Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings!

NOPE Secretary Ernie Janssen best encapsulates the sentiments of our organization's leadership team, and what a pleasure it remains to volunteer for the better of our community. Seasons Greetings to all!
"I would just like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Joyous Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Healthy and Happy New Year!!! While we, a disparate group, have banded together to fight the insanity of the US Navy I can say without a doubt that it continues to be a pleasure working with all of you! I would not have met many of you if it had not been for this problem and frankly, that would have been a shame. Helping neighbors solve problems is something that we all too frequently lose sight of as our days become ever so busy. Thanking everyone for their participation and I look forward to our successful conclusion in 2010 of our "little headache".
Happy Holidays Everyone!!!! Ernie"

EPA responds to NOPE postcards!


The community's actions do have an impact (so continue to get your friends and neighbors to sign and submit the postcards we've been distributing since late-October), as evidenced by this letter from the U.S. EPA to NAVFAC (and copied to NOPE's mailbox), which references our postcard campaign and that, unfortunately, the EPA is seemingly unwavering toward its favorable view of the Laurelwood civilian housing plan at NWS Earle.

Our contention from the get-go of NAVFAC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a prerequisite filing for any agency (in this case, for the Department of Navy to construct a new, unimpeded civilian access road and two bridges thru its base), has been that the Navy misled the EPA on its "purpose and need" for the project and that the plan (of the five presented) with the least environmental impact was the NO BUILD option (basically, no civilian road or housing). NAVFAC lied that it has to go thru with the project, which NOPE has proven to be false, and therefore the EPA should make NAVFAC re-open the study and issue a new EIS, providing all agencies with a true security and cost-benefits analysis.

To be sure, NAVFAC (the DoN's) lack of candidness is what has prompted federal and state legislation, lawsuits, community outrage, etc.

Anyway, what we can take from this latest EPA letter is that a) the EPA is clearly aware of the NOPE community's objections to complacency toward the National Environmental Policy Act and b) that within the coming weeks NOPE will step up the environmental food chain, so to speak, and target The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairwoman Nancy Sutley (a director policy advisor to the President) to enforce NEPA guidelines.

We continue to need the community's support on this front.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More environmental lessons for Earle and the EPA

Bolstering NOPE's case that 29 (and possibly counting) EPA Superfund sites at Earle make the Colts Neck, NJ, Naval Weapons Station an inherent hazard to prospective civilian tenants of Laurelwood housing come 2010, we encourage our supporters to read this story from Bob O'Dowd of SalemNews.com. (Mr. O'Dowd's profile on this link shows 4+ years with the Marines in the 1960s and 30+ years as a financial expert with the federal government, including 15 years in the Defense Logistics Agency.) Candidly, it is startling (though not totally surprising, considering how much NOPE has learned about Earle the past two years) how the military can turn a blind eye toward the health of its veteran dependents or exposure to toxins.

Building upon our writings a few days ago about contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune and the Marines' notification of people through, of all venues, a Sports Illustrated advertisement, Mr. O'Dowd's story touches upon a similar case at the defunct El Toro (California), where Marine vets and their dependents were exposed to toxic chemicals TCE and PCE at the former Marine Corp Air Station and now deal with all sorts of cancer and serious diseases. TCE and PCE are listed numerous times in EPA Superfund and any environmental literature pertaining to NWS Earle.

To make a long story short, in light of such stories about toxins and military bases, it remains baffling to NOPE how the EPA could have blindly checked off on the Department of Navy's plan to rent the 300 Laurelwood houses at Earle to civilians...just outside one particular EPA Superfund site ("NPL #1") known to have been home to burn pits and rife with toxic elements...and how local veterans groups a) take the Navy for its word that these homes are a safe place to live and b) would put their bretheren in harms way, when far-safer alternatives to distressed veterans in need of housing could be explored.

THE EPA CLEARLY DID NOT DO ITS JOB IN CHALLENGING THE MERITS OF CIVILIAN HOUSING AT NWS EARLE AND SHOULD IMMEDIATELY WITHDRAW ITS FINDINGS AND REVISIT THE ISSUE. The last thing some unwitting prospective tenant (civilian or otherwise) needs to learn somewhere down the road is that the sweet digs at Earle's Laurelwood development were within reach of airborne toxins or something festering in the soil that exposed them to cancer or some other fatal or life-changing disease, or that something in the soil was disturbed while the developer was paving the 2-mile road to the Laurelwood development. NAVFAC (Navy facilities command) hung its hat in the Laurelwood EIS on prospective Laurelwood residents getting water from public utilities, but was less-than-candid about residents' potential exposure to inhalation of or dermal contact (i.e. touching the soil) with cancer-causing agents. This needs to be considered more thoroughly by the EPA.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Homegrown Terror on the Rise in 2009: FoxNews

According to FoxNews, citing credible data from Rand Corporation and global intelligence company Stratfor, one-third of the nearly 30 domestic terror events since 9/11 took place in 2009. NOPE continues to shake its collective head at the foolishness of the Department of Navy notion that unfettered civilian access through Weapons Station Earle to the Laurelwood homes will not comprimise security and the base mission. Opening the homes to anyone that can pay the rent is more foolhardy, when considering some of the cautionary commentary offered in this Fox story about how homegrown terrorists are even more difficult to identify.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Environmental lessons from Camp Lejeune

Never in a million years would I have imagined that my longstanding Sports Illustrated subscription would yield something relevant to NOPE.

Other dinosaurs that still get the print version of SI might have also noticed the attached advertisement from the U.S. Marine Corps on page 83 of the December 14 issue, imploring anyone that "lived or worked at Camp Lejeune before 1987" to call to see whether they "may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water." Hmm...

This piqued my interest, so I googled "Camp Lejeune" and "water" and came up with a treasurer trove of stories that show that as many as 1 million ex-Marines and their families drank toxic wellwater at Lejeune and may be stricken with all sorts of illnesses (or birth defects) as a result of ingesting TCE and PCE, two severely toxic chemicals. (Not surprisingly, Navy leadership is taking the high road by battling the federal agency overseeing toxic substances over funding a mortality study at Lejeune, according to AP).

Take what you will from this anecdote, but for those - including a particular local veterans group - that wonder why we have an ax to grind with the Department of Navy over proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle, and why we do not buy the Navy's argument against making the issue go away, keep in mind the 29 EPA Superfund sites at Earle and their proximity to Laurelwood housing.

Two decades after it happened we now have the DoN/Marines hinting that, yeah, maybe there was something wrong with the water that servicemembers and their families were drinking at Lejeune. Granted, any prospective Laurelwood tenants will be drinking public water(not wellwater), but, still, the argument here is that, environmentally, who really knows what's going on at a military base where the job is inherently dangerous?

Will it take 10-20-30 years to find out that military dependents at Laurelwood in the 1990s and 2000s (and subsequently civilian tenants from 2010-2040) are in bad health or birthing kids with defects as a result of airborne or some kind of other exposure to toxic chemicals at the base? (NOPE is in the process of working on the environmental case at Earle).

I, for one, would not want to throw ANYONE, let alone a U.S. veteran who "needs a place to live" (as Neptune Housing Authority espouses), to a dangerous housing situation, merely because the Navy has some vacant, underutilized housing within its Earle base...and because it says "yeah, we can handle the security obligation." Such a notion is utterly shortsighted and blind to the environmental hazards of the military weapons business.

Regards,
Bill Holobowski, NOPE Chairman

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Postcard and Facebook reminders

NOPE would like to mail a second big batch of four-color postcards before the Christmas holiday, so please begin gathering and submitting signed postcards either to the town halls of Tinton Falls and Colts Neck, or to your primary NOPE contacts. The cards already have pre-printed addresses, too, if you care to mail them on your own.

You have until January 3, 2010, to collect the WHITE POSTCARDS, which we will bring to Trenton when lobbying for passage of S3017 (see earlier blogs on this bill).

Otherwise, if anyone is interested, we have set up a Facebook page for NOPE, though we're not quite sure yet whether it is worth our while to spend much time on this front. Still, it is worth an exploratory effort to see whether this will expand our already broad supporter base.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How privatized housing (PPVs) essentially works

In assessing how to refute one group's admirable, yet ill-conceived suggestion to convert the Laurelwood units at Earle to veterans housing, and to give our supporters a "Cliff's Notes" view of what Privatization in NOPE stands for, one must note the structure of our military Public-Private Ventures (PPV) and that the military has no real ownership in the houses it "privatizes", as evidenced in this 2005 NAVFAC PowerPoint.

Were it as simple as the Department of Navy owning the homes and making the call on who ultimately would live at Laurelwood, then NOPE might not have a case. However, in a PPV, the U.S. Military cedes control of the housing (i.e. selection of renters, rental rates, etc.) to an outside, generally obscure, Limited Liability Corporation majority partner (Laurelwood Homes, LLC, in our case at NWS Earle).

