Marines Vote Leads to Threat on City Funds

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to Introduce Bill To Remove City's $2.3 Million in Earmarks

Photo: Jim DeMint
Jim DeMint

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What started with a set of resolutions against the Marine Corps recruiting center in Downtown Berkeley has escalated into a national controversy and caused the mayor to revisit the resolutions' intentions.

United States Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said Thursday he will introduce legislation that would strip $2,392,000 in earmarked spending for at least six projects in Berkeley from a Senate appropriations bill.

This includes $975,000 for UC Berkeley's Matsui Center on Politics and Public Service and $750,000 for a planned ferry service in Berkeley.

In a press release issued Thursday, DeMint said his proposed legislation was a response to the City Council's decision to support protesters who object to the recruiting station.

"This is a slap in the face to all brave service men and women and their families," DeMint said in a statement. "The First Amendment gives the city of Berkeley the right to be idiotic, but from now on they should do it with their own money."

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who sponsored many of the earmarks issued to Berkeley organizations, objected to DeMint's effort, her staff said.

"The congresswoman would strongly oppose any attempt to punish the people of Berkeley by stripping them of much needed federal funding," said Cleve Mesidor, a spokesperson for Lee.

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who voted against the resolutions, said he was unhappy with DeMint's decision.

"These are good projects, they should be judged on their merit and not whether you agree with Berkeley politics or not," he said.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who voted for the resolutions against the center, said that the council supports the troops, but said that they hope to see the war end as soon as possible.

"The recruiting center is a symbol for the war, and it provides (protesters) a convenient place to express their opposition against a war that they believe is illegal and immoral," Bates said. "I think it was unfortunate that the Marines chose to place a recruiting center in Berkeley. It's like poking us with a stick."

Julie Sinai, senior aide to Bates, said Bates has said that if the Marines need to break their lease, which expires in about 18 months, he will negotiate with the landlord to do so.

"What he has made very clear to the Marines is that if they choose to try to leave early and break their lease, he will do whatever he can to help facilitate that with the landlord," she said.

But the Marines say they have no intention of leaving the city, despite the City Council's resolutions giving protesters a reserved parking space near the military recruitment center on Shattuck Avenue and the effort by local activists to change zoning laws to limit the opening of new centers in Berkeley.

"The fact that there are protesters out there and that the City Council has made those comments indicates that they are using their right to free speech that is guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution," said Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin, a Marine Corps spokesperson.

Wozniak said he felt the recruitment center had a right to operate in Berkeley.

"It's a legitimate operation," Wozniak said. "There's not a law against it, they have a right to be here like anybody else does."

In an effort to retain their funding, the campus plans to contact DeMint and inform him that the city and the campus are separate institutions, and inform him about the campus' ROTC program, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Marie Felde.

"We are hopeful that when he has the facts he will rethink his position," she said.

On Friday, three protestors were arrested when they chained themselves to the recruitment center door. None are currently in custody, said Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

Bates released a statement on Friday to note that while he opposes the war, allowing protestors to have the reserved space by the recruiting center is not an indication of his opposition to those in service, Sinai said.


Jane Shin covers city government. Contact her and Taylor Fife at [email protected]

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