Letter to Editor of Back Country Messenger re: Potrero Recall Election

Dear Mr. Neff:

It is amazing that your publication seems to completely miss the point of the recall of the Potrero Planning Group. The fact is, this election was not about whether the members of the planning group had performed in the past or were good citizens in their response to the wildfire relief effort. This was about one simple issue: the Blackwater West project. It was a landslide victory for those who question the appropriateness of having a paramilitary training camp in the Potrero.

Although newspapers try to give both sides of the story, the coverage was far from fair in this case. Indeed, with 70% of the voters supporting the recall, the vast majority of Potrero residents area against the project but they did not get 70% of the space in your publication. Blackwater supporters try to paint a picture of ruthless outsiders who despoil the quiet solitude of Potrero with a rally and march to the gates of the property. The letter from the anonymous "Michael M." in your publication stated without basis that many rally participants were paid to be there, under contract. In fact, except for one person (the primary organizer, Carol Jahnkow) no one was paid to be there, and many put money into the till to support it. There was no trash left by the group, and any claims that the group was disrespectful to the area was simply false. In fact, the 200+ protesters stopped short of the chain at the property line placed as a temptation to trespass onto the property. None of the protesters crossed the line. Just a few days earlier, Erik Prince, the CEO of Blackwater had "shoplifted" his nameplate from Henry Waxman's oversight committee meeting. I hope that puts propriety into perspective, and clearly points out how far off your editorials were.

You said that I am the President of the "El Cajon Democratic Club." To be accurate, it is the East County Democratic Club, as our service area extends to the Imperial County line (and I don't live in El Cajon.) I can only wonder if your blunder was intentional, to attempt to make it sound like I am an outsider with no business in the San Diego back country. I would assert that I have followed this situation more closely than your publication, filming almost all of the PPG meetings (available at CitizensOversight.org). But more than that, the San Diego County DPLU stated that this project has "state-wide implications" and so it is certainly appropriate for any state resident who is concerned about the Cleveland National Forest to take part.

Or was your blunder an attempt to make the issue partisan, making it sound like only Democrats are against the Blackwater West project. You may be surprised to learn that one of the participants at our rally was Ken King, a self-described "conservative Republican" running for the 52nd Congressional District. He said that he was against the project on the basis of property rights. The residents in the area never expected that a huge paramilitary training boot camp would be set up in a agricultural preserve, just blocks from their homes and certainly within earshot of gunfire till 10 p.m. or even midnight (as requested in North Carolina). They did not expect the equivalent of a 300-room hotel to be built in that valley, drawing down the limited aquifer that everyone relies upon for their water.

It is important to view the election as a gift to the community. Potrero would otherwise have no opportunity to weigh-in on the issue. It's important to note that San Diego County is larger (population-wise) than Iowa. Yet, Iowa has 109 counties and 109 county boards. We have only one five-member board -- 1/109th the representation. Even if you consider land area--Iowa is 10 times bigger than San Diego County--they still have 11-times more representation per acre. Our County says our community planning groups are "advisory only," and Blackwater's Bonfiglio says the recall election and potential "no" vote on the project is "meaningless." It makes you wonder why the county has these planning groups if they can be so easily disregarded. It makes you wonder about who controls this place if 70% of the voters can be ignored. Residents in other parts of the county should take notice. If the new planning group--put into place by a landslide recall--can be ignored by the County, you may as well fold your planning group today. It is nothing more than a way to pacify the public while the outsider developers (like Blackwater) have their way with our communities.

It is clear from this recall vote that the best course of action for Blackwater is to pull the project and refrain from putting the community through any more agony fighting their Environmental Impact Report. We have to remember, this project is one of the first to be "fast-tracked" through the DPLU as they "Re-Engineered" the whole process. This means that all the criteria can be rigged by Blackwater operatives, such as their former attorney, Lori Spar, who still works at the DPLU and can continue to affect the processing of the project despite our objections. It means that the EIR (written by Blackwater consultants) will likely say the project is the Holy Grail. Clearly, the fight is not over unless Blackwater does the right thing and exits the scene.

Plain and simple, Blackwater West is a bad idea for Potrero. I hope your publication will start to cover the opinions of 70% of the voters who are against it with about twice the space you allocate for the pro-Blackwater group. So far, you've been out of sync with the community, tipped far to the other side.

--Raymond Lutz

-- Raymond Lutz - 29 Dec 2007
Topic revision: r1 - 2007-12-30, RaymondLutz
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