The deal is simple...the military gets the homes it needs for its enlisted personnel for a finite period ("in-lease") and at almost no upfront cost, and then gives the developer full control over how the "out-lease" (civilian-use phase in the case of Laurelwood) is executed.

Rather than holding the surrounding communities, elected officials or NOPE responsible for collective and rational objections to civilian housing at Earle and unimpeded civilian access to a Naval weapons depot, the proponents of veterans housing should direct their questions and attention to those responsible for PPV oversight and hone in on Fort Monmouth, which is scheduled for closure in 2012 and, in NOPE's view, far better-suited to veterans' needs (i.e. medical facilities, housing, open space, etc.). That is a far more viable, safer and attainable solution to veterans' housing needs than some willy-nilly landgrab at Weapons Station Earle.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More on the NJ legislation, and a bit of clarification

Greater Media News staff writer Rebecca Morton did a nice job detailing the NJ legislation (A4159/S3017) seeking an analysis of the Laurelwood housing conversion at Weapons Station Earle, in this piece in The Examiner (of Allentown, Millstone, Roosevelt and Upper Freehold).

It is a misnomer, however, that the U.S. Navy is off the hook for rent payments to Teri Fischer, owner of Laurelwood Homes, LLC, as of (April) 2010, as suggested by The Examiner, and as the Navy's own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the housing conversion would suggest.

NOPE's reading of the Laurelwood lease and supplemental agreeements, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), suggests the U.S. Navy will be on the hook to the developer for as much as $20 million more if certain access and occupancy requirements are not met. The Asbury Park Press reported on this in May 2009, and as spelled out in this NOPE press release from May 12, 2009.

We can provide copies of the full lease agreement, if anyone needs. Just drop us a comment here and we'll be sure to follow up.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Earle measure passes State Assembly; now up for Senate consideration

A mere formality, but A-4159 (a state-mandated probe into the financial and security aspects of the Laurelwood civilian housing issue at NWS Earle) passed 76-0-1 in the New Jersey Assembly yesterday and is under review by a Senate committee (Community and Urban Affairs). NOPE is pushing for passage of the measure by the Senate before year's end for signature by Gov. Corzine during the lame-duck session and will keep tabs on when the Senate Committee meets to address the matter. (There was a committee meeting yesterday, but the companion S-3017 was not listed on yesterday's docket available online; since the NJ Legislature website is so rigid, click on the link here, then click the "Community and Urban Affairs" link on the right side of the screen to see their meeting schedule).

Please click on the A-4159 link above for the 1-page write-up of the official bill, but in short, full passage would prohibit the two key state agencies - the DEP and DOT - from issuing any state permits to the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC for its route construction to the Laurelwood homes until the study is completed. In this case, the state has far greater powers over the process than the federal agencies (i.e. EPA). A good thing for NOPE.

In the meantime, we are reviewing the security guard contracts up for bids at Earle to see whether we can ascertain anything relevant to our case, as noted yesterday, and will post our findings when ready, so stay tuned.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Earle security up for bids

Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic (or NAVFAC, the outfit that cobbled together the incomplete Environmental Impact Statement - EIS - on proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle) is soliciting bids from private contractors for outsource security guard and dispatch services at Earle. You can download the PDF files here. (If you get a "security certificate error", just click the link with the Red X, even though your PC may says it is not recommended - a lot of military websites give this prompt, though it is entirely safe to open).

NOPE will analyze the documents in the coming days and blog our findings here.

In short, Earle now uses guards from an outfit from North Carolina called Myers Investigative and Security Services, as we discussed here a few days ago (see the Inspector General report on problems with Earle's oversight of the current contract). Now, oursource security contractors will be able to bid thru January 6, 2010, on this new IDIQ - indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity - parlance for "open-ended contract."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

NOPE on Facebook

Get your friends, family and neighbors to join and support our cause on Facebook. We will work on improving the page over the next few weeks, but let's get everyone signed up.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Get us your WHITE NOPE POSTCARDS - ASAP

It is possible that the NJ Senate will take up the Beck bill (S3017) that we've discussed ad nauseum here on the NOPE blog (see posts below about the companion Assembly bill) next week, so please submit the white postcards that we've been distributing since the October 27 rally by the end of this weekend. Get in touch with your primary NOPE contacts to arrange for drop-off or pickup, or drop them off at one of three locations: CN Town Hall, Recreation, and Tinton Falls Borough Hall (dropbox just past the elevators). You can also call Bill at 732.544.8595 to make arrangements.

In the meantime, continue to distribute and collect the four-color postcards addressed to the Secretary of Navy, EPA, our governor and NJ homeland security.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Addicted to Contractors

Entirely anecdotal, but this story from Foreign Policy.com (published by the Slate Group) only scratches the surface on the cost of "privatizing" government functions. The gist of the story is that although the number of full-time federal employees has not changed since 1963, the function of contract oversight has gotten so tricky, particularly with each federal employee consequently "responsible for the oversight of three times the taxpayer money that they would have been a half-century ago."

So how does this tie into NOPE and Laurelwood housing at Earle, you ask? It speaks of lack of oversight, U.S. taxpayer dollar waste and one of the underpinnings of our thesis that the Navy, by planning to open Laurelwood to civilians in 2010, is putting towns surrounding NWS Earle in the way of severe security and financial peril...solely to escape poor planning and a horrendous contract it signed in 1988. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The Department of Navy had an immediate need for on-base housing back in the 80s and into part of the 1990s at Earle (hence, Laurelwood was built), but signed a 52-year housing contract for the property, knowing full well the occupancy would fall off a cliff with the decision within two years to move the homeport of particular ships to Norfolk, VA. Today, we understand that only 6 of the 300 Laurelwood units are occupied, which at annual rents approaching $4 million this year to Laurelwood's owner, Teri Fischer, equates to a housing rental cost of $667,000 to taxpayers to rent one townhouse!

To be sure, from our reading of documents obtained thru the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), when the DoN not only signed away its rights to revoke the contract to let Mrs. Fischer refinance her LLC's mortgage on Laurelwood, it also missed out on a $28 million buyout opportunity - an amount the Navy has since spent to uphold the lease. Now it claims to be on the hook for $100 million+ to Mrs. Fischer if it does not open the houses to civilians next year (an entirely bogus argument, even in the eyes of Mrs. Fischer's attorney, as quoted earlier this year in an Asbury Park Press story).

In short, NONE OF US would be in this mess had the DoN not been pigheaded and just bought out the Laurelwood contract when it had the chance...7 YEARS AGO! Now is the time to reach an amicable settlement on the deal and raze the homes, and to move forward from an ugly chapter on privatized housing gone awry.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A concerned resident from Ocean Township

It's great for NOPE to see concerned citizens chiming in from outside the core Colts Neck-Tinton Falls contingent. Indeed, we would love to better penetrate towns like Middletown, Ocean and a host of towns from the Freehold Regional School District and beyond.

Madleine G. Ruocco, of Ocean Township, had her letter to the Asbury Park Press editor published in yesterday's APP, objecting to the Department of Navy plan to open the Laurelwood homes at Weapons Station Earle to civilian renters by next year.

The premise is simple: that the plan is ludicrous, and that the mission is already shorthanded in terms of security personnel. The DoD Inspector General's study of Earle's outsource security contract with the Myers Security company (of North Carolina) - published earlier this year - proved this, so NOPE's concerns about security at a base expected to host 300 civilian renter families (replete with unimpeded access) next year is not trumped up or irrational.

Separately, here is the APP's write-up on A-4159, the O'Scanlon-Casagrande bill that would require a state study of the civilian housing plan at Earle, as blogged in detail below.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NOPE on last night's NJN newscast

Following up on yesterday's passage of A-4159 in the NJ Assembly committee review phase, NJN News aired a 3-minute piece on NOPE and the civilian housing issue at Earle. Business case analyst Fulton Wilcox (shown in the story) testified yesterday in Trenton on behalf of NOPE along with political liaison Elaine Mann and communications director Diana Piotrowski. We appreciate their sacrifice in making the trip on behalf of all NOPE supporters.

Until we can get a clip of the story by itself to post here or on our legacy NOPE website, we encourage you to scroll to 9 minutes and 10 seconds into the Monday newcast on NJN and view the story, which is well-balanced and focuses on committee passage of the legislation introduced by Declan O'Scanlon and Caroline Casagrande, and that would prevent New Jersey from issuing any permits to the Department of Navy to open the way for civilian housing until the state Treasurer can conduct a cost and security analysis of the DoN plan. The measure, we are told, will be voted upon by the full House next Monday (Dec. 8) and will then go in front of the Senate, hopefully for passage by year's end, which would be a major victory for our cause.

