The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce and its members love the Navy.
With a show of hands during the chambers monthly luncheon meeting Thursday, members expressed their support of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
During the luncheon, Chamber Director Kathy Reed spoke about the organization’s new “Jets = Jobs” campaign.
She said the intent of the campaign is to acknowledge the overwhelmingly positive role Whidbey Island Naval Air Station plays in the city’s economy.
Using money from donations, the chamber is offering the community signs and bumper stickers with the Jets = Jobs logo. T-shirts and hats are also available for purchase.
Reed proposed that chamber members adopt the group’s first-ever resolution. The short statement expresses unequivocal support for the Navy.
“At some point we will present it to the CO of the base so he can tell Washington (D.C) that there’s a lot of support back here for the base,” she said.
Reed asked for chamber members present at the packed meeting to raise their hands if they supported the resolution. She received what appeared to be instant and unanimous support.
Noise from Navy jets has become an issue in Oak Harbor recently in response to complaints from a group of Central Whidbey residents about the Outlying Field Coupeville, which is where pilots in the new EA-18G Growlers and the remaining EA-6B Prowlers practice carrier landing.
A group of residents hoping to close down the field filed a federal lawsuit against the Navy arguing that a full environmental impact study should have been completed prior to the arrival of the Growler jets.
Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, Reed’s predecessor as chamber director, gave a “State of the County” address Thursday and briefly touched on the noise issue.
Johnson praised Reed for her leadership in the effort to rally support for the base.
Johnson said she originally planned months ago to give a speech aimed at warning business leaders about the impending OLF controversy and importance of them speaking out in support of the Navy.
Since that time, however, she acknowledged, the issue has blown up.
Johnson urged the chamber’s membership to communicate with her about this issue and others. She pointed out that, during a recent commissioners’ meeting, the public comments were dominated by people complaining about jet noise.
“You aren’t sending me emails,” she said, “you aren’t making calls and you aren’t going to meetings.”
“I don’t know what you want because you don’t talk.”