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Politics Prompt Highland to Stay Away From S.F.

In a show of support for the military, officials halt travel to the Bay Area city. San Francisco says it will manage without the income.

January 20, 2006|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

The Highland City Council can't top Bill O'Reilly as San Francisco's chief heckler, but council members have issued their own scolding to the Northern California city for approving a measure that opposed military recruiting in public schools.

In a spat that pits the Southland town against the Bay Area metropolis, Highland officials will refrain from spending any money to send city employees to seminars, workshops or conferences in San Francisco, saying the move demonstrates their support for the military.

"We ought to quit giving them revenues to spend on tomfoolery," said Ross Jones, mayor of the city of 50,000 near San Bernardino.

Last fall, three Highland council members and the city manager attended a League of California Cities conference there -- spending about $4,900 -- but officials had not scheduled any return trips when they unanimously passed the resolution last week.

The rebuke caused little concern up north.

"I could introduce a similar measure about Highland, but that wouldn't really do much," joked San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly. In November, nearly 60% of San Francisco voters approved Proposition I, a symbolic measure that said residents opposed military recruiters in public schools.

The proposition was part of a nationwide debate over whether military recruiters should have the same access to schools as colleges and prospective employers, a provision granted by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Activists, including groups in Santa Ana and Pacific Palisades, have urged parents to delete their children's names from directories used by military recruiters.

Both sides in San Francisco issued fire-and-brimstone ballot arguments, with backers saying recruiters in schools are "preying on young, poor, working-class people and people of color to fuel the war machine."

The ballot rebuttal, written by San Francisco Republican Alliance President Gail E. Neira, called backers "ideologically delusional, socially dysfunctional, left wing, free-loading, rhetoric-screaming fanatics."

Fox News commentator O'Reilly waltzed into the fracas in November when he broadcast a message to the city: "You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

If Al Qaeda terrorists blow up tourist trap Coit Tower, he said to radio listeners on election day, the rest of the country should shrug.

Civic leaders reacted to Highland's comparatively tame rebuke with less vitriol and more eye-rolling.

"People say they're not going to come here anymore," said San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, "and we're sorry for them, because it's such a great city."

San Francisco and Highland, more than 400 miles apart, showcase the chasm in politics between California's blue big cities and its fast-growing red cities.

San Francisco records 54% of its voters as Democrats and 11% as Republicans. Last year, voters approved a measure that demanded troops be brought home from Iraq.

When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who represents San Francisco and has supported troop withdrawal, spoke at a meeting there this month, she was jeered by antiwar protesters because her opposition didn't go far enough -- the protesters wanted President Bush impeached.

San Bernardino County voters, by contrast, are split almost evenly, with 42% registered as Republicans and 38% as Democrats.

The chairman of the county's Board of Supervisors, Bill Postmus, also leads the county Republican Party.

The resolution says the council supports "the superior quality of military service we rely on for the protection of our country," and that recruiting in schools is vital to the strength of the armed forces.

The San Francisco measure's co-author, Todd Chretien, said he'd like to challenge Highland leaders to a debate.

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