This, again, is unwelcome exposure to the DoN, which a year ago had hoped that no one in our community was paying attention to this ridiculous housing plan. NOPE remains resolute in exposing this plan as a recipe for disaster in Monmouth County.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Good news for NOPE: NJ House Committee Approves Bill to Conduct Earle Analysis; Senate up next

Fresh from the NJ Assembly Republicans website:
"Legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican members Declan O’Scanlon and Caroline Casagrande that requires the state Treasurer to issue a cost benefit analysis and security report for the conversion of military housing to civilian housing at Earle Naval Weapons Station was unanimously approved today by the Assembly Military & Veterans’ Affairs Committee."

This is a big step forward in NOPE's endorsement of the N.J. legislation to require the true financial and security impact assessment that area taxpayers deserve and clearly were not given in the Department of Navy's own study of its civilian housing plan. And the measure (A-4159/S-3017) is cost-neutral (i.e. no out-of-pocket for the state).

NOPE applauds the effort put forth by our District 12 team and the bipartisan recognition in the Assembly in Trenton of the DoN's plan as a recipe for disaster to New Jersey's interests!

Next up is getting the Senate version (S-3017, see earlier post below) passage.

NJ Assembly Committee to consider Earle bill today

We certainly hope everyone had a safe and prosperous Thanksgiving weekend, but it is immediately back to business for NOPE this morning, with our political liaison Elaine Mann and a team of supporters in Trenton to lobby the Assembly's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to pass A-4159, which would require the State Treasurer to conduct a full and much-needed assessment of the financial and security ramifications of the civilian housing plan at Earle.

This, in our view, is the first big step toward what we hope will be a successful campaign to pass this legislation in both the New Jersey House and Senate (companion bill S-3017, sponsored by Jennifer Beck and Joe Kyrillos and co-sponsored by Sean Kean) and prevent the DEP and DOT from issuing any construction permits to the Department of Navy ahead of the Treasurer's study. In short, passage would pose a significant roadblock to the DoN's housing plan.

A-4159, co-sponsored by District 12's Caroline Casagrande and Declan O'Scanlon (one of four Assembly members on the Committee - the others are Jack Connors (D-7, Delran), Cleopatra Tucker (D-28, Newark) and Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-5, Camden)), will be discussed this morning at a 10 a.m. meeting, according to the NJ Legislature website, and we will keep you posted once we learn about the details of the meeting from Elaine and our other attendees.

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TURN IN YOUR NOPE POSTCARDS: Since we only were able to confirm details of this Assembly meeting on Friday, we ask that anyone with the sets of five postcards to start turning them over to their NOPE counterparts or to drop off signed copies to the drop points at Colts Neck Town Hall and the Recreation Center, or Tinton Falls Borough Hall ASAP. We most certainly will need the WHITE POSTCARDS for our next trip to Trenton, when S-3017 is taken up by the Senate Committee and we lobby that day, and will otherwise look to mail the other four-color postcards in bulk sometime within the next 7-10 days. With some 4,000 sets of postcards outstanding, we figure to conduct this campaign well into the first quarter of 2010, but need the white postcards ASAP for our next day in Trenton.

Friday, November 27, 2009

This time last year...

The Department of Navy on Black Friday, 2008, released its "draft" Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the civilian housing plan at Weapons Station Earle. The timing came as no surprise to anyone within NOPE, considering the U.S. Military's penchant for releasing these kinds of important reports ahead of holiday weekends (presumably so few will notice).

Without a doubt, we called the EIS out for what it was (and remains) - an incomplete, half-truthed and costly waste of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Federal and military bureaucracy at its finest. We remain steadfast in our opposition to this recipe for disaster as the April 30 DoN's deadline for opening the roadway to Laurelwood approaches.

As we reflect on this Thanksgiving weekend, it is amazing to recount how much our grassroots effort has yielded in a single year (a few notable references below), though obviously much remains to be done and we need our supporters to remain engaged in our battle.
  • Financial and security assessment of the plan (i.e. what should have been included in the EIS) signed into the Fiscal 2010 U.S. Defense Authorization Act through bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress (Senators Menendez and Lautenberg) and the House of Representatives (Chris Smith, Rush Holt, Norman Dicks-WA)
  • Amendments to be introduced by Senator Beck and assembly members Casagrande and O'Scanlon in the coming weeks that would require a study by the NJ State Treasurer (this is why we need you to soon return your white NOPE postcards to your NOPE contacts and for supporters to attend our lobbying effort in Trenton, date TBA)
  • Media coverage and "pro-NOPE" editorials by the boards of the Asbury Park Press and Greater Media Newspapers, plus TV pieces aired on News 12 and My 9 News
  • Backing of Monmouth County Freeholders and Colts Neck and Tinton Falls leaders
  • Thousands of signatures from area residents in support of NOPE
  • Successful rallies, community briefings
  • Viable analysis by NOPE leadership, proving the merits of our security, financial and environmental concerns about putting 300 families of renters on a secure, strategically significant military weapons facility (to date, no one has been able to refute the cost estimates, contract analysis, etc., put forth by NOPE's leadership team)

In sum, NOPE continues to prove an extremely valuable community effort, and anyone who has taken part in any function of the organization is to be thanked for their participation. As we approach the upcoming religious holidays, we ask our supporters to keep the pedal to the metal and keep up the good work! Your voice does count!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Laurelwood mortage - NOPE is following the money trail

Our cursory search of the Monmouth County Board of Taxation website, though subject to more-extensive review and analysis by the NOPE leadership team, yielded some interesting discoveries about the actual mortgage on the Laurelwood houses at Weapons Station Earle - 30 years at $21.2 million (we still need to find out basic details like principal and interest).

One of NOPE's core contentions remains that the Navy's inability to grant access by April 30, 2010, to Laurelwood Homes, LLC, and owner Teri Fischer will, according to Supplemental Lease No. 43, immediately send the parties to buyout, contrary to the Department of Navy's (DoN) false argument that it cannot pursue this option. In short, the DoN must give Mrs. Fischer unfettered access to build the road and improve the homes by April 30, 2010, ahead of what we worry will be unimpeded access and rental to civilians by September, 2010; the mortgage language bears out the April 30 access notion. DoN compliance with this April 30 deadline appears far from humanly possible, considering our understanding that the DoN has yet to file permit applications for what is typically an arduous NJ DEP and DOT review (i.e. upwards of 12-18 months).

Nonetheless, back to the mortgage...

We also know for a fact that Laurelwood refinanced the mortgage on the 300 Laurelwood townhomes sometime around late-2002/early-2003. Shocklingly, within a year of 9/11, the D0N seemingly signed away its leverage (according to a bank-mandated provision) to exercise the National Emergency Termination clause to void the contract. In short, it gave away its "ace in the hole" (i.e. in terms of being able to get out of this bad contract without payment) to allow (according to our sources) Laurelwood to get a better mortage rate. To be sure, even a buyout in 2002 would have saved the DoN a LOT of money and this current Laurelwood headache.

The mortgage documents we found on file with Monmouth County, in particular one signed May 1, 2003, for a 30-year mortgage valued at $21.2 million, probably raises more questions than answers, namely - what all U.S. citizens should question - what is happening to U.S. taxpayer dollars allocated to military housing? The $21.2 million on the 2003 re-finance is only $1.6 million less than the value of the original mortage of $22.8 million granted to Dick Fischer Developments (DFD), the original Laurelwood developer. Did the owners only pay off $1.6 million of principal on the Laurelwood homes from 1990-2002/2003? It is hard for us to tell, particularly with the secretive nature of LLC and obtaining public documents.

This would be shocking, especially since, according to NOPE's own research and review of the Laurelwood lease (obtained via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act) and supplemental agreements, DFD and Laurelwood, in some shape or form, have earned rents and bonus payments from the DoN (federal government) of $70-$75 million since inception of the Laurelwood "In-Lease" (i.e. military-use portion) in 1990.

Where did all of this money go? Clearly it's beyond NOPE's scope to be financial advisors to property owners with better knowledge of government contracts, but our back-of-the-envelope math would suggest (assuming $70-$75 million revenue and a $21.2 million outstanding mortgage as of May 2003) "cleared" revenue to DFD/Laurelwood of at least $50 million (excluding operating costs, capital improvements, etc) since contract inception. Not bad for a bunch of houses with almost no tenants for the better part of this decade.

NOPE's impending review of the mortgage documents will not so much focus on perceived financial mismanagement or profitability of the Laurelwood contract, but rather show that the papers validate our argument that the U.S. Navy would be wise to pay no more than $17-$20 million to buy out Laurelwood (see our 8-page Business Case Analysis), far less than its contention that a buyout would cost it at least $3.5 million per year (roughly the current annual rent on these vacant homes) through year 2040 (or at least $105 million). The Navy's argument is entirely misleading and inaccurate, and it is clear that public sentiment is in favor of a buyout of the Laurelwood contract (especially since the DoN threw away its right to void the agreement and save taxpayers a lot more money...and in fact might be on the hook for rental payments to Laurelwood, contrary to its own study and public commentary, of up to $20.2 million anyway through 2017).

