Saturday, August 22, 2009

Red Bank Hub: NOPE continues opposition

The Hub story is nice publicity, but flawed in a few ways, namely that NOPE encourages the Navy to exercise its contractual right to void the Laurelwood housing contract, which it says it will not do (why, we do not know). With this in mind, we recommend the Navy meet Seattle-based developer Teri Fischer halfway and work toward an amicable buyout to make this housing debacle and security threat disappear - basically, put Navy and local resident interests ahead of those of a housing developer 3,000 miles away.

Be clear...NOPE in no way is a mouthpiece for the developer, Seattle-based Teri Fischer, nor will we ever be, and in fact we'd feel no remorse if her company walked away without a cent on the outlease portion of the contract (i.e. the civilian residency clause that runs from September 2010 to 2040). Her company has already netted some $75 million of rental payments from the Navy since 1990. THAT very clear assertion was left out of the Hub story. We continue to make clear that the Navy would be well within its rights to void the deal under grounds of a declared national emergency, as stated in the contract. (Anyone seeking a copy of the full contract can email us at or post an email address in the comment section below; we'd be happy to forward it to you after having obtained it through open public records acts.)

Otherwise, the Hub story slants heavily toward the school issue and contains some misinformation. Simply, NOPE's stance is that NO TOWN in the surrounding area should ever educate a single civilian occupant that might live at Laurelwood...period! We sense that what could end up happening (and it seems a few politicians are leaning toward this in the event civilians ever live at Laurelwood) is that the Monmouth County Superintendent could split the kids among many surrounding districts (i.e. each district within 10-15 miles of Earle takes 30-50 kids to "soften the blow"). BOEs and school superintendents outside Colts Neck and Tinton Falls should be paying close attention to this issue, and call their state legislators to question their leaders on this issue and discourage such a notion.

The essential piece of the overall Laurelwood housing story, which is buried in the Hub piece and that no one in the commercial media seems to recognize or care to explore, is the Laurelwood contract itself and how the U.S. Navy (read: not NWS Earle commanding officer, Captain Maynard, or anyone working at the base, but a much higher decision-maker within the Navy ranks in Washington, D.C.) has put its Monmouth County neighbors in jeopardy on account of a short-sighted contract and mulish thinking. Our interpretation is that Contract Amendment No. 43 signed in 2002 sends the parties (the Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC) to buyout negotiations by default if the Navy fails to comply with the April 30, 2010 deadline to clear the planned 1.7-mile access route to the homes. And the bottom line is that some high-ranking official or Navy number cruncher, seemingly with no clue or interest about the impact to our communities, is going to severely compromise the mission at NWS Earle by inviting civilians to live on its otherwise secure grounds. Preposterous...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Laurelwood and Anti-War Protesters

One of our supporters brings up an interesting hypothetical for the Navy: how will NWS Earle react if civilian anti-war, or other types of protesters, take up residence at the base's Laurelwood housing? We pose this question, knowing that some of our blog's most-avid visitors are from the Navy (40% since we launched the blog on July 1; we have the data to back this up - it's not a contrived figure).

Navy officials need look no further than Olympia, Washington, home to protest groups United for Peace and Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OPMR, which objects to use of civilian ports for shipments to Iraq). AP reports allegations the Army illegally infiltrated OPMR, whose members "sometimes engaged in civil disobedience by trying to block the shipments," and about 200 protestors were arrested amid protests in November 2007, as two videos from YouTube (video 1, video 2) showing police pepperspraying seemingly peaceful protests would attest.

We have not seen these sorts of protests in our area, but should the war in Afghanistan and occupation of Iraq drag on, the likelihood of more protests in more places increases. It would be pretty awkward for the Navy having protesters residing on the base and engaging in action on a road that dissects the base, rather than just demonstrating in the streets like in Olympia, WA.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shooting & Hostage Drill at Earle raises NOPE's doubts about law enforcement self-sufficiency

It appears that earlier this month a drill was conducted to prepare Navy security personnel at NWS Earle Mainside and other law enforcement interests for a scenario where "a sailor is shot by her husband in their temporary quarters aboard (the) base" who then "flees the scene."

That this scenario (which evidently involved the base command, Earle tenants, NCIS, customs agents and state and local police) was played out in "temporary quarters" could support a view of this drill as a precursor to what could happen (whether the miscreant is a relative of a sailor or a crazed civilian resident) once the base becomes overrun with civilian occupants and visitors come September 2010, unless the Navy reverses course on an otherwise ridiculous plan for what to do with largely vacant Laurelwood housing.

Parsing through the Navy jargon in this puff piece written by an Earle PR person, the drill was part of Earle's Higher Headquarters Assessment (i.e. appraisal of military operations), which suggests routine business. Clearly the neighbors in the surrounding Earle communities would hope for high marks on these kinds of drills, and apparently the participants quoted in this press release fell all over themselves with praise. In our view, the exercise suggests something less than the security self-sufficiency asserted in the kickoff Federal Register announcement of the Laurelwood opening to civilians.

The involvement of the New Jersey State Police raises red flags regarding the eventual role of state law enforcement in all of this and use of NJ taxpayer dollars to police Laurelwood housing on federal property through the year 2040. NAVFAC's Laurelwood EIS portrays law enforcement as NWS Earle's bailiwick (in other words, foot the bill for any additional security detail to patrol the new road, guard the base from intrusion by Laurelwood residents, and handle all police and court matters involving the homes and new 1.7-mile access road), and we can only speculate that in the event that Laurelwood becomes overrun with civilians that the Navy will need to reach out to state and local law enforcement and emergency responders for help once oversight becomes burdensome to the base commander and a distraction to NWS Earle's sole mission - to provide ammunition to the fleet.

The last thing that we as Earle's neighbors need is for unnecessary distractions brought on by civilian housing at Laurelwood to NWS Earle's own security and core mission such as the scenario played out in the recent shooting-and-hostage drill.