Letters to the Editor

Cut the military and see a ghetto

I’m a retired sailor living in Oak Harbor. As a sailor and a taxpayer, I firmly believe that military spending needs to be reduced, and trust me I have seen some serious waste of my tax dollars firsthand (to the tune of billions), to benefit several idiotic military programs. However, if you wish to see the “ghetto” Mr. Buhner refers to (Letters, May 14) come to full fruition, ask the military to leave the island. Some simple arithmetic for you:

There were 58,200 Whidbey Island residents according to the 2000 US Census, with 7,500 active duty members serving at NAS Whidbey, and 2,400 civilian government employees and contractors here, according to DoD and DoN websites.

That’s a total of 9,900 wage earners, not including their families, many of whom are wage earners and certainly consumers of goods. Estimates of military family population vary from 12,000 to 24,000, so with such a wide variation let’s toss that number out for a moment and focus on more concrete numbers: A bare minimum of 17 percent of the population of Whidbey Island (9,900 of 58,200) receives income from the Department of Defense in some form or fashion, and the DoD is recognized as the largest employer on the island.

According to the Oak Harbor School District, there are around 3,000 students in their system who are military dependents (thus Oak Harbor schools receives over $4 million in federal money each year, just for the “military kids”). There are 2,100 non-dependent “civilian” students, many of whom may be sons and daughters of civilian government employees or contractors. That’s 9,900 wage earners and 3,000 children which makes a total 12,900 consumers (22 percent of the island’s population) who are here because of their ties with the military.

Mr. Bruner, removing 22 percent (minimum) of Whidbey Island’s consumer base would cause vastly more than a “blip” on the economy of Oak Harbor, as would removing 17 percent of its wage earning population base. Say goodbye to the three “big box” stores on the north end of the island who by the way are the next biggest employers after the military. Say hello to a minimum 20 percent home vacancy rate in the city. Watch as the economy of beautiful Oak Harbor implodes. Say ouch to the current $4 a gallon as you have to commute off the island to work and shop.

If you think this is not the case then please sir, give up 17 percent of your total income for a while, and tell me how that “blip” feels. And feel welcome in the ghetto.

Ben Honeycutt
Oak Harbor

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