Military doesn’t back community
June 14, 2011 · Updated 1:38 PM
Mr. Honeycutt (Letters, May 18) might need to know that I retired from the Air Force after 20 years as an engineer, educator, and logistician, and I never suggested that the Navy “leave the Island.” I only said that its loss would be no more than a brief concern.
I grew up near an Army installation and was educated at a university near an Air Force base. In my entire life, no community where I resided depended solely on a military installation, and none suffered from the lack of one.
Mr. Honeycutt and other readers might not know how often NAS Whidbey Island’s staff judge advocate and legal eagles at Navy Region Northwest deny (their word) opportunities to support this “Navy Town” and unilaterally enforce policies that interfere with outside (also their word) charities and businesses.
Some readers might remember past letters from active duty dependents who complained about being denied discounts from local businesses and being cited for failure to register vehicles when family heads were deployed.
Most Oak Harbor residents may be unaware that active duty personnel have a 1.6 percent pay raise for FY2012 on the table as I write this, following a 1.4 percent raise last year, while some Social Security recipients and military retirees complain of a “pay freeze.” (For the record, I do not.) Many residents whine incessantly about private unemployment while clamoring for the city, county and state to increase public unemployment.
Most active duty personnel don’t vote here and pay little or nothing in taxes to support the community, and most retirees are not thrilled about picking up the slack, either. In nearly every election, fewer than half of registered voters bother to exercise that cherished constitutional right, defaulting to an ignorant mob that just says no to anything that might cost money and elects anyone who promises to save money, no matter the consequences to education, health care or other services.
Crazy laws combine with incredible voter apathy to impede community progress. Just last month, just over a quarter of eligible voters defeated a levy that would have improved care at our general hospital. For the same reason, school and library levies are difficult to pass.
We say to tourists, “Come visit our beautiful island, where you can buy locally produced oddities from a few struggling mom-and-pop shops.” You can buy just about any common product you need at either military stores (if you have that privilege) or at Walmart, where prices are inflated by some of the highest sales taxes in the country. Cheap fast food abounds, but you have to pay extra to visit our public parks, just like we do. That’s our version of “hospitality.”
It’s no wonder that most visitor guides don’t mention anything between Coupeville and Deception Pass, and even those extremes lie beneath noisy flight patterns.
Our community needs educated, committed citizens, not “patriots” who visit for a short tour of duty or just want to max out their retirement benefits.