Thursday, August 6, 2009

Senate passes Defense Authorization Act; await news on amendment for U.S. Comptroller General security and financial audit of Laurelwood housing plan

The U.S. Senate last week passed the Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2010, which includes a proposed amendment (SA. 1539) sponsored by Messrs. Menendez and Lautenberg, essentially repeating the version passed by the House and introduced by Congressman Chris Smith.

Following up on a question that arose during each of our two information sessions the past two weeks about what this means for NOPE, and reviewing some notes taken from discussions with our federal legislative contacts, it appears that the Senate's passage of S. 1390 (the Defense Authorization Act itself) means that both chambers will now begin negotations on a version to send to President Obama this fall. Early September is the earliest this will become law, we're told, though at times the process lasts through December. We are hopeful of the earliest resolution. We will keep our eye on whether Senate Amendment SA 1549 is passed and continue to press for Senate passage.

To reiterate, President Obama's approval would mean that within 180 days of passage, the Comptroller General must submit to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees a report containing "a cost analysis and audit of the sufficiency of the Navy's security measures in advance of the proposed occupancy by the general public of units of the Laurelwood Housing complex on Naval Weapons Station Earle." Whether passage of such an amendment stalls the Navy's ability to execute its road-clearing plans and meet the April 30, 2010 deadline for the unimpeded civilian access route remains to be seen.

In the meantime, please stay tuned here and to you NOPE email, as we will give you the heads up on whom to call within the U.S. Senate (and when) to support the Menendez-Lautenberg Amendment (SA 1549).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Australia foils Fort Dix-style plot

Rantings aside for today, this AP news story reports that Australian officials arrested four men suspected of links to a Somali Islamic extremist group who were allegedly planning commando-style attacks on at least one army base. According to the police commissioner cited, "the men's intention was to actually go into the army barracks and to kill as many soldiers as they could before they themselves were killed." Sounds familiar, doesn't it...

NOPE supporters, WAKE UP!

If I'm U.S. Representative Rush Holt, State Senator Jennifer Beck, or Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera or Councilmen Gary Baldwin and Andy Mayer, who sacrificed a beautiful summer evening to hear about the latest in NOPE's grassroots battle to prevent proposed civilian housing at Earle, I'm perturbed this morning by the meager turnout for last night's update hosted by NOPE at Tinton Falls Borough Hall.

Thanks to those 15-20 who did attend, but candidly, outside of the core leadership of NOPE who have sacrificed countless hours of personal and professional time since January 2008 challenging what everyone can see is a ridiculous Navy civilian housing plan that threatens our community, the people of our core Colts Neck and Tinton Falls contingent need to stop making excuses for not attending these kinds of events, in addition to our town government meetings.

NOPE's leadership team comprises working parents with as many as 5 kids, adults strapped with child- and elder-care responsibilities, grandparents who watch their grandchildren for their own working children, individuals struggling to keep their businesses afloat in a recession, and civic leaders with responsibilities to other organization (i.e. a retired Marine who dedicates time to preparing returnees from active duty for placement in the civilian workforce), to name a few of the obligations comprising our daily lives.

It is time for those who benefit from NOPE's emails and this blog to step up to the plate and take responsibility, and an outright embarrassment when we deliver top elected officials to these venues and few people show.

If you want to really protect your community, move away from the TV, stop procrastinating, and get out to support NOPE's events or those endorsed by your elected officials, or in our case call your elected federal officials (Reps. Smith and Holt, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Governor Corzine) to reinforce your objections to proposed civilian housing at Earle. Their phone numbers are available on the main NOPE website, or on the politicians' websites.

Otherwise, stay tuned here for daily updates and for details of an upcoming rally planned for Columbus Day. Keep the date clear on your excuses...

Bill Holobowski, Chairman

Monday, August 3, 2009

EPA Requests Info on Navy "Purpose and Need" for Civilian Housing

This is something we will discuss tonight at our meeting at Tinton Falls Borough Hall, starting at 730 p.m., but we wanted to share this in advance.

Fulton Wilcox, NOPE's business case analyst, a few weeks ago drafted a letter to the EPA's Region 2 director, encouraging the agency to withdraw or amend its comments on the Navy's supposed need to go thru with civilian housing at NWS Earle, and much to our satisfaction it appears the EPA is taking this suggestion very seriously (EPA response letter attached).

NOPE argues that the Navy's "Laurelwood EIS" proves misleading on the "No Action Alternative," which was erroneously written off by investigators as part of the process of determining whether the Navy should pick one of four unimpeded civilian access routes thru the Earle base to the Laurelwood homes, or option five - the No Action Alternative - which basically means the base would run as is and the Navy would not go through with the outlease of the 52-year housing contract with Laurelwood Inc. (i.e. void or buy out the contract).

NOPE has long argued that the No Action (or "No Build") alternative is by far the most logical, particularly in terms of the environment, since no road construction and no civilian tenants means no detrimental impact on the environment. The option to build a road and house civilian tenants on the base from 2010-2040 has wide-reaching impacts, not only on the core "environment," but also on Earle's mission capabilities and on the surrounding communities. We will keep you posted on further correspondence with the EPA.