As always, we welcome your observations, commentary and ideas on this matter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A favorable Tinton Falls resolution that we missed...


Back on August 18, the Borough Council of Tinton Falls unanimously approved R-09-323, a resolution requesting that District 12 Representative Rush Holt seek funding in the U.S. budget to facilitate a Navy buyout of the Laurelwood lease at NWS Earle.

We found this in sifting through past agendas and meeting minutes and were unaware of its passage, and thank Mayor Skudera and the council for its continued support. NOPE supporters need to be well aware of the backing not only of the Borough Council, but also of the Tinton Falls school administration, Superintendant Russo and BOE in terms of allowing us to publicize all NOPE functions.

Meanwhile, we will track down whether Rep. Holt made any headway in procuring funds for a buyout and post any findings here in the days to come. We recognize the FY2010 Defense Authorization mandates a GAO financial and security assessment of the case, but were not aware of any separate actions for funding of a Laurelwood lease buyout.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More NOPE postcards have arrived!

Anyone needing our 5-card postcard set should contact us at njnope@gmail.com, justsaynope@verizon.net or call 732.322.0130. We have printed another 2,000 sets, after exhausting the same amount in our first leg of the campaign that is targeting supporters' and area residents' opposition to the Department of Navy's plan for civilian housing at NWS Earle.

Please see our earlier posts on the targets of this postcard campaign.

Also, as hoped, Greater Media Newspapers' managing editor Mark Rosman's "Navy must kill plan for civlian housing" made its way into the Red Bank Hub, along with the communiter paper chain's Examiner (Millstone, Allentown, Upper Freehold), Atlanticville (Long Branch, Monmouth Beach and Ocean Township), Tri-Town News (Howell, Jackson, Lakewood and Plumsted) and Woodbridge Sentinel publications, among others. We are glad that Greater Media saw too it to share Mr. Rosman's revealing commentary on our case with probably hundreds of thousands of other readers throughout Central New Jersey, who need to know about this ill-conceived Navy plan and might not have heard this case.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Terrorists Inside the U.S.: Bloomberg News

Our thanks to NOPE supporter Tom Schulte, who shares with us this Bloomberg News article summarizing a U.S. Senate panel hearing Thursday into homegrown terrorism that, in particular, targets military personnel - something we hope the Navy will reconsider in its ill-hatched plan to open Weapons Station Earle to civilian housing in 2010. In the meantime, we would encourage other supporters to share their tips and ideas with us at njnope@gmail.com or justsaynope@verizon.net.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"NOPE is right"

The words of Mark Rosman, managing editor for Greater Media Newspapers: Navy must kill plan for civilian housing. We found it in the News Transcript (Colts Neck and its neighbors in Freehold, Manalapan, Englishtown and Marlboro) and Edison-Metuchen Sentinel so far and will find out tomorrow whether it runs in the Red Bank Hub and elsewhere.

Diana takes one for the team

NOPE Communications Director Diana Piotrowski once again hit the nail on the head in this Letter to the Editor of the Asbury Park Press, published Tuesday.

The funny thing about the APP is the peanut gallery "In Your Voice" commentary that follows such news articles and opinion pieces. More often than not, the comments are vitrioloic and ill-informed, so it is best for readers to take them with a grain of salt.

To be sure, everyone is entitled to free speech (a right defended by the same people we're battling), but it is laughable how outsiders to NOPE's cause view this as some sort of pitched class or anti-housing battle, which it is not, or some kind of Colts Neck-only effort (the homes are there, but the base is spread across a half-dozen towns). NOPE has thousands of supporters throughout Monmouth County and backing all the way up to the U.S. Senate.

The root of NOPE's effort is to convince the Department of Navy that cutting a hole in the security fencing and paving a free-for-all civilian access road through the base to a cluster of mostly empty homes (which the Navy should not have built in the first place) on an active weapons dump is not the best for base, local and service-member security post 9-11, but is also fiscally irresponsible -- just go and ask Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, Representatives Smith and Holt, state and local legislators across the board. We calculate the unfunded mandate on local and N.J. taxpayers at $500 million...at the least.

The Laurelwood housing issue at Weapons Station Earle cannot be viewed in a vacuum. There are many issues that make this extremely complex - even so for NOPE's core volunteer leaders that have spent two years and thousands of hours picking this issue apart. So it is unfair to put any weight in anonymous, blog-type attacks from ill-informed aggressors who would rather complain aloud than actually step up and do something for the benefit of his or her community. Renting homes to anyone smack dab in the middle of a weapons dump is no benefit to anyone and is, in light of Diana's reference to the Kitsap-Bangor break-in (and implicit reference to the Fort Hood massacre), a total recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Background checks and counterterrorism

It is impossible for NOPE to sift through the thousands of news articles, commentary and opinions about the senseless Fort Hood massacre for something objective, but this article from the November 14 Houston Chronicle touches upon two topics relevant to our objection to the Department of Navy's plan to rent the Laurelwood homes on Naval Weapons Station Earle to civilians by next year: background checks (i.e. military readiness) and coordination between U.S. intelligence services.

Those new to NOPE's case may be shocked to find that the Navy is willing to create an unimpeded (i.e. no main gate, no background checks to residents and any visitors) access road to the 300 Laurelwood homes within NWS Earle's fenceline, simply as an out to a bad "privatized" housing contract from the 1980s. This not only comes as an unfunded mandate to New Jersey's taxpayers and local citizenry, but also will severely compromise the base's mission and the quality of life for active military and contractors residing in other homes inside NWS Earle.

The point being...no matter where you stand in the aftermath of Fort Hood, it is clear to the humble constituents of NOPE (and in the Houston Chronicle's piece about the U.S. Army) that, somehow, the security of the U.S. Military's own bases appears secondary to military decision-makers, and that our nation's counterterrorism efforts may need a fresh perspective. For, how else could you explain the preposterous notion of opening underutilized military housing on an active, secure and strategically significant Naval munitions storage facility to anyone that can merely pay the rent?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christie win could prove valuable to NOPE

As political outsiders, we find the inclusion of District 13 (Middletown) Sen. Joseph Kryillos on Governor-elect Chris Christie's 10-member transition team may prove vital to NOPE's goal to prevent the Department of Navy from turning NWS Earle into a civilian rental community where residents and visitors are granted unimpeded access to the Laurelwood homes.

Mr. Kryillos is the co-primary sponsor, along with District 12 Sen. (and NOPE supporter) Jennifer Beck, of S3017, which would "require the State Treasurer to issue cost benefit analysis and security report for conversion of military housing to civilian housing at Earle Naval Weapons Station and places moratorium on issuance of certain State permits and plan approvals." In short, the DEP and DOT would be prohibited from issuing any road construction permits to the DoN until the study is complete, throwing a potentially significant wrench into its plans to house civilians by 2010.

Although we were somewhat surprised the Mr. Christie never made light of the Earle situation within the context of his campaign (considering his office was the one that fiercely prosecuted the case against Earle hacker Gary McKinnon, starting around the time of 9/11), we are hopeful that the Beck-Kryillos bill will pass this lame duck session in Trenton, and remind any NOPE SUPPORTERS who still have the WHITE NOPE POSTCARDS in their possession to sign and return them to his or her primary NOPE contact ASAP (or mail to us at P.O. Box 261, Colts Neck, NJ 07722). These are the ones we need to submit in Trenton when the day comes (presumably this month) to lobby for S3017 passage.

Otherwise, please continue to return the other four-color postcards to your NOPE contacts ASAP (or mail them yourselves) as we prepare a second bulk mailing around Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Postcard campaign update - huge early success!

Secretary Ernie Janssen has shipped the first batch (roughly 300 sets) of NOPE postcards distributed at the October 27 rally. We reiterate our thanks to all supporters of this initiative, and ask that you keep up the good work as we strive to alert agencies that have not been paying close enough attention to our communities objections to a horrendous plan!

To reiterate, these postcards (addressing the U.S. Secretary of the Navy and EPA, in addition to our governor and homeland security chief) express residents' objections to the Department of Navy plan to rent military housing to civilians from 2010 to 2040. There are 4 color-coded cards and a 5th white card; the latter, which you should hand to your direct NOPE contact, will help us as we lobby for passage of a key bill in Trenton, sponsored by Senator Beck and the District 12 Assembly (Casagrande, O'Scanlon).

As we've printed some 2,000 sets and we recognize that many are still in circulation (and some may not have had time yet to mail on their own, owing to life's busy schedule), we encourage our supporters who took batches of these cards to keep gathering signatures and return them ASAP to their primary contacts within NOPE, as we will do another mass mailing around Thanksgiving, and perhaps another before the end of 2009.

Together, our supporters can show their fortitude and persistence in fighting a Navy plan that clearly has horrific ramifications for our communities from security, financial, environmental and educational perspectives, not to mention the quality-of-life and work duty compromise of those service members and contractors already residing at Weapons Station Earle.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

National Priority List Superfund Sites on Naval Weapons Station Earle

In 1990 NWS Earle was placed on the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERLA) National Priorities List (NPL). During the 1992 IAS a total of 29 potentially hazardous sites were identified at NWSE.

