If a new bill in the Washington State legislature is passed, commanders of military bases could have the power to impact land use planning anywhere in the state.
Critics of the bill fear it would be a slide down the slippery slope of allowing the military free reign to do what it wants — wherever it wants to do it — within the state, with little or no recourse by the citizens it could impact. For example, the Navy, which has already expressed a desire to control marine traffic along Puget Sound’s Hood Canal region, could decide to close the waterway to all civilian traffic. Another Navy wish has been to end civilian drone traffic over civilian land near its bases — and it could decide to end it over the entire state. (While many might celebrate the end of drones, it would still be an instance of the military impeding civilian liberties.)
“This is truly alarming and driven by the Department of Commerce’s efforts to militarize our state,” Larry Morrell, a military veteran and founder of the Sustainable Economy Collaborative, a group of residents in Washington’s Island County working to “building a thriving, just, and sustainable” economy, told Truthout.
Morrell, a retired high-tech executive with over 35 years in the semiconductor industry in engineering, marketing and general management, sees the move by Washington State as a misguided effort to generate jobs. He explains that even if jobs are initially created, military jobs are a very unstable employment strategy. For example, Morrell and his group conducted a study that found that a Naval Air Base on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, rather than generating jobs and boosting the local economy, will actually cost taxpayers there $122 million over one 11-year period.
As egregious as that is, it is not Morrell’s greatest concern.
“The alarming piece is the assumption inherent in the bill that the military base commanders can dictate or require [that] the planning for zoning and land use must accommodate their mission, whatever their mission is,” he said. “So, their mission is assumed to be suitable for our state no matter what it is.”