Feinstein blazes after supes sink bid for battleship
She calls board vote a 'petty decision' in light of war effort
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Washington -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, blasted the city's Board of Supervisors for its 8-3 vote against a resolution supporting a bid to move the historic battleship Iowa to the city as a floating museum.
"This isn't the San Francisco that I've known and loved and grew up in and was born in,'' Feinstein said Wednesday in Washington.
"I was very surprised,'' added the senator, who served as mayor from 1978 to 1989 after eight years as a supervisor.
Referring to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and efforts to defend the country against possible terrorist attacks, she added, "I thought that in view of what's going on and in view of the loss of lives of our men and women, it was a very petty decision.''
The supervisors' Tuesday action made it much more difficult for those working to bring the 887-foot-long, 45,000-ton Iowa to San Francisco, said Feinstein. The senator secured $3 million several years ago to move the decommissioned ship to California. It is now moored in Suisun Bay, amid a fleet of other old Navy vessels.
Supervisors said their rejection of the Iowa resolution stemmed from a variety of factors. Some criticized the military's "don't ask, don't tell'' policy against service by gays and lesbians.
Others said San Francisco, a bastion of anti-war sentiment, doesn't want another military museum. Lukewarm support from Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Port of San Francisco left them worried the city might be getting into a financial hole it can't afford.
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who voted against the resolution, reacted to Feinstein's criticism by saying, "She's entitled to her opinions. But I don't think they reflect the sentiments of a majority of San Franciscans ... (who) don't want to see a warship docked here.''
Stockton is making a bid for the ship and has a major champion in Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, who chairs the House's powerful Resources Committee. In May, the House passed a Pombo-sponsored bill directing the secretary of the Navy to transfer the Iowa to the Port of Stockton rather than making the ship the subject of an open bidding process as is usually done. The Senate hasn't acted.
Stockton plans to donate 1,000 feet of dock space for the ship, along with a 90,000-square-foot building for a museum and 10 acres of land for parking.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is gay, said the military's policy on gays and lesbians influenced his vote and that of Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who also is gay, against a battleship Iowa museum for San Francisco.
"For Tom and I it's very difficult to advocate for some military honor thing when people are being harassed and even killed and are unable to serve in the military because they are gay and lesbian,'' Dufty said.
But he said Feinstein was wrong if she thought the board was against Americans serving abroad.
"People didn't cast votes based on their unwillingness to support the troops in Iraq,'' he added.
Feinstein, who was elected a supervisor citywide and from a district, said the vote showed yet again why she has long opposed district elections for the board.
"District elections mean people are involved with their little constituencies, not with the overall good of the city," she said. "I've always thought that.''
Without the board's support, Feinstein added, there's little hope that the nonprofit group seeking the ship, Historic Ships at Memorial Square, can hope for help in Washington.
"I think it's very difficult if you're not supported very strongly by the mayor and the legislative body of the city," she said. "I think it's really too bad that that support is not there.''
E-mail Edward Epstein at email@example.com.