Eleven NPL sites flank both sides (forming a contamination corridor) and are in close proximity to Alignment 4, the chosen unimpeded access route civilian renters will be using to access the Laurelwood housing units.

Below is a listing of the sites, the mission of that particular site and the site’s associated contaminants.

Site 22 - Paint Chip Disposal Area
Contaminant(s): Sediment – PAHs (Benzo(a)pyrene

Site 23 - Paint Chip Disposal Area
Contaminant(s): Soil-Metals & PAHs(Indeno(1,2,3-CD) pyrene, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benso(a)anthrancene & benzo(a)pyrene) Groundwater-Metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, & vanadium)

Site 24 & 25 – Closed Pistol Range
Contaminant(s): Bullets and shells containing lead

Site 14 – Defense Property Disposal Office Warehouse, Mercury Spill
Contaminant(s): NONE?

Site 47 – Closed Pesticide Shop
Contaminant(s): Soil –Pesticides (chlordane & 4,4’ DDT), Groundwater-Pesticides (Endosulfan I)
Site 28 – Waste Oil Tank
Contaminant(s): None Identified?

Site 29 – PCB Spill Site of A Hazardous Waste Storage Facility
Contaminant(s): Soil: TPH & low levels of PCB; Groundwater-very low level of VOC (Benzene and 1,2-DCE)

Site 16 – Fuel Line connecting Buildings C-20 & C-50
Epic Site F – Roundhouse
Site 16F – 8 Acres
Contaminant(s): Surface Soil: Metals (Lead) & TPH, Sediment: TPH; Groundwater: Organics (Benezene), TPH, Soil Gas: Organics (total BTEX, TCE, PCE)

Site 11 – Contract Ordnance Disposal Area
Contaminant(s): NONE?

Site 13 – Defense Property Disposal Office Yard
Contaminant(s): Soil: Metals, PAH, & Pesticides, Sediment: PCBs – Aroclor 1254; Groundwater: Metals, (arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead);VOCs (Vinyl chloride)

Site 1 – Ordnance Demilitarization - (Contaminants are buried)
Contaminant(s): Surface soil, Metals: Aluminum, Chromium, Copper, Mercury, Vanadium, Metal and/or Alloy; Groundwater: Metals, Chromium assumed to be hexavalent (VI), Explosives RDX, Arsenic

QUESTIONS RELATED TO THESE NPL SITES AND ALIGNMENT 4
Ø Will constant vehicular traffic and environmental factors force buried contaminants to reemerge in surface soil and groundwater?
Ø Will a 3rd party re-inspect the contaminated sites prior to permits being issued by the appropriate agencies?

Postcard Campaign update

Anyone holding postcards from the Oct. 27 rally or who coordinated a community sign-up initiative should submit them by day's end to either the town hall or recreation department in Colts Neck, or call 732.544.8595 or email njnope@gmail.com or justsaynope@verizon.net, to set arrangements to have them picked up. NOPE Secretary Ernie Janssen will be sending our first shipment (approximately 500 to each agency) on Wednesday morning.

If you cannot get them to us by day's end, no worries - all four color postcards have mailing addresses, so you can mail them yourselves with a postcard stamp. Otherwise, continue to get your neighbors' signatures on the white postcards we distributed at the Oct. 27 rally. Those will go with our legislative chairperson Elaine Mann when it time to lobby in Trenton for passage of the state legislation that would prohibit DOT and DEP from issuing the Department of Navy permits until the state treasurer studies the civilian housing plan.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Commentary-Naval Weapons Station Earle

Commentary - Naval Weapons Station Earle

Early November has proven to be a tragic time for both the Navy and the Army. Two stories, both involving the infiltration of military bases, only serves to prove the validity of the concerns expressed by Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle (NOPE) regarding the unimpeded access route planned and chosen by the Navy; making way for the rental of 300 Laurelwood housing units to civilians.

To safeguard the base, and base personnel from civilians, and civilians from the daily operations of a fully functioning weapons storage facility, a $5 million dollar, 22, 000 foot chain link fence was deemed by the Navy to offer optimum protection. However according to an article on November 3, 2009 in the Seattle Times, 5 protestors associated with an international peace movement were arrested after cutting through three chain link security fences to reach an area where nuclear missiles are stored at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor— the ages of the protesters; 81, 83, 65, 60, and 60 years old.
This is the same type of fencing the Navy claims will keep Naval Weapons Station Earle safe from intrusion.

For over a year Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle (NOPE) have vehemently opposed the opening of the Laurelwood housing units located on Naval Weapons Station Earle, to civilian renters and facilitating that by granting them unimpeded access.
Arrogant disregard and a deaf ear has been the Navy’s response, to NOPE’s assertion that allowing civilians unimpeded access to the facility is by its very nature, inviting actions which could ultimately lead to tragedy.

Hopefully the Department of the Navy has learned from these recent tragedies.
If not “foolish pride” will go before the fall.

Washington Post: Fort Hood attack 3rd this year targeting military on U.S. soil

It is unfortunate that it took the Fort Hood incident to draw attention and introduce real discussion to the issue of security at U.S. military installations, as evidenced by this Washington Post story on Friday, which rehashes incidents that were given only modest media and political attention and that NOPE has discussed here on this blog ad nauseum (i.e. thwarted attacks on Quantico, Fort Dix, Arkansas Army recruiting center).

The Fort Hood massacre notwithstanding, the separate civilian break-ins at Washington's Kitsap Naval base and North Carolina's Fort Bragg should be enough to get the Department of Navy to recognize that its civilian housing plan at NWS Earle is an utter travesty that threatens to a) compromise the base's own security and b) the safety of the base's workers, and that deserves political and media beyond the local publications to bring to light the seemingly laissez-faire attitude of the broader U.S. military that it can protect its own bases. The unfortunate incidents of the past 7-10 days would suggest otherwise.

Friday, November 6, 2009

N.J. military bases heighten security in wake of Fort Hood tragedy, and a brief perspective

I write this afternoon with a heavy heart in the wake of the horrific killings at Fort Hood, TX.

Merely to inform our readers, the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst base has increased security measures, according to this brief from the Times of Trenton, in the wake of the horrific scene at Fort Hood, Texas. We have yet to learn whether changes have been made in the security protocols at our nearby bases Naval Weapons Station Earle and Fort Monmouth.

NOPE wishes to reiterate heartfelt condolences to all of those witnessed to the tragedy and remind our supporters that local service members at Earle and Fort Monmouth are the fabric of our community and history. My kids share classrooms with kids of those stationed here. Many of the leaders of NOPE either dutifully served in the military or worked at one of the nearby bases, and the thought of a Fort Hood-like incident here in Monmouth County is devastating. We have much to appreciate about our local military presence.

It is unfortunate, but the largely uncovered (by the media) product of NOPE's objection to proposed civilian housing and unimpeded civilian access at NWS Earle has to do with the safety of service members at the base. As difficult as it is to swallow that a military officer would turn a weapon on his brethren is beyond our civilian realm of comprehension, what readers can take from this tragedy locally, perhaps, is that the protection and quality-of-life issues of service members (i.e. good housing and family care, healthcare, e.g. PTSD awareness and rehabilitation) on U.S. military bases needs a much closer, more-urgent look from our legislators and military leaders.

We, Americans, too often take our freedoms for granted, without engaging in matters critical to those behind the lines. Let us not only turn our thoughts to those grieving the Fort Hood killings, but remember to do all that we can locally to assist those who are making enormous sacrifices as members of the U.S. Military.

Sincerely,
Bill Holobowski,
NOPE Chairman

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Extremely heavy hearts in wake of Fort Hood killings

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences must go out to the families of the victims of the horrific scene that has unfolded at Fort Hood, Texas, where gunmen in military uniforms, opened fired on bystanders, killing 11 and wounding 31 others. We turn your attention to the national media coverage of this sad story.

Navy spin-doctoring the Kitsap break-in (?)...and a correction

Our apologies, first off, for sloppily and incorrectly identifying Naval Base Kitsap as a Maine installation (the Bangor reference threw us off) - Kitsap is in Washington, evidently about 20 miles west of Seattle; we've corrected yesterday's blog post accordingly.

Regardless, considering that the story is grabbing attention beyond our ragtag blog, it appears that the Department of Navy or some higher powers are downplaying details about five senior citizen antiwar demonstrators who used bolt cutters to cut thru a few lines of barbed wire security fencing at the base to get near nuclear missile storage areas, merely to protest.

Whereas the Kitsap Sun report on Tuesday suggests the perps (get this...an 81-year-old Jesuit priest, an 83-year-old nun and three crafty seniors in their 60s ) roamed the base for 4+ hours under moonlight without being seen, a Navy spokesman in this AP report, picked up by San Jose (CA) Mercury News and the Navy Times, among others, suggests a ho-hum event.

