Sunday, October 07, 2007

Protest against Blackwater in Potrero

Yesterday, campers, bicyclists and hikers came to Potrero to listen to speakers regarding the Blackwater military security contractor's proposed training camp in Potrero.

They were joined by some who came just for the afternoon education session, which included a slide show by Ray Lutz, president of East County Democratic Club. Carol Jahnkow presided over the scheduling. The Sierra Club gave a presentation regarding wildlife in the area, and Enrique Morones spoke about violence at the border.

I was captivated by the beauty and quiet of Potrero. It is certainly a loss to the world to transform this place into a school for mercenaries, especially at a time when Blackwater has been banned from operating in Iraq. The September 16, 2007 incident in which Blackwater killed 17 civilians for no apparent reason has earned the company persona non grata status from the Iraq governement.

Why does Blackwater need more training camps if its theater of operations is diminishing? Are they training mercenaries for domestic actions?

The San Diego Reader reported in April 2007 on the history of Blackwater:

"People who lost loved ones when four employees were massacred in 2004 have charged that the company provided the men with inadequate equipment. In its defense, Blackwater has hired famed attorney Ken Starr and sued the lawyers who filed the case. Last month, five more Blackwater employees were killed in a helicopter crash. The company's owner, Erik Prince, has given lavishly to politicians, including former representative Tom DeLay, who left Congress in a lobbying scandal, and Duncan Hunter ($1000 in 2004)."

Blackwater representatives met with Rep. Duncan Hunter and Sup. Dianne Jacob in May, 2006. A month later the project opened at the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU). Blackwater made a presentation to the Potrero Planning Group in Oct. 2006 and that group voted 7-0 to approve the project in Dec. 2006. A lawsuit was filed opposing the actiions of the Potrero Planning Group. Jan Hedlun, who opposes the Blackwater takeover, was sworn into office in January, 2007. A December 11, 2007 Recall Election has been approved by the Registrar Of Voters.

Miriam Raftery and Muriel Kane wrote on April 3, 2007 for Raw Story:

"One citizen opposed to the project revealed that Lori Spar—listed with the California Bar Association as an attorney with a law firm representing Blackwater on July 31, 2006 —has since unexpectedly surfaced as a land use/environmental planner for the Department of Planning and Land Use.

""She walked into our Mar. 1, 2007 Save Potrero meeting, representing the County," said former Potrero planner Carl Meyer.

"After RAW STORY inquired about her ties to Blackwater, the Department of Planning removed her from the project...

"Documents filed with the county indicate Blackwater officials have been meeting privately with Department of Planning and Land Use personnel since at least May of 2006. Members of the public in Potrero did not learn of the proposed project until Oct. 12 at the earliest. One whistleblower contends that failure to notify the public until late in the planning process may violate the California Environmental Quality Act; others allege that County planners may have violated the Brown Act, which mandates open meetings.

"Environmentalist Duncan McFetridge questions why residents weren’t included in early planning.

""It is as close to collusion as you can get without actually being illegal,” McFetridge says. “I am convinced that one of the main reasons that Blackwater came to San Diego is that we are the capital of privatization where lines between private and public sectors is a total blur.""

San Diego County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox should extract themselves from the grasping fingers of developers, at least for this useless and harmful project, and vote against allowing Blackwater to take over part of the Cleveland National Forest and other sensitive land.

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