Friday, December 4, 2009


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 (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.


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.