Saturday, May 12, 2007

War over Blackwater USA trying to move in...

From San Diego Union-Tribune:

Panel in hot water over Blackwater vote
Recall petition, lawsuit under way
By Anne Krueger
May 12, 2007

The planning group for the backcountry community of Potrero is under fire from residents angry about the group's support of the proposed Blackwater West military training camp.

In recent days, planning group members have learned they are the subject of a lawsuit, a recall drive and a petition demanding that they retake a December vote approving the project.

During a raucous, 2½-hour meeting at the Potrero Community Center on Thursday night, the group agreed to vote again and asked residents to temper their emotions.

“We're trying to govern here in a sane way,” group chairman Gordon Hammers said. “All this political frenzy is counterproductive.”

Several of the 70 or so attendees wore bright-green T-shirts reading “Stop Blackwater,” while planning group member Mary Johnson wore a Blackwater-issued T-shirt. Comments opposing Blackwater earned applause but, to a lesser extent, so did statements in favor of the project.

Blackwater USA's proposal to build a training camp has stirred a fury in Potrero and beyond. The 824-acre site, once a chicken and cattle ranch, would feature pistol and rifle ranges, a helipad, an armory and a defensive-driving track.

Critics fear that the camp, which would train law enforcement and military personnel, would bring noise and traffic to the quiet community of fewer than 900 residents. They also oppose Blackwater for its role as a military contractor in Iraq.

The planning group decided to retake December's 7-0 vote to approve the project after more than 300 residents signed a petition opposing the plans.

The vote, to be taken at the group's July 12 meeting, is only advisory and is not expected to differ much from the previous vote. Member Jan Hedlun has since joined the group and opposes Blackwater's plans, but others still voice support.

The ultimate decision on the project will be made by the county Board of Supervisors after an approval process expected to take about two years.

Meanwhile, Potrero resident Carl Meyer served notice on six of the eight planning group members at the meeting that he is seeking to recall them. Not served were Hedlun and Emil Susu, whose membership is under review because he was not a registered voter in the county when elected. He has since registered and is expected to remain on the board.

Meyer said he also served planning group member Eric Berger, who was absent.
About 130 signatures from voters would have to be collected for a recall election to be held.

Then the Board of Supervisors must order a recall election, said Cathy Glaser of the county Registrar of Voters Office.

No other recall elections for planning group members have been held in recent memory, she said.

Panel members who received the recall notices were defiant. Jerry Johnson, noting his many years of service to the community, said, “If you want to vote me out, do it.”

Campo resident Zoe Rosell also filed a lawsuit April 24 against the planning group, claiming it did not provide adequate notice of the December meeting. The suit also names the Board of Supervisors and the county Department of Planning and Land Use, claiming they have not provided adequate information about the proposal.

Hammers, the planning group's chairman, said notice of the meeting was included in a community newspaper and on a bulletin board at the Potrero post office.

“If (Rosell) didn't see and know what was going on, then she wasn't paying attention,” he said.

Anne Krueger: (619) 593-4962;


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