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Anti-OLF leader offering no apologies for fiery remarks
Ken Pickard isn’t one to mince words.
As the controversial president of the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, Pickard said he is certain of one thing: Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Outlying Field Coupeville should be closed.
“I must emphasize, the members of our organization are not anti-Navy and are not trying to close NASWI. I repeat, COER is limited in its focus to one issue, one very small part of the Navy’s overall operations: Closing the OLF,” Pickard stated online.
Interviewed via telephone from his sailboat in the San Francisco Bay area, Pickard said he is unapologetic about his message or the rhetoric he uses to make his points, no matter whom it might offend.
Pickard, a longtime attorney on Whidbey Island, said he is aware that OLF Coupeville supporters are critical of his written and spoken opinions, but maintains he doesn’t read their comments.
“I don’t really give a damn what they say or do,” Pickard said.
“It is undisputed that our cause is generating tremendous public awareness,” Pickard said in a post on the COER website. “However, our objective to close the OLF has, not surprisingly, been mischaracterized and demonized.
“Business interests in the city of Oak Harbor to the north are afraid that closing the OLF might result in the loss of NAS Whidbey Island and have initiated a counter-public relations campaign. As a result. our Whidbey Island community has become divided in an ugly way.”
Oak Harbor City Councilman Bob Severns, who has been a vocal supporter of OLF, said he has known Pickard for many years and is aware of his “passion” on the subject.
“The way he reacts is so strong sometimes, I think some of his group may not want him to speak,” Severns said.
“It makes no sense to use inflammatory language to get to the issue.”
While claiming more than 600 people on COER’s email distribution list, Pickard admits many of those people may not share his hard-line view on the OLF Coupeville. Pickard said he was unsure how many people are dues-paying members of COER, but he believes it’s a “couple hundred.”
“I don’t think you can get a unanimous consensus from a group that big,” Pickard said.
“If the Growlers left Whidbey, it would be a great thing for everyone,” he said. “Is that the consensus of the whole group? I don’t know.”
Pickard said he speaks and writes primarily on behalf of the five-member COER board of directors.
In a June email that he wrote to the Island County Commissioners, acquired through an open records request, Pickard berated commissioners Kelly Emerson, Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson for proposing to hold a “round table” on the OLF Coupeville issue.
“It is time for you ‘representatives’ to get some balls and take the death machine on this issue, quit licking their jackboots! Buck up!” Pickard said in his letter to the commissioners.
“You know it is wrong for the military to abuse us with the toxic noise that is ruining our lives and property values, so act in accordance with what you know to be true instead of like worried, timid leaders, afraid of military, afraid of losing federal pork it delivers here on pay days,” Pickard wrote.
“Get some courage.”
Pickard blames the pro-OLF supporters for the animosity over the issue because, he said, they don’t seem to understand COER’s point of view.
However, he concedes that COER’s message can also be seen as divisive.
“If we do anything, it’s going to be divisive, because we want that to close and we are going to do everything we can to make that happen,” Pickard said.
“If you’re trying to make change, you’re going to ruffle some feathers. If they want to fly those big noisy planes, they have to do it in the desert.
“I just want to live on the land that’s been in my family for generations.”