The (very faint) possibility of the loss of federal funds has the more-practical class of Berkeley politicians eager to retreat, but the real communists are not so easily intimidated.
As six Republican senators devised a plan to yank $2.3 million in federal funding for Berkeley programs, the mayor of the famously liberal city apologized Wednesday for his hard stance against a Marine recruiting center.
Two City Council members vowed to soften their stance as well.
At their Tuesday council meeting, leaders will discuss scrapping a letter that might be perceived as targeting the center or the Marines.
The letter said that the recruiting center was not welcome on Shattuck Avenue and that the Marines were uninvited and unwelcome intruders.
“That letter will probably be pulled back and maybe more moderate language will be put in place which is appropriate I think,” said Berkeley mayor Tom Bates.
“Subtly stated in the resolution is perhaps an impugning of the soldiers fighting for us in Iraq and other places,” Berkeley City Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “And that was never the intention but that really needs to be cleared up. As I walked to my car that night I realized I regretted it and I had made a mistake.”
Bates said the city didn’t mean to offend anyone in the armed forces and the focus should have been on the war not the troops.
“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.”
The letter was originally approved in January and has not been sent.
City officials said they got a flood of e-mails, many asking them to reconsider their position.
Councilmembers have said they would replace the “intruder item” with words expressing their support for the troops but not the war in Iraq.
The Republican plan would give the funds, intended for a school lunch program, UC Berkeley and ferry service, to the Marines instead.
“Patriotic American taxpayers won’t sit quietly while Berkeley insults our brave Marines,” said one of the senators.
The recruiting center opened about a year ago and quickly became a target of anti-war protesters including the group Code Pink.
Last week the council passed resolutions giving Code Pink a place to park out front. Some have said that meant the city giving was giving the group a place to continuously protest the Marines.
“What we’re doing is we’re announcing a bill that we intend to get on the floor to strip transportation from the city of Berkeley,” said East Bay Republican Assemblyman Guy Houston. “What they have done in Berkeley is they have set aside a parking spot and in my opinion a public right of way, a public transportation corridor, specifically for a private organization — in this case Code Pink — to harass and annoy the United States Marine Corps and their recruiting efforts. We think that playing around and having an agenda with the public right of way is subject to ramifications. There is $2.3 million in proposition 1B transportation dollars. We think that should be in jeopardy.”
Others on the Berkeley City Council seemed quite firm on their stance, NBC11’s Christie Smith reported.
Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Barbara Lee said they plan to fight the Republican bill.