Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Christie appointment worth watching

The Associated Press this morning is reporting that Governor-elect Chris Christie is going to appoint former Rudy Giuliani aide Andrew Eristoff as NJ's next Treasurer. Why is this intriguing to NOPE's opposition to proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle?

Well, separately, as we discussed here on October 14 and 15, Colts Neck Township hired Mr. Giuliani's firm (Giuliani Partners) as security analysts for its lawsuit versus the Department of Navy over proposed civilian housing at Laurelwood. (As a grassroots group and community messenger, we are not party to the various legal matters pertaining to the Earle case, but keep a close eye on them.)

Although NONE of NJ's gubernatorial candidates this past election gave us any of their time or thoughts on the Earle matter, Mr. Eristoff's inclusion in the Christie cabinet and affiliation to the Giuliani camp in the past could, anecdotally, signal a positive for NOPE, in terms of his ability to gather accurate security information in a security and cost-assessment study by the State Treasurer that NOPE is hopeful will pass in the new NJ legislative session.

Or maybe Mr. Eristoff's nomination means nothing. Either way, we will keep an eye on this.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Explaining the "privatization" in NOPE

Those new to our grassroots group's objections to the Department of Navy's plan to unimpededly open Laurelwood "privatized" housing within the perimeter of Weapons Station Earle to civilians later this year may wonder why the heck NOPE opposes "privatization" at the 11,000-acre Monmouth County base that spans Colts Neck, Tinton Falls, Howell and Middletown.

To be sure, the 300 two- to four-bedroom Laurelwood townhomes (originally built for Navy dependents' use from 1988-2010) at NWS Earle are already "privatized," built in the late 1980s by contractor Laurelwood Homes, LLC predecessor "Dick Fischer Development #3." In essence, "privatization" refers to the Department of Defense's shift to private contractors to build and manage military housing, usually in 50-year stretches for each development. (This practice continues today under so-called PPV, or public-private ventures, started in 1996 after the U.S. quickly realized that Section 801 housing - Laurelwood's classification - was an utter disaster for the Military's housing construction needs. To be sure, this August 2008 report from the DoD Inspector General delves into 801 housing, and sheds light on potential civilian housing at Fort Hood...and unfortunately we know what has happened there...)

Anyway, NOPE's briefing last Thursday of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Congress's investigative resource, led to our discovery of the GAO's May 2009 study (GAO-09-352) on the issue of military housing privatization - one that is worth reading to all members of the general public (in addition to the 2008 IG report).

Although we expect to follow later with a more-detailed thoughts on GAO-09-352 as it relates to the merits of NOPE's objection to civilian housing at Earle, as informants to the public, we would encourage you to spend some time reading this 50-page document for background on the inner workings of the benefits and drawbacks of military housing privatization. It is an interesting case study in how military housing typically works (or does not work). And, as always, we welcome any feedback, commentary and questions here on our NOPE blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Many thanks, again, to NOPE supporters!

Although outgoing Senate President Dick Codey failed to heed our numerous phone calls and emails to do what was right for NJ taxpayers and post S3017 for a vote yesterday in front of the full Senate, yesterday's outreach by the NOPE community was a clear showing of the wealth of support for our grassroots cause and the rational view that New Jerseyans deserve a financial analysis of proposed civilian housing at Naval Weapons Station Earle.

In addition, the measure we support and need is far from finished.

Accordingly to the NJ legislature website, S3017/A4159 was merely "tabled" for the next legislative session, which according to the legislature website glossary, simply means the bill is deferred, which augurs well for eventual passage, considering it has already passed committees in both New Jersey's House and Senate. (Type in "S3017" in the yellow bill number box on the right side of the legislature the yellow-highlighted area.)

In short, protestation against the bill is short-sighted and mindless. The legislature simply wants to have the State Treasurer do a study that lays out the security and financial impact to New Jerseyans of an unfunded federal mandate that NOPE calculates could cost all stakeholders (and especially the towns neighboring Earle) a half-billion dollars from 2010-2040. The bill does nothing to stop or alter the Department of Navy's foolhardy plan to open its base to anyone that can cut a rent check. That, as anyone like us who has spent the time reading thru all of the Navy's regulatory literature on the issue (i.e. the Laurelwood EIS), is for the Navy and its Washington-based developer, Laurelwood Homes, LLC, to decide.

NOPE continues to stress that the ongoing federal study by the GAO, combined with eventual separate discoveries from the state's Treasurer, will make clearer to all parties that, in this case, the Department of Navy is in the wrong about what to do with its vacant Laurelwood housing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

NOPE supporters, time to pick up that phone

In addition to calling or emailing Senator Codey as we blogged this weekend (encouraging the Senate President to post S3017 to today's Senate calendar for vote by the full NJ Senate), NOPE calls upon constituents in District 12 (namely Tinton Falls-based supporters) to call or email Representative Rush Holt to encourage his support.

Although Mr. Holt represents many of us on the federal level (entirely separate from what is happening in Trenton with proposed legislation to issue a State Treasurer study on the proposed civilian housing plan at Naval Weapons Station Earle), we certainly could use his support and ask that he urge Mr. Codey to simply list S3017 on today's Senate calendar. This measure is a benefit to New Jersey taxpayers in understanding the security and financial ramifications of the Department of Navy's dangerous civilian housing plan.

We ask NOPE supporters to take a moment today to call Mr. Holt's offices at 877-874-4658 or 202-225-5801. You can otherwise email Representative Holt. Many thanks!