A post regarding meetings with the navy from Jim Nollman

imageAt a recent town meeting in Port Townsend, a woman made the pertinent point that, so long as the US Navy insists on controlling the face-to-face discussions about Growler jet noise, citizens will never be granted an open, spontaneous forum where concerns are fully elaborated. The Navy’s current format seems constructed to give the illusion of engagement, while stifling any direct discussion that could actually lead to an alteration of the current noise levels.

A spontaneous ebb of flow would develop very quickly if Navy spokespeople would simply agree to relinquish control of the time limit of everyone who wishes to speak. Citizens must also insist that a neutral Ombudsman moderate the meeting. And yet at the end of said meeting, if all the Navy offers is another rescheduling of the same number of flights, it means they still aren’t taking your complaints seriously.

However they do know your complaints are real. The Navy does internal collateral damage impact studies while developing every new technology. They have always known that Growlers generate noise that is out-of-scale with a populated area. The fact that they have done so little, so far, to realistically accommodate citizens impacted by Growlers, suggests that the current level of collateral damage that affects our Salish Sea communities, has not yet reached the level that their algorithms pre-set as dangerous.

From the military’s point of view, these planes are critical tools for “national security”. It is a term that the DoD, itself, applies to its own technology and programs, and without oversight. Thank the Supreme Court for revoking oversight. It happened a few years ago, when the Court heard the very similar case of sonar noise killing whales, and ruled that national security exempts the US Military from most US environmental laws. With that ruling in mind, the Navy personnel attending your proposed meeting really do believe they represent a higher calling than whatever collateral damage their higher calling causes our communities. They also know that labeling any if their activities as “national security” essentially serves to take it out of both the public forum and the legal system. This autocratic and, yet, somewhat arbitrary labeling capability makes it impossible for the US Navy to referee, let alone judge any dispute raised against that activity. Nonetheless, some of them will certainly judge some of you as unpatriotic for the affront of questioning “national security”.

Given this reading, I suggest starting your meeting by demonstrating to them that the term “national security” is an absurd, Catch-22 phrase so long as the US Navy is using it to justify policy and technology that clearly harms US citizens. Ask them to define it, defend it. Is it an actual policy with rules and governance? Can these rules be amended? Thrown out? And how does this term apply specifically to the current policy decision not to alter the growler’s exceedingly oppressive impact on Puget Sound.

One last thing. Pay attention to the current mass protests in California where that State has united in a fierce fight to keep the Navy from using the whale grounds off Santa Barbara as a place to conduct war games with live explosives. All the CA politicians seem to have lined up to fight this, and they seem to be winning. To stop the growlers, we probably do best to work on our own governor, our congress people, our senators to put themselves on the line against the growlers and for us. If they do that, it becomes a battle of states rights. Good luck getting Rick Larson onboard.

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