Texas-based Spero News (apparently a publication focused on religious issues), on the other hand, details that the group not only easily cut through three sets of security fencing before they were apprehended after trying to break thru another fence and tripping a security alarm, but cited Naval Base Kitsap as home to more than 2,000 nuclear warheads, or nearly 25% of the U.S.'s arsenal (according to November 2006 data from the Natural Resources Defense Council). Scary.

Here's the kicker - the intrusion evidently occurred within a day of base security exercises where...better look out..."identification cards of those entering and leaving the base are being checked, and guards are electronically scanning everybody," according to this separate Kitsap Sun piece.

Naval Weapons Station Earle neighbors should keep this Washington incident fresh in their minds when considering the egregiously flawed Department of Navy plan to compromise base security by opening a fully impeded access route to the Laurelwood homes on the base and letting its developer (Laurelwood Homes, LLC) rent on-base housing to civilians from 2010-2040.

Otherwise, keep in mind this insomnia-curing but informative January 2009 report from the U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General that showed that our nearby Earle may have some security oversight problems of its own, pertaining to its reliance on outsource security personnel (a.k.a. Myers Security).

Anyone that did not attend last week's NOPE rally at CNHS or take part in our postcard campaign (NOPE has already collected over 600 sets and disseminated close to 1,000) should contact us immediately at njnope@gmail.com or justsaynope@verizon.net (or call us at 732.322.0130 or 732.946.3747), and we will provide you a packet of postcards (expressing discontent over the Earle civilian housing plan with the Secretary of Navy, EPA, NJ Governor and Homeland Security) that you can fill out and give to your neighbors, friends and family to mail to the proper authorities.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Did you hear the one about the Priest, the Nun and 3 Senior Citizens that broke into a Navy nuclear missile storage site in Washington?"


No joke. Honestly, you cannot make this stuff up.

According to Tuesday's Kitsap (Washington State) Sun, "five protesters associated with an international peace movement were arrested Monday after cutting through three security fences to reach an area where nuclear missiles are stored at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor."

Among the intruders (pictured to the right): an 81-year-old Catholic priest, an 83-year-old nun and three 60-somethings.

So how did such strong-armed invaders get through three sets of fencing (7-foot fencing: the preferred security measure that NWS Earle will use to deter civilian renters and their visitors from breaking into the secure parts of the base) meant to keep people away from the nukes? BOLT CUTTERS and INGENUITY.

The timeline in the Kitsap Sun story would suggest these folks were prowling the base for about 4 1/2 hours, from the time they broke in (2 a.m., under moonlight: "we were hidden in plain sight the whole time," said one of the seniors) until the time they tripped an alarm (6:30 a.m.) trying to cut another chain-link fence apparently very close to the where nukes are stored. (Frankly, they're lucky they're not dead, since base personnel are authorized to use deadly force under such circumstances of invasion).

Between this comical and at the same time frightening indicent, and the unrelated death (by ordnance explosion) of a civilian intruder into a blast zone last week at Fort Bragg, NC, it is pretty clear that U.S.-based military installations are far from impenetrable, contrary to what the Department of Navy suggests in the environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Laurelwood civilian housing plan at Earle.

Just ask yourself (...and your elected officials): if five geriatrics with bolt cutters can easily break into a nuclear weapons storage site on foot under darkness without being caught by Navy base personnel, how does the Department of Navy's plan to welcome 300 new families of civilian renters at NWS Earle enhance security at one of our largest and most important military ordnance storage facilities?

Civilian renters should never be allowed to step foot on NWS Earle, period, lest the U.S. Navy wants to deal with public relations embarassment like this (and, perhaps even worse, potential fatalities)!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So much for fences and warning signs keeping people off military bases...trespasser blown to bits at Ft. Bragg ordnance range

Two poignant responses in this Fayetteville Observer article today from Fort Bragg (N.C.) spokesman Tom McCollum, on the death of a civilian trespasser who was blown to shreds on Friday when scavenging for scrap metal and stepping on "unexploded ordnance" on an explosives range within the confines of the 35,000-acre Army base in North Carolina:
  1. "You are going to have death when someone is stupid and walks into these areas."
  2. "We can't control the access to our impact areas...we've done just about everything we can."

As this translates to our civilian housing objections at Weapons Station Earle, and NOPE's view that security forces will never be able to fully stop trespassers once civilians are given keys to the base, we reiterate the point that Lt. Col. Jim Sfayer (retired) made at last Tuesday's NOPE rally (and past NOPE briefings) that, without a full cadre of security personnel, it is impossible to keep trespassers and poachers off military bases as vast as 11,000-acre Mainside Earle and the 35,000-acre Fort Bragg.

As more than a casual observer, it appears ludicrious to us in the case of the accidental death by explosion of a civilian at Bragg for the U.S. Army to take zero accountability for Friday's incident and to write this off as someone for being "stupid." And turning to the Department of Navy's plan to let civilians rent 300 underutilized military houses at NWS Earle, it is ludicrious, as we highlighted on Tuesday night, to expect that Earle can prevent a similar catastrophe by providing unimpeded civilian access to the Laurelwood housing development within its fences.

DO NOT buy the DoN's bill of goods that it can keep us, and NWS Earle, secure by introducing 300 civilian renter families onto the base by September 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NJ's Gubernatorial candidates M.I.A. on Earle

Regardless of where you stand ahead of tomorrow's elections, for the sake of fair disclosure, none of the three primary candidates for N.J. Governor has shown any inkling of interest in sharing views on proposed civilian housing at Weapons Station Earle - an outright disgrace in failing to protect the state's best interests.

New Jersey taxpayers not only face tremendous homeland security risk, but at least a $500 million unfundated mandate, if the Department of Navy gets its wish, in our estimation (see our Business Case analysis).

Earlier this year, Governor Corzine sent a rep to meet with us in Tinton Falls, but had no interest in recognizing the issue or exploring it any more deeply than the cursory attendance at the meeting. Neither the Christie nor Daggett camps responded to written and email inquiries on where the candidates stand. To be sure, we are not really sure than any of them knows that civilian renters are slated for Earle in 2010 if the Department of Navy has its way, although Christie should, since he aggressively prosecuted Gary McKinnon, the U.K. crackpot who crashed essential Earle computer networks for a month around the time of 9/11.

NOPE is nonpartisan, but wants to remind our supporters that, whichever candidate you choose for New Jersey Governor on Tuesday, that you need to a) fill out and mail the pre-addressed postcards to the Governor that NOPE distributed at Tuesday's rally (email us at njNOPE@gmail.com or justsaynope@verizon.net if you need more; we printed another 2,000 copies) and b) place calls to the Governor (609-292-6000) stating your objection to proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our prayers to injured Earle Navy base employee

The Asbury Park Press reports that a male employee at Naval Weapons Station Earle lost part of his lower left leg Friday morning when struck by a locomotive backing up into a roundhouse. Our thoughts and prayers go out to this injured individual for a speedy recovery and to his family, and we remind readers of how NOPE values the safety and well being of Earle's employees, who are an essential part of our community.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Asbury Park Press take on the GAO...and more on our hugely successful postcard campaign

It is truly nice for NOPE to see a) the reference to the postcard campaign we initiated at Tuesday night's rally and b) the return of reporter Nina Rizzo to this story. Ms. Rizzo has been following the Earle case from the beginning and gives fair and balanced perspectives, which is all any reader can ask in such a multi-layered issue as proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle. We hope the APP editors will keep Ms. Rizzo on this story.

Speaking of the postcard campaign, we've already exhausted our supply of 600 sets distributed (and many subsequently collected) during the rally and are printing another 1,000 sets. For any person interested in soliciting signatures from their neighbors, friends or family, contact us at njNOPE@gmail.com, justsaynope@verizon.net, or call us at 732.322.0130, and we can arrange for you to get a stack once we've printed them.

For those that missed the rally but would like to participate in our campaign, and are unsure what it is about, NOPE has targeted four agencies that need to be aware of the communities' ire - the Secretary of the Navy, the EPA, NJ Homeland Security and Governor Corzine - and is asking people to sign a 5th postcard that we will physically hand over in Trenton as we lobby for passage of the Beck-O'Scanlon-Casagrande bill mandating a state study of the Laurelwood security and financial impacts before any NJ agency (namely DEP and DOT) can issue permits to the Department of Navy. The first four have preprinted address to which people can mail their cards, while we're arranging for drop-off points for the 5th card.

Please stay tuned here for more details, and safe Halloween fun to those participating with their children in what is one of the most fun days of the year!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Congressman Smith: President Signs Earle Amendment Into Law

According to this press release issued Wednesday by Congressman Chris Smith's office, President Obama signed into law Mr. Smith's legislation "to require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the U.S. Navy’s controversial proposal to open the Laurelwood military housing complex on Naval Weapons Station Earle, the largest munitions depot on the East Coast, to the general public."

