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Marines in Berkeley

Posted by berkeleyscot on February 17, 2008

On Tuesday, February 13, the Berkeley City Council changed its mind about sending a letter to Marines who staff a Marine recruiting office in downtown Berkeley telling them they were “unwelcome intruders.” The San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times gave it lots of coverage.

This incident has made the Berkeley City a laughing stock round the country. The home of Free Speech or is it?

I’ve been happy living in this area for the past 30 years. I was thrilled to live in the cradle of the Free Speech Movement. But it feels as Berkeley has been resting on those laurels for too long.

In the last year, we’ve had out-of-town guests and we’d looked forward to showing them and sharing what we love about the area. But when we see downtown Berkeley through their eyes, we have to agree with them. “It’s a dump!” It’s not only the Marines that are unwelcome, visitors feel unwelcome too!

In the 30 years we’ve lived here, we’ve seen downtown Berkeley decline and doorways have become the homes of the homeless. Businesses have closed and moved away. The new businesses that open don’t stay for long and there are just too many vacant businesses.

I’m not unsympathetic to the plight of those who are homeless, but their presence has caused blight in the heart of the city. Or am I wrong? Does the City council simply not care about welcoming everyone to downtown Berkeley?

I like my Free Speech to come with a dose of Common Sense.

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