January 24, 2018 ~ Now that we have your attention, we wish that heading was pure satire, but unfortunately, it’s not. Hewing to a philosophy that the lack of major wars may be hurting economic growth, and thus civilian control of the military is not so important anymore, the Washington State legislature has been seriously considering a pair of bills whose language is so carelessly worded that they could turn over control of public and private land use throughout the state to the military. House Bill 2341 and Senate Bill 6456 would ensure that “incompatible” land uses anywhere near military activities, or even not near them, which includes residential, business, recreational and other uses, including on private land, can be prohibited.
The title of Dahr Jamail’s article in Truthout today says it all, and we recommend you read it because the details are startling: The Military Wants to Dictate Private Land Use — and Washington State Might Let It.
These bills would set a national precedent, secure the physical foundations of what’s been called an “Economic Club” in Washington, and would be a big boost for those who believe that America should fight bigger, more exciting wars against all kinds of enemies, in order to maximize defense industry profits and stimulate an economy in which we have been spending more on defense than the next 11 countries combined, but will spend much more if current trends continue.
What would these two bills do? Here are a few implications.
- They allow military commanders, not local governments, to determine what’s an “incompatible” use and make the prohibition of such incompatible uses, even future ones that don’t exist yet, mandatory in city and county planning.
- They extend these prohibitions to public and private lands that aren’t even near military bases, and seek to retroactively alter existing land use agreements between communities and the military, without public process. How this might affect Native American lands, treaty rights and tribal sovereignty is unknown.
- As currently worded, the bills would allow even small military installations to control land uses for surrounding communities. As of January 2012 the military had completed 92 of these Joint Land Use Studies in the majority of states, so if a precedent is set in Washington there’s no reason to think it won’t happen elsewhere.
- By outlawing all land uses that may be incompatible with present or even future military missions, there would exist an “inverse condemnation” of property, where the government takes property without compensating for it. That may violate both the Washington State Constitution (Article 1, Section 18) and the United States Constitution (10th Amendment.)
How’s that going to work out? Right now, for example, the Navy has an Environmental Assessment open for comment, in which Navy SEAL training “…will occur on Navy installations, state parks, public properties, and private properties if appropriate approvals are granted.” These include huge shoreline areas of Puget Sound and Hood Canal, and all the state parks in western Washington. It promises that while damage will be done to these places, it will be spread over many sites. You may recall that back in early 2016 Truthout broke the story, provided by a whistleblower, that Navy SEALs had been training for more than 8 and as many as 30 years on more than 68 state parks, beaches and private lands without notifying the public or going through the required legal process.
According to the two bills before the Washington Legislature, it’s conceivable that if you have property near areas where this training occurs, you could be prevented from developing it or prohibited from using is as you wish. This has already happened on Hood Canal.
Here’s the kicker: remember when we wrote about a little known blueprint for expanding the military’s presence in Washington? It was a report from the newly-formed taxpayer-funded Super-Pac called the Washington Military Alliance. We reported that for every $1 spent on troops, $2 are spent on defense contractors, and that an army of more than 400 lobbyists had finally overturned limits to military spending.
Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The chief sponsor of House Bill 2341 is Representative Kristine Reeves, who also happens to be the paid Executive Director of the Washington Military Alliance. Rep. Reeves is the sole contact listed on an advertising page designed to lure more defense industry contractors to Washington, and is also named in the WMA brochure, neither of which say she is an elected official who is bound by ethics rules. Oddly enough, her WMA staff page description also fails to mention she’s an elected State Representative, and her State Legislator’s page fails to mention she’s the head of the Washington Military Alliance.
Such conduct as a paid lobbyist who sponsors a bill in her capacity of elected representative of the very people it will affect, might, if you read the Legislature’s Ethics Manual, appear to be a conflict of interest. In fact, it seems to blatantly violate language in the section on page 4 called “Conflicts of Interest and Outside Compensation.” To wit, the guidance says:
“Is there a restriction on outside employment of legislators that involves lobbying?
Yes, legislators are prohibited from holding the position of executive director or other administrative officer of a trade association or other similar organization which has lobbying as a principal activity.”
So, to summarize: we seem to have a paid lobbyist who got elected to the State Legislature but is still a paid lobbyist, lobbying for a bill she helped craft, from the lobby group she’s still paid by. How do her constituents, whose lands will be affected, feel about that?
But the bigger question is this: How do you feel about military commanders being able to tell you what you can and cannot do on your own land? Do we all just sit quiet while the pristine peaceful character of western Washington is altered forever? Do we allow our local governments to be forced to kowtow to military commanders telling them what they can and cannot do with public and private lands?
Ironically, it was former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at the Eisenhower Library last year, who questioned America’s insatiable appetite for more and more weapons:
“Does the number of warships we have, and are building, really put America at risk, when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined — 11 of which are our partners and allies? Is it a dire threat that by 2020, the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?”
What can you do? First and foremost: Become an informed voter and vote in every election; that’s citizenship. Learn about the laws that govern what federal and state agencies do. Get busy and write avalanches of letters objecting to this travesty. Comment on proposed actions during comment periods. Even though you might feel discouraged that your letters and comments won’t make a difference, be assured: they do. Especially en masse.
Write to the following:
On House Bill 2341:
On Senate Bill 6456:
Visit plane truths.org to become more informed.
Find a local group and get involved, or form your own group.
Don’t just sit there. Together we can make a difference.