Corps recruiting center in Downtown Berkeley that they may withhold city taxes in protest.

Last week the council declared that the center was "unwelcome" in Berkeley and sought to aide Code Pink, a group that organizes regular protests outside the center, by reserving a parking space for the group in front of the center, among other actions.

Since then, the resolutions have elicited a nationwide response. Last Thursday, United States Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he would attempt to remove funding for programs in the Berkeley area to protest the council's actions.

Ted Garrett, the CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, said he had received at least 140 e-mails from people who said they would not do business in Berkeley in response to the council's resolutions.

"Most are threatening to never set foot in Berkeley and never have anything to do with businesses in Berkeley," he said. "I know of at least one instance now where an innkeeper has reported that one visitor has cancelled their reservation because of the council's actions."

Councilmember Darryl Moore said some of the complaints may have come from people who never planned on visiting Berkeley in the first place.

"Those people don't live anywhere near Berkeley and who's to say that they were coming to Berkeley to begin with?" he said. "I just think it would be unfortunate if the chamber did some sort of knee-jerk reaction to all of this."

At a meeting of the chamber's Government Affairs committee yesterday, some members discussed a plan to withhold business license taxes to protest the resolutions' effects on their business.

A formal plan to withhold taxes would require the approval of the chamber's executive committee or board of directors.

But Carolyn Henry Golphin, the immediate past chair of the chamber's board, said withholding taxes should only be a last resort.

"We have to do what we have to do," she said. "We do need to make a stand together if that's what we all agree on."

Liz Stevens, broker and owner of Windermere Real Estate in Berkeley, said the current controversy was part of a larger problem.

"The city has a good way of keeping people at arms length and making decisions that affect them at the same time," she said.

Mark McLeod, a member of the chamber's board and president of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said he agreed that the council should have considered the implications of its actions before voting for the resolutions.

"The council can't operate as an isolated unit-the university, council and chamber have to realize they're all members of a large, complex community and have to act with a realization of the effect of their actions on all members of the community," he said.


Contact Amy Brooks at [email protected]

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