Friday, February 8, 2008

Berkeley City Council Cries Foul over Semper Fi Retaliation Act

On January 31, the Berkeley California City Council drew a literal line in the sand against the Marines and its recruiting station located in the city and, much to their chagrin, the largess of the Federal Government.

Not satisfied with merely voicing their opposition with the war on terror and Iraq, the city council took several steps, steps which invoked using the powers of the city council to harass the Marines into packing up their recruiting station and getting "off of town."

The City Council voted to officially sanction the anti-war group Codepink, giving the group a free city parking space in front of the Recruiting Station and a sound permit to protest. They voted to "explore" enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines because of the military's, Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, and they also voted 6-3 to warn the Marine recruiting station to get out of town, they were not wanted in Berkeley, that the Marines were now considered "uninvited and unwelcome intruders."
Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Marines in Berkeley have got to go.

That's the message from the Berkeley City Council, which voted 6-3 Tuesday night to tell the U.S. Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders." Source - Contra Costa Times
Reaction from Washington was uncharacteristically rapid:
Six Republican senators, led by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and an Orange County representative on Wednesday introduced companion bills called the Semper Fi Act of 2008 that seek to take away $2.3 million from Berkeley earmarked in the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill and give it to the Marine Corps.

The funds are designated for school lunches, Bay ferry service, disability organizations, UC Berkeley and public safety. Source - Contra Costa Times
Demint issued a statement on the Berkeley Council's actions:
"Berkeley needs to learn that their actions have consequences," DeMint said in a statement. "Patriotic American taxpayers won't sit quietly while Berkeley insults our brave Marines and tries to run them out of town. Berkeley City Council members have shown complete ingratitude to our military and their families, and the city doesn't deserve a single dime of special pet project handouts."
The mayor of Berkeley, a former military man himself, issued an apology:
There's really no correlation between federal funds for schools, water ferries and police communications systems and the council's actions, for God's sake," said Bates, a retired U.S. Army captain. "We apologize for any offense to any families of anyone who may serve in Iraq. We want them to come home and be safe at home."
Wishing to "clarify" their "position" further the Mayor said that the council's actions were merely "symbolic."

We suppose the same argument could be made by the Republicans working to introduce the Semper Fi Act of 2008, that their legislation could be construed as "symbolic" too.

Much was made of the monies that would be "slashed" from "starving" kids and their school lunches. The total amount going to the lunch fund was $243,000 bucks for 10,000 school lunches.
Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District, which receives federal funds through the Chez Panisse foundation, called the congressional effort "absurd."

"Why anyone would want to take healthy food away from children is just beyond me," Cooper said. "We're in the throes of a health crisis due to childhood obesity, and Berkeley is one of the very few cities in America that's actually really working on children's health through school food."
If we read Ms. Cooper's words correctly, the school lunches are for kids who are obese. Perhaps the City Council could issue a statement to the overweight kids and tell them they need to "suck it up" and pack an organic gluten free sandwich at home for the good of the Berkeley dogma.

We're quite sure the City Council could find the money for those lunches and crying foul is patently absurd if you take at look at who and what the rest of the two plus million in Federal funds is headed for:
Federal money proposed to be transferred from Berkeley institutions to the U.S. Marines in the Semper Fi Act of 2008:

# $243,000 from the Chez Panisse Foundation, which provides 10,000 daily school lunches for Berkeley public schools

# $243,000 for the Ed Roberts Campus, a project that houses offices for disability organizations

# $750,000 for water ferry service planned from Berkeley to San Francisco

# $94,000 for a police and fire emergency communications system

# $975,000 from UC Berkeley's Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service, which houses the papers of the late U.S. Rep. Robert Matsui
We believe the Berkeley City Council has the right to do whatever it chooses and thus, when it takes action, it should learn to stand by its decisions. Waffling, crying foul or just plain crying over their "militant" stand is childish and immature.

In the end, for all their "ideals" it was the money, wasn't it, that counted. If they truly believed in their principles they'd be willing to stand by them and not capitulate and crumble when the first check doesn't come in the mail.

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