Letter: Senator shows she’s lost touch with local concerns

Editor,

State Sen. Barbara Bailey’s Sound Off in the July 20 Whidbey News-Times exposes her as a disappointing representative who flirts with the truth and supports the “big guys” over the concerns of the rest of us.

And who’s bigger than our military?

Barbara can be counted on to favor business over labor and working-class interests. As a member of the Washington Military Alliance, she can be counted on to support all things military. She’s also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by the ultra-rich Koch Brothers.

As a senator, she flunks on most issues that are important to our district: clean water and air, protection of our public lands and local land-use policies, fair working wages, endangered species, etc.

The League of Conservation Voters gave her one of the lowest ratings on protecting our environment.

Barbara’s also wrong about the economy. The military revenue to our state ranks below telecom, forestry, tourism, agriculture, outdoor recreation — it has a large footprint and creates a lot of pollution. The only economic study that has been done regarding the military was by economist Michael Shuman. Everything else is a variation of a jobs report.

Both the state Department of Commerce and Island County’s Economic Development Council highlight the benefits of Naval operations but say nothing about the costs.

According to Shuman, the biggest costs are to the public, where the rest of us end up paying for a big part of the Navy’s presence. Navy personnel and families use the same services as we do. If they live or shop on the base, they are exempt from local taxation. This means, the county is losing an estimated $5.7 million per year in sales and property taxes that it would otherwise collect from employees of an equivalent-sized private industry.

Opportunity costs refers to what future businesses are lost because we focus on one sector.

Compared to private-sector jobs, Navy jobs yield small economic impact. The conversion of existing Navy jobs to civilian jobs would create 3,909 additional jobs, expand the economy by $503 million and generate $153 million more in taxes. External costs are a result of the base’s training pilots to fly Growler aircraft that have exposed at least 11,000 residents to harmful levels of noise. An economic assessment model used to assess every high-noise project in the United Kingdom suggests that health costs to Island County are currently $2.8 million per year and will grow to $3.3 million with the Growler expansion.

The full report is at https://sustainable-economy-collaborative.com/report/

Between 2010-21, these costs will be about $122 million. While the Navy wants to dismiss these costs, decision-makers need to give them serious consideration.

Bailey should be trying to minimize these costs by pressing the Navy to modify the Growler program — perhaps by moving training; and to compensate victims of adverse Growler noise or toxic chemicals impacts.

Facts and the truth matter — the attorney general’s lawsuit seeks to require the Navy to comply with federal law and honestly examine the impacts of their Growler expansion.

Patrick Hurley

Coupeville

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