Richmond OKs Sea Explorer Ship City Council insists on anti-bias policy
Thu Jul 16 13:41:07 1998
7/16 SF Chronicle:
A Sea Explorer scout troop snubbed by Berkeley because of a
discrimination policy practiced by its
parent group, the Boy Scouts of America, has found refuge in Richmond.
The Richmond City Council has approved the Sea Explorers' request for
free berthing space at Marina Bay for the group's 74-foot powerboat,
the Northland, and two smaller vessels that are used to teach boating
skills to disadvantaged youth.
But the approval came under the condition that the Northland troop
will practice a nondiscriminatory policy.
Tuesday night's vote was preceded by about 90 minutes of emotional
debate that pitted two potent social issues -- discrimination and
underprivileged young people -- against one another.
Residents arguing against the free berthing for the Sea Explorers said
they do not want their tax dollars subsidizing an organization whose
parent group practices discrimination against any group. In this case,
the Boy Scouts of America has banned gays and atheists in a
controversial policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in
``I don't think that property that belongs to the City of Richmond
should be used to discriminate against anyone -- especially
children,'' said Richmond resident Judith O'Hara. ``The Boy Scouts of
America has a lot of money. They should pay.''
But speakers supporting the Sea Explorers, including residents of
Richmond, Berkeley, El Cerrito and El Sobrante, distanced the
Northland troop from the national Boy Scouts, arguing that the troop
runs a worthy program that teaches young people of diverse backgrounds
to work together, creating long-lasting friendships and careers.
``There is no discrimination within our group,'' said Doug Haight, a
Sea Explorer volunteer from El Sobrante. ``I urge you not to take
revenge against our youth over a national policy over which they have
no control. Help make the boating community a little less privileged
In the end, what seemed to impress the council most was that the Sea
Explorer ship Northland, which has been based in Berkeley for the past
65 years, has its own anti-discrimination policy and that the troop's
15 members make up one of the most diverse Sea Explorer troops in the
``My vote in favor of this comes from my support of your defiance,''
said Councilman Alex Evans.
The council was so adamant that it does not tolerate discrimination
that it ordered a six-month review of the Northland to make certain it
is abiding by its own nondiscrimination policy -- which will be
incorporated into the lease contract with Richmond.
It also added the condition that the Northland must strive to obtain a
membership that includes 50 percent Richmond residents -- and a
diversity reflecting the city's own.
The vote was 6 to 0, with Councilwoman Irma Anderson abstaining. Two
members, Donna Powers and Lesa McIntosh, were absent.
Mayor Rosemary Corbin said she wants the Sea Explorers to take their
nondiscriminatory policy a step further and actively recruit new
members of underrepresented groups, including women and gays.
But Corbin's point was not part of the final motion that was passed,
according to City Clerk Eula Barnes.
The council directed the harbormaster and the director of the port of
Richmond to determine where the Northland can keep its boats. The
largest of the three needs considerable space.
Just two months ago, the Berkeley City Council ended 60 years of
giving free berths to the Sea Explorers, a program of the Boy Scouts
of America, which owns the seafaring groups' vessels.