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    Bipartisan OLF forces build

    BY BILL SANDIFER
    02/05/2004
    by BILL SANDIFER on 2/5/04.

    The circuits are buzzing at the grassroots level among opponents fighting construction of a Navy outlying landing field in Washington County.

    Despite some acrimony following Gov. Mike Easley's rejection of calls for a special legislative session, there were no signs on Tuesday of a slowdown at ground zero.

    Representing landowners, farmers and residents in the coalition is North Carolinians Opposed to the OLF. NO OLF organizers Jennifer Alligood and Doris Morris are preparing for another circuit ride as other members prepare to host a gathering of Sierra Club members and other activists who will tour the area on Saturday and Sunday. Stops are slated for Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Mattamuskeet among others.

    Alligood and Morris are slated to speak to the North Carolina chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy in Asheville on Saturday. Among CSE's issues is defense of property rights.

    A meeting with Molly Diggins, N.C. Sierra Club director, also is scheduled.

    Morris, NO OLF communications director, has continued lobbying legislative leadership. Sen. Marc Basnight, Senate president pro tem, has agreed to assemble an economic impact statement, assessing the economic costs of siting an OLF in Washington County. That effort, said Amy Fulk, Basnight's spokeswoman, is in process.

    State Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, has agreed to assemble and circulate an OLF information packet among House members. Basnight already had agreed to do the same for the Senate. That packet, said Fulk, sent out to Senate members late Friday, included information on the 1907 state law that was the spur behind calls for a special session. Also included were copies of Basnight's letters to the governor and the state congressional delegation.

    (For more on Basnight's letter to the state's members in Congress, see Thursday's Daily News.)

    NO OLF forces also are seeking to enlist other big guns, faces seen more often than those of most politicians.

    On Monday, Morris called the office of Peter Jennings, ABC news anchor, to pitch the message of OLF defiance. The initial response, said Morris, was detached. She said she could hear the note hitting the trash can as she hung up.

    However, a second call netted "a nibble." The allure of the fact that hundreds of millions of federal dollars would be spent in a rural area for an OLF the Navy has admitted it needs to appease property owners around airfields in southeastern Virginia apparently tickled a news nerve.

    "She was very interested," said Morris of the staffer with whom she spoke; Morris subsequently faxed information to Jennings' staff.

    Meanwhile, bipartisan support in opposition to an OLF and in support of a special session continues to grow.

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Fern Shubert of Union County, who has taken a keen interest in OLF issues, sent a statement on Jan. 29 to House and Senate members, adding her voice to calls for a special legislative session. In a news release, Shubert states the following:

    "I'm convinced that the legislature needs to act to protect the rights of our citizens and to prevent a decision being made to the actual detriment of the military. In my opinion, Cherry Point is actually less likely to receive planes if the OLF is built in the proposed location than if it is sited at Cherry Point or at the Global Transpark, and I am convinced the proposed site is a unique threat to the pilots and planes who would use the OLF. ...

    "We also need to discuss how and why the Governor managed to keep the issue under wraps while we were actually meeting in special session."

    Shubert has said neither she nor any legislators she queried were polled on the OLF issue during either special session held in the fall of 2003.

    Nonetheless, it appears efforts will continue to corral the governor into the anti-OLF camp.

    During Monday's Beaufort County Board of Commissioner's meeting, the commissioners voted 5-1, with Commissioner Jay McRoy dissenting, for a resolution calling for the governor and the state of North Carolina to join the civil suit filed by the law firm of Kennedy Covington on behalf of Washington and Beaufort counties to fight the OLF.

    "He can be a friend of the court; the lawyers can work out the details, "said Commissioner Hood Richardson on Tuesday. "But we think it would be wonderful for the people of this area for the state to join the lawsuit."