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Oak Harbor responding to OLF suit with pro-Navy campaign
Oak Harbor is responding to complaints about jet noise on Central Whidbey with displays of support for the base.
The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce has started a “Jets = Jobs” campaign.
Members of the Oak Harbor City Council approved the mayor’s proposal for a resolution supporting the Navy’s training flights.
In the cyberworld, a Facebook page in support of training flights is quickly gaining popularity. The page is called “I Support NASWI OLF.” And Navy booster Joe Kunzler’s online petition, “Save OLF Coupeville,” has 908 signatures.
Consternation over the noise from Navy jets practicing at the Outlying Field near Coupeville simmered for years, but boiled over this year.
A Central Whidbey community group that aims to close the field filed a federal lawsuit against the Navy this month. The base temporarily suspended field carrier landing practice operations at OLF Coupeville until the end of the year, though leaders haven’t said why.
Meanwhile, support for the Navy is running strong in Oak Harbor.
Kathy Reed, director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said the new campaign isn’t meant to be political, but strictly a statement about the economic realities. She emphasized that the Navy base is by far the No. 1 economic driver in Oak Harbor and Island County as a whole.
“Losing the Navy, or even a single squadron, would not be good for business,” she said. “It’s time to show a little support.”
Reed said she hopes the “Jets = Jobs” campaign will raise money for bumper stickers, yard signs and window clings that will be given to the public.
She said people should keep an eye on the Chamber’s website for more information.
Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, the former chamber director, applauded Reed’s initiative in starting the campaign, saying that the importance of the Navy to her district can’t be understated.
Johnson said that community support is vital to the base, especially when leaders in Washington, D.C. are making decisions about its future.
Johnson started her own effort by asking people to change their Facebook photo to the “Jets = Jobs” logo.
Mayor Scott Dudley said he believes it is crucial for city government to show support for the base and he’s pleased that council members agreed with his proposal for a resolution in favor of training flights.
A resolution will be brought forward for adoption during the next council meeting.
“We fully support the mission of the Navy,” he said.
Wendy Shingleton, owner of Squadron Spirit Custom Apparel and Gifts on Ault Field Road, sells bumper stickers and T-shirts with base-supporting phrases like “I support the OLF: That’s the sound of freedom, baby” and “I heart jet noise.”
Shingleton said she is associated with a group that became upset with all the negativity they were seeing in the news and online about OLF and jet noise and decided to create a support page on Facebook.
“It’s like the people who sue McDonalds because the coffee’s too hot,” Shingleton said.
“That how it seems to some of us.”