NOPE again appreciates the years of effort Congressman Smith has put into this issue, well before our group's existence, and wholeheartedly agrees with Mr. Smith's assertion that "making a highly secure military weapons depot accessible to anyone with a month and a half’s rent is a bad idea."

In addition, we anticipate that the GAO's discovery will not only expose the Department of Navy's stubborn and flawed contention that, by contract, it must open the Laurelwood housing to civilians by September 2010, but also will shed light on a number of significant pieces of information that NAVFAC failed to discuss to the U.S. taxpayer in its "Environmental Impact Statement" (EIS) on Laurelwood - namely regarding Supplemental Lease Agreement 43.

It is our understanding that this agreement, obtained earlier this year by NOPE thru the Freedom of Information Act, and signed in August 2002 as part of Laurelwood's refinancing of the mortgage, compounds what was a bad contract from the get-go in the 1980s. And, contrary to the Department of Navy's contention in the EIS that "No Build" (i.e. do not build the Laurelwood road, do not open the houses to civilians) is not an option, No. 43 suggests the lease automatically goes to buyout and teardown phase if the DoN does not provide Laurelwood access to pave the road and upgrade the homes at the end of the "in-lease" (i.e. military's occupation of the homes), which is April 30, 2010.

Here's the kicker. By agreeing to this supplement, S.A. 43 suggests that "the Government" (as referred to in the document), less than one year after 9-11, not only signed away its contractual right to use National Emergency Termination clauses to void the lease, but also appears to obligate the U.S. taxpayer to an additional $20 million+ of rent payments to Laurelwood in the event that certain civilian occupancy levels are not met. NOW we see why the Navy was steadfast in telling us during face-to-face meetings that it would not invoke the termination clause (rather than its excuse at the time that it didn't want to be perceived as a bad business partner to federal government contractors.)

None of us in NOPE is an expert at privatized military housing contracts, but we are hopeful that the GAO report will shed light on important financial data points and security analysis that clearly was lacking in the Department of Navy's (NAVFAC) final EIS, and that the DoN will use this opportunity to finally approach Laurelwood's owner at the bargaining table on a settlement that not only restores order to NWS Earle, but is the right thing to do for surrounding communities and the folks behind Earle's lines who put their lives on the line for our country.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rally a HUGE success, but lots more to do

The Department of Navy need not look further than the success of last night's NOPE rally at Colts Neck High School to know that it should do an about-face on its egregiously flawed decision to open military housing at Weapons Station Earle to civilian renters, starting next year, through 2040.

NOPE would like to thank the 250-300 that turned out on a rainy night to participate in our rally at CNHS, plus the continued outpouring of support today from many of the attendees, who are eager to volunteer to spread our message and participate in the cause as the Navy's April 30, 2010, deadline to obligate the Laurelwood housing lease draws near.

If nothing else, the Department of Navy needs to know that NOPE is NOT going away, and our ranks will only grow!

NOPE also would like to acknowledge participation of our elected officials - from Sen. Menendez's office and Rep. Smith's and Holt's offices in Washington, all the way thru the District 12 State Senate team, Monmouth County Freeholders and leaders of Colts Neck and Tinton Falls.

And we'd also acknowledge the extensive media coverage from News 12 (our story evidently aired on the 10p and 11p newscasts, and we'll provide a link once it is available) and Millenium Radio (i.e. WOBM, 94.3 The Point, etc) and down to diverse local media.

To reiterate last night's takeaways:
  • The NOPE community is unified, committed, and growing even stronger! There is no arguing this point.
  • The Navy's assertion to the public that civilian housing at NWS Earle is a "done deal" and needs to go through (and will not compromise the base's mission or our security) is FAR from the truth. As noted last night, article No. 15 of Supplement No. 43 to the Laurelwood lease (see our July 15, 2009 blog entry pertaining to this, with the link providing the full document NOPE obtained through the Freedom of Information Act) obligates the Navy and its developer to a buyout and teardown should "the government fail to provide unimpeded access at the termination of the inlease (April 30, 2010)." Furthermore, Supplement No. 43 also foolishly signed away the Government's right to revoke the lease in the event of a national emergency, and appears to potentially obligate the Government to laddered rent payments to the developer through 2017 at a cost that we calculate at upwards of $22 million.
  • The wheels are in motion for a GAO financial and security assessment of the Laurelwood housing issue (see pgs. 898-899 of the House Conference report accompanying the FY 2010 Defense Authorization legislation) - an assessment that the Navy (via the NAVFAC branch) was required to include in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the Laurelwood housing issue but refused to do, citing confidentiality and a "sorry, but financial projections are too difficult for us to calculate" excuse.
  • Supporters need to provide us with a list of 5-10 more names of residents, along with their email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses, so that we can extend our message and increase the pressure on the Department of Navy and the agencies that dropped the ball on this issue, namely the EPA, DHS and Governor Corzine. In addition to the hundreds of postcards you submitted last night (and that we will mail early next week, once cover letters are drawn), visitors to the rally took stacks of the pre-printed postcards home with them to share with their neighbors. In all, we expect to quickly exhaust the 600 sets of protest postcards we printed for last night's rally. Well done, folks!
  • NOPE will have a strong turnout for our efforts to lobby members of the State House in Trenton for passage of S3017/A4159, mandating a cost benefit and security analysis of the Laurelwood housing plan before state agencies can issue permits the Department of Navy needs to begin the road construction phase of Alternative 4 (the road to Laurelwood). We anticipate at least 1 busload of supporters, and are targeting 1,000 signed postcards to hand over when the committees meet to discuss the bill, expected sometime after the November elections.

Stay tuned for more in the days, weeks and months ahead, and thanks again for your support, which is essential if we are to prevail in preventing civilian housing at NWS Earle. And please contact us at njnope@gmail.com or justsaynope@verizon.net.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NOPE RALLY TONIGHT - Colts Neck High, 730 p.m.!!!

Please make every effort to attend (children are welcome).

NOPE has prepared a very informative presentation to bring all Monmouth County residents and the general public up to speed on the faulty civilian housing plan at Weapons Station Earle and will include:

  • What the Department of Navy left out of its mandated Environmental Impact Study...and what they do not want to public (nor federal agencies such as the EPA) to know
  • Recent terror plots at U.S. military bases and why Earle could be targeted
  • Colts Neck Township's hiring of Rudy Guiliani's security consulting firm to assist in a security evaluation
  • What our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are doing through the Fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Act
  • The bipartisan support of our N.J. legislators
  • Time is running out...only 185 days until the Navy turns the housing over to a private developer and ultimately grants unimpeded access to the Laurelwood homes for the next 30 years
  • And much, much more...

To be considerate of your time, our committee has worked diligently to keep the rally to 1 hour. Please attend and SHOW OUR STRENGTH IN NUMBERS!

Thank you for your continued support!

Monday, October 26, 2009

APP Preview of Oct. 27 NOPE Rally

The preview coverage by the Asbury Park Press of tomorrow night's NOPE RALLY (at Colts Neck High School, starting at 7:30 p.m.) is welcome, though somewhat inaccurate.

Short shrift is given to the fact that NOPE's boundaries stretch well beyond "a group of township residents." NOPE comprises resident supporters well beyond Colts Neck's borders, namely Tinton Falls, but other surrounding towns as well (Freehold, Ocean, Howell, Marlboro) that oppose the Navy's plans to house civilians at Weapons Station Earle the next 30 years.

The notion, too, that Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, plus Representatives Smith (District 4) and Holt (District 12), pushed extremely hard for our cause vis-a-vis an defense spending bill amendment in D.C. to mandate a study of the financial and security ramifications of the Navy's plan suggests bipartisan federal support for NOPE's cause in Washington. In Trenton, we have Senator Beck and NJ's 12th District team pushing a companion bill that would prevent the Navy from acting on its wishes until the state conducts its own financial and security threat assessment. Mr. Jordan's APP piece, while appreciated, fails to mention that and falls short in recognizing that our case goes beyond a Colts Neck lawsuit to which NOPE is not a party.

Nonetheless, as Diana Piotrowski, NOPE's Communications Director was quoted as saying, tomorrow night's rally will remind the Department of Navy in Washington that New Jersey's lawmakers and taxpayers are steadfast in opposition to an ill-conceived plan that will grossly endanger the livelihoods of NWS Earle's neighbors. The last thing the Department of Navy wants is continued publicity of the Laurelwood housing issue, and that is what NOPE will continue to provide. The more light we shed on this lunacy, the better our chance to prevail.

Please come out and see for yourself why, tomorrow night (Tuesday, Oct. 27) at 7:30 p.m. at Colts Neck High School. It is your obligation to remain informed and to protect your community.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Senate approves defense spending bill

NOPE is hopeful that the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization bill, which passed the House earlier this month and the Senate on Friday (by a 68-29 margin), includes provisions mandating a GAO financial and security assessment of the civilian housing plan at NWS Earle. This would mark a major step in our battle to prevent a bad idea presented by the Department of Navy.

