Legislator Calls for Cuts Over City Vote

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A state assemblymember announced plans last Thursday to punish the city of Berkeley by removing $3.3 million in state funds designated for street maintenance after the city's controversial stance against the Downtown Marine Corps recruiting center.

Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, the only Republican assemblymember in the Bay Area, said the parking spot in front of the center reserved for Code Pink, a national anti-war organization, justifies action by the Assembly's transportation committee, of which he is a member.

He added that it is inappropriate to provide a permanent public parking spot to a political organization, especially in a situation that is ripe for violent confrontation.

"I think what (the mayor and City Council) have done is reprehensible," he said.

Two weeks ago, the City Council voted to give Code Pink a permanent protest location outside the recruiting center and to send a letter to the Marine Corps calling them "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city.

Calling these resolutions offensive to the military, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint,

R-S.C., announced last week that he will introduce legislation to deny Berkeley almost $2.4 million in federal earmarks.

But Houston said his own proposal better targets the city in an attempt to change its position on the center.

The federal money has been designated for various projects in Berkeley, including a planned ferry service and UC Berkeley's Matsui Center on Politics and Public Service.

Some council members said there is very little chance of the bill passing.

"(Houston) is posturing for his political base," said Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak.

However, there is strong support among Republicans in the Assembly to withhold funds from Berkeley, according to Houston.

"My caucus is united in favor of this," he said.

Houston said that if the City Council does not apologize and reverse its decision, he will reach out to moderate Democrats in the Assembly.

Wozniak, who voted against the council's resolutions, said that the $3.3 million in state funds that would be withheld are not equivalent to the parking space.

"How much we spend on paving that spot is peanuts," he said.

At its meeting tomorrow, the City Council will revisit its statement about the recruitment center, but not its decision regarding the parking spot for Code Pink.

Mayor Tom Bates said that while he stands by his vote to provide Code Pink with a parking spot, he wants to clarify that the city's actions were not directed against the soldiers themselves.

Wozniak said that the federal and state financial threats are not likely to change the minds of council members. Instead, he said, it is the thousands of e-mails and calls from constituents and people around the country that will be a stronger motivator.

A large national pro-troop organization, Move America Forward, will be protesting all day Tuesday, said the group's executive director Catherine Moy.

"I think that if they are American they will change their minds," she said.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said her organization will also have a strong showing at the meeting. She said the city made the right decision and she only expects some clarification of the original resolution.

"Getting a parking spot is a very minimal way for the city to support our effort that perfectly fits with the sentiment of the people," she said.


Contact Asaf Shalev at [email protected]

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