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Blackwater's Base and the California Wildfires

California Majority Report (2007-10-24) Rick Jacobs

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More Info: Blackwater, Blackwater West, Harris Ranch Fire, Local Politics, COPS, Stop Blackwater Rally

Rick Jacobs
October 24, 2007 @ 10:39 AM

As I write this, massive fires are raging across Southern California. While it is quiet and normal at my house in Los Angeles, I can see smoke in the distance and smell it in the air.

And I keep thinking about the good people of Potrero -- a serene small community in East San Diego County -- that I met just a few weeks ago as we rallied together to block Blackwater from building a base in their tiny, beautiful town.

These concerned community members have been working for months to stop Blackwater from building a mercenary training facility on 824 acres, consisting of 11 firing ranges, a helipad, and an emergency vehicle operator's course covering the equivalent of 10 football fields. As we watch the fire burn across the area today, one can only imagine what might have happened if an armory full of ammunition and explosives were located inside this box canyon.

I was inspired and proud to march with the good folks of Potrero, people who are not usually political, but who know that if they do not stand up against Blackwater in their own community, then no one will.

We need to show our support for the people of San Diego County at this difficult time. Click here to send a brief message to Potrero residents expressing your support and then consider sending a donation to the San Diego Foundation's "After the Fires Fund."

Beyond the damage and destruction to life and property, the timing of this wildfire could not be much worse. This fire exploded just as the people of Potrero were preparing for a recall election on December 11 to kick out the planning group members who approved Blackwater's base. With ballots scheduled to be mailed in early November to less than 600 registered voters in this historic vote-by-mail recall, Potrero residents were preparing for an intense campaign over the next six weeks.

But the actual landscape -- and the political landscape -- of Potrero have been transformed over the last 48 hours.

There's no time to waste. On Sunday, if the situation permits, I will travel down to Potrero with my Courage Campaign colleagues Eden James and Julia Rosen. If we are able, we will hand-deliver your notes of support to the people of Potrero, survey the damage and determine how we can help them move forward.

Please click here to watch a brief You Tube preview of a documentary film being made about the battle over Blackwater and the people of Potrero. Then consider sending a donation, and let them know that you are behind them.

Jan Hedlun and Carl Meyer are two Potrero residents featured in the documentary film produced by Alternate Focus that you can watch at the link above. Although she is not identified, Jan is the first woman appearing on-screen, describing how the Potrero residents "first heard of Blackwater."

Just last Sunday, as we were about to talk with both Jan and Carl by conference call about how to help them block Blackwater's base, news broke of a huge fire moving towards Potrero. We spoke with Jan again that evening but, despite many repeated attempts, we have not heard back from either Jan or Carl since Sunday night. While we assume they are OK, reports from East San Diego County have been unclear and we remain deeply concerned.

Obviously, the last thing Jan, Carl and their fellow concerned citizens can think about right now is Blackwater and the recall election. But I can guarantee you that Blackwater is thinking about nothing BUT that recall election. From what we understand, Blackwater is already crafting arguments to defend their proposed base and play on people's emotions during this crisis. Blackwater will likely argue that their base will not increase fire danger in San Diego County even as they plan to build it in a brushy, dry box canyon with only one way in and one way out.

We need to be there for Jan and Carl and everyone in Potrero. After watching the You Tube video, will you consider sending a donation to the "After the Fires Fund" or a note showing your support for the people of Potrero? On Sunday, we'll hand-deliver the note for you.

While the good people of Potrero are focused on recovering from this disaster, we will continue to keep you updated on the other disaster threatening their community -- Blackwater's plans to build a mercenary base on their pristine land, just a few miles from the California border.

Thank you again for everything you are doing to support the people of Potrero.

P.S. Three weeks ago, we asked you to sign your name to a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer about Blackwater's base, including a warning about Potrero's "fire-prone landscape":

"Not only will Blackwater's proposed California paramilitary base disrupt the lives of its residents, but it will also threaten the pristine natural habitat of the Round Potrero Valley, which includes part of Cleveland National Forest and is adjacent to the proposed Hauser Wilderness preserve. The regular detonation of firearms would be a risk both to the fire-prone landscape as well as to the wildlife that currently calls that area home, including the golden eagle and the California condor."

Despite this ominous warning, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer have failed to respond. The residents of Potrero and San Diego County can't wait for politicians to act to reduce the fire danger posed by Blackwater. That's why the Courage Campaign is getting involved now.

To show your support in their time of need, please consider sending a donation to the "After the Fires Fund" and a note of support to the people of Potrero.

Topic revision: r1 - 22 Nov 2007, CathyMiller
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