Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Housing Advocates Mean Well, But In The Wrong On Laurelwood

Respecting the notion of fair-and-balanced journalism and full disclosure of stories of all kinds (whether "pro-" or "anti-" NOPE), we highlight a story entitled "Veterans' supporters eye housing at Earle" in Greater Media's News Transcript this week, and obvious pitfalls both in the facts the "supporters" group apparently presented the writer, and the notion of any civilian living unimpededly within an active, fully secure Naval weapons storage facility as panacea to our area's housing needs.

We suggest that readers take this story with a grain of salt, and remind our supporters' of the author's November 18, 2009 column on the merits of proposed civilian housing at Earle.

Without stooping to the vitriolic posture taken by these "veterans' supporters" (do we Americans not support veterans?) and housing advocates toward NOPE and others during an encounter at the State House in Trenton earlier this month, we highlight the notable falsehoods these groups have been spreading to anyone that will listen. (To be sure, these groups' charges have been summarily dismissed by rounds of elected officials and a host of military veterans, including three NOPE leaders who served a collective three decades-plus in the Armed Forces, who all recognize that putting anyone in harms way is not justification for letting people live on a Navy weapons base and compromising Earle's mission to provide ammo to the U.S. fleet.)

The most notable flaw is the assumption that anyone but Teri Fischer, owner of Laurelwood Homes LLC controls and will manage the properties in question thru 2040 (unless she can find a buyer insane enough to take control of this nightmare in a separate buyout). The Transcript story states that an outfit called Neptune Housing Authority would vet (i.e. conduct background checks, etc.) prospective tenants and "has oversight for this particular military development." Maybe that's NHA's plan, but their charge is 100% false. Much like we have encouraged these groups ad nauseum, we encourage everyone read the Navy's Laurelwood EIS for perspective and the real facts for how "civilian" Laurelwood will be managed...and why NOPE and NJ's elected officials - both Democrat and Republic - up to the U.S. Senate object.

In addition, the contentions of a Mr. Welch and Ms. Zucaro cited in the story about civilians living on other military bases is true, but somewhat misleading, in that each base is very case-by-case (i.e. most not nearly as strategically sensitive as one of the U.S.'s most important Navy weapons depots). Civilians are the tenant of last resort (read about the "tenant waterfall" in the GAO's May 2009 report on privatized military housing) for underutilized military housing, and as cited on the p. 25 footnote to that report, note that many installation commanders object to civilian tenants in base housing. Plus, it is patently insane to suggest, as the Navy tried in its EIS, that what happens at NWS Earle is anything close to the mission at Fort Wainwright in Alaska (one of only 7-8 bases with Section 801 military housing, a housing code that we might add was scrapped very soon after the government realized it was a disaster).

NOPE is confident the upcoming GAO findings on Laurelwood housing will dispel such far-fetched notions that Laurelwood housing is suitable to any civilian, and show that the security and financial trade-offs to the Department of Navy and Earle's surrounding communities does not justify tugging at peoples' heartstrings and hatching schemes to convert Laurelwood into housing panacea within the confines of a very dangerous military base (NWS Earle), whose focus should solely be on national security.

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