Make sure to attend Tuesday night's rally, where we'll update the community on our progress, what we need to accomplish, and where representatives from Senator Menendez's, Representative Holt's and Smith's and State Senator Beck's offices will address the matter.

The NOPE rally kicks off at 730p at Colts Neck High School. Do not miss this event!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kudos to CN, TF educational leaders...and Charles Basile!

Our sincere thanks to Tinton Falls and Colts Neck school districts for helping NOPE to publicize our RALLY, Tuesday, October 27 at 730 p.m. at Colts Neck High, and recognizing the necessity of grassroots, taxpayer participation in trying to avert a civilian housing disaster at Weapons Station Earle that has the potential to devastate our (and other) school districts.

Through "kiddie mail" (i.e. kids backpacks), we were able to distribute some 1,800 flyers to families of children in Tinton Falls' K-thru-8 district, and thru an email distributed thru Colts Neck's "listserv" reached at least 1,000 more homes in Colts Neck Township. (And, of course, we could not have done it without the help of printing guru Charles Basile, whose company, The Wall Street Group, has proven vital to NOPE's print publicity campaign.)

We cannot stress enough the need for a packed house on Tuesday night as a symbol of community solidarity and outcry against the Department of Navy's plans for Laurelwood base housing and as a show of support to NOPE and our elected politicians, who have put in thousands of hours fighting for the better of our communities.

Please come out and show your support, and we remind readers that NOPE's upcoming rally and our entire mission is not a protest against those who dutifully defend our rights and serve our country at Weapons Station Earle itself (or attend our schools), but as a sign of discontent over a poor decision by the Department of Navy in Washington, D.C. to let civilians reside within the base's fence line. That said, we invite families now residing at Earle to attend on Tuesday night, to ensure that their kids' quality of education is not compromised down the road by bad leadership decisions.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Privatized military housing running amok

The Air Force Times reported earlier this month on how, yet again, military decision-makers misjudged soldiers' (apparently diminishing) interest in on-base housing. In this report, on-base housing occupancy for Air Force installations is running at a mere 83% of airmen, with families of civilian contractors bumping the rate to 88%. The Air Force, in this case, is saddled with filling homes and is considering opening some to basically anyone, including civilians. And, at the same time, leaders show no sign of slowing or revisiting the privatized military housing trend.

Although there are drastic differences between citations in this story and our particular beef with the Department of the Navy, it is important to note for visitors to our rally on Tuesday, October 27 (Colts Neck High, 730pm) that our case at Weapons Station Earle is not much different, from the perspective that each involved privatization...or turning over construction to outside, private developers and property managers; many have been good partners, but a few have ripped off U.S. taxpayers vis-a-vis the U.S. Military (see American Eagle Communities, toward the bottom of the Air Force Times story).

In our case with Earle, the Department of Navy is, in short, pushing the financial burden of a poorly construed 1980s privatized housing contract on the taxpayers of our communities in Tinton Falls, Colts Neck and broader Monmouth County. There was no justifiable, long-term need to build the 300 Laurelwood homes back in the late 1980s (when the DoN knew it was moving ships from their Earle homeport to other bases), and for about a decade now they've essentially been vacant (6-7 are occupied at present), and now it's evidently our communities' responsibility to make good for DoN missteps?!?!

So, rather than buying out the Laurelwood developer and saving everyone - including NWS Earle personnel and the DoN itself - a massive headache and averting a potential security disaster, the Department of Navy is steadfast about letting the developer open the homes to any willing renter on the open market, so long as the Navy can get out of a presumed $3.5-$4 million annual rent payment to Laurelwood Homes, LLC. Go figure.

We will not stand for this. See why at Colts Neck High, Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 730pm.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Text of Colts Neck Resolution in support of NOPE

In a mild oversight, we neglected to post Resolution 2009-133, adopted by Colts Neck Township Committee and signed by Administrator Robert Bowden on October 14, supporting Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle.

NOPE clearly appreciates the support of Township Committee and their submission to U.S. Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, Congressmen Smith and Holt, Governor Corzine, the District 12 State team, the Monmouth County Freeholders, and Tinton Falls' Borough Council and Mayor.

Pardon the cutoff of Mr. Bowden's signature, but until this document is electronic posted to Colts Neck's website, the attached photo scan will do (just click on it to open).

Remember to attend our rally next Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 730p - Colts Neck High.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reminder: NOPE Rally, Tuesday, Oct. 27 @ 730p - Colts Neck High

We are within the homestretch of preparations for NOPE's Oct. 27 rally at Colts Neck High, organizing the agenda and presentation for what we anticipate will be a well-attended event by the general public, emergency responders and our elected officials from the federal, state and local levels. Anyone wishing to volunteer to help us publicize the event should contact us at njNOPE@gmail.com, globalinfo1@verizon.net or billholobowski@verizon.net.

Already we have 100 lawn signs out at different spots in Colts Neck and Tinton Falls, and could use some volunteers to either go door-to-door or stand outside an area business to distribute the flyers promoting the rally. Otherwise, please share w/us an email address to which we can send our flyer and you can distribute via email to your neighbors, friends and family.

Also, here's the Asbury Park Press' confirmation of Colts Neck's hiring of Giuliani Partners as security consultants in its lawsuit vs. the Department of Navy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Colts Neck Township Committee votes to hire Giuliani's firm, passes NOPE resolution

With absolutely no fanfare and in a sadly, near-empty town hall last night, Colts Neck's Township Committee voted 4-1 in favor of hiring Giuliani Partners as a consultant on security matters pertaining to the township's lawsuit to prevent the Department of Navy from housing civilians at Weapons Station Earle as soon as next September, and otherwise unanimously passed a resolution in support of NOPE's continued grassroots efforts.

Fortunately, people in Colts Neck (and those that never or feel it is a waste of time to attend council meetings in neighboring Tinton Falls and elsewhere) have NOPE watching their backs.

The hiring of Rudy Giuliani's consultancy, in our view, is not only a major headline for the township (missed yet again by the Asbury Park Press and the Star-Ledger), but also a potentially significant game-changer for NOPE in publicizing our community's objection to a recipe for disaster that will come with civilian housing within the fence line of a major U.S. weapons storage facility.

Reiterating yesterday's blog, the introduction of Giuliani Partners to this case should attract national media attention to the Earle-civilian housing issue and gives Colts Neck Township some ammunition (i.e. a credible counterterrorism expert) in its lawsuit against the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC and its owner Teri Fischer.

Interestingly, what we also learned last night is that a) the Department of Navy has until tomorrow (Oct. 16) to respond to the suit and b) Mrs. Fischer is trying to be exempted as a party to that lawsuit (it seems unlikely to happen).

We'll keep you posted on the lawsuit and include it as part of our RALLY presentation on Tuesday night, October 27 at 730p at Colts Neck High. DO NOT MISS THE RALLY.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Potential Game Changer in Weapons Station Earle housing battle: Colts Neck to vote tonight on hiring Rudy Giuliani's firm as security consultants

In our regular scan of area township committee meetings, the tentative agenda for tonight's Township Committee meeting in Colts Neck has two resolutions worth following, namely 2009-132 to confirm the appointment of Giuliani Security and Safety, LLC of New York as "Security Consultants". The other, 2009-133 explicitly "supports NOPE." We would encourage NOPE supporters to attend tonight.

(If the above link does not go direct to the agenda, go to "Info & Documents" on the left bar, then "Meeting Minutes Online," "Township Committee Minutes," "2009 Upcoming Agenda" and the October 14, 2009 PDF.)

The hiring of former NYC mayor and U.S. presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani's firm is, in our view, presumably, 1) ammunition in Colts Neck's lawsuit to prevent the Department of Navy plan to let civilians live at Laurelwood military housing units from 2010-2040, but also 2) a potential game-changer from a media publicity perspective.

On the latter (and likely to the Department of Navy's dismay), the hiring is almost certain to broaden media attention (i.e. state and national) to NOPE's case against the Navy's ill-hatched plan to build an unimpeded access route through Earle (a few hundred yards south of the Rt. 34 main gate, which is soon to be rebuilt at a cost of up to $10 million to enhance security and is now out for bids) and let any civilian live within the Earle's fence line - not the smartest move while trying to operating a massive weapons depot amid growing terror threats against U.S. military installations.

Giuliani Security and Safety, according to the company's website, is headed by Pasquale D'Amuro, an internationally recognized expert on counterterrorism and head of the FBI's investigation into the 9/11 attacks. Mr. D'Amura also contributed to or led probes into the 1998 Embassy bombings in East Africa and the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen...obviously high-profile events.

Tomorrow, we will follow up on Wednesday night's meeting - 730pm, Colts Neck Town Hall.