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Thursday, March 02, 2006 | Full disclosure: My wife is an officer in the Navy.

I have the Navy to thank for bringing me to a place where the weather’s so nice the dead of winter only means that I might have to wear a sweatshirt. I have the Navy to thank for a group of charmingly weird friends I know I would have never met had she not chosen such a peculiar career.

Best of all, I have the Navy to thank for cheap gasoline.

But I also have the Navy to thank for extended periods of celibacy and bad diet. I have the Navy to thank for the stupid oddity of not knowing when, exactly, my wife will be back from an “underway.” For whatever reason she isn’t supposed to tell me when the ship is scheduled to come in. So I never know just how long, exactly, I can put off cleaning the house. I suppose I could just keep the house clean all the time while she’s gone.

But where’s the sport in that?

So in discussions about the Navy, I have to disclose that I don’t come to the table with an open mind. I can only promise a bit of schizophrenic babbling about how the Navy’s been good to us and I appreciate it but that I also hate it.

That’s why I’m a perfect fit for San Diego. Everyone seems to be confused about the Navy.

The other day the board of directors of the airport authority showed it was no different. By law, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is required to put something on the ballot this November that will supposedly answer the question San Diegans have wrestled with for several decades: What, if anything, do we do about the airport?

The confusion with the Navy all started weeks ago when U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, sent a letter to the Navy asking whether it would consider allowing us to build airport facilities on some of the bases it oversees or – and my jaw dropped when I read this – whether it would consider actually closing one of the bases so we could build a new airport.

I’m sorry I keep saying this, but are you kidding me? This is Susan Davis, who stood along with Duke Cunningham and the rest of San Diego’s congressional representatives and begged, pleaded and demanded that the military not even consider putting one of San Diego’s Navy or Marine bases up for closure in the regular Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process, which came to a head last year.

And the military obliged – agreeing that it was in the country’s best interests to keep the military bases in San Diego open.

So what do we do?

We start asking the secretary of the Navy if he would ever, you know, consider closing one of the bases.

He wrote back to Davis. He said no.

But that didn’t faze some members of the board of directors of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, who, Monday, seemed to enjoy the opportunity to stand up to someone in Washington, D.C.

San Diego City Councilman Tony Young, who represents San Diego on that board, said he represented voters here, not the Navy.

“I’m not going to be told what to do and how to think by the secretary of the Navy or anybody else,” Young said as cited in a Voice of San Diego article

Paul Nieto, a board member from Chula Vista, agreed. “We’re being asked to trust a letter from some guy in Washington,” Nieto said.

He was disappointed in the Navy.

Nieto, ironically, sits on the board of directors of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. And that largely city-funded agency was one of the key players, if not the key player, in the region’s effort to persuade the military to not – oh Heavens, please don’t – close one of the local bases in last year’s BRAC process.

So which is it?

The airport authority last year would not have dared have the conversation it had on Monday. It was paranoid, cowed into silence by people like Duke Cunningham who warned it – threatened it even – to keep it from expressing any desire to put airport facilities on land currently being used by the military in San Diego.

And so the airport authority’s board – as tough as they think they are now – obliged. They didn’t say anything then about how they weren’t going to listen to “some guy in Washington.” They didn’t dare say they might have a better use for land. No, the airport authority behaved and conformed to the message put out by the Regional Economic Development Corp, or SDREDC.

Many congratulations should go to Julie Meier Wright and her staff at the SDREDC who expertly delivered that message: Do not close San Diego’s military bases because they are integral to each other and the nation’s security depends on them working at their full capacity.

Now that the military agrees, we have some of these same people – Rep. Davis at the top of the list – wondering if the military might reconsider some of its priorities here. And their line is really insulting: “I mean, c’mon Mr. Secretary, (what’s your name again, guy?) do you really need all that land?”

I don’t know if building an airport at Miramar or expanding the current airport out to North Island is the right thing to do. I really don’t. I’m one of those who see Lindbergh Field as unbelievably convenient yet I acknowledge that it’s really weird to have a major airport cramped in so close to a city’s urban core.

While the military was deciding which Navy and Marine bases around the country it was closing, the airport authority could have brought up all of the options it was exploring to put an airport on military land. Local leaders could have asked the Navy to cooperate the way they’re asking now. After all, if the best path for the airport authority is to look at military bases as possible sites for a new airport, it would have been right for the agency to look at them last year and before.

But instead, it let people like Duke Cunningham scare it into pretending that we – as San Diegans – were united in our desire to keep the military and its bases.

It’s never good to make decisions out of fear or weakness.

Now when we approach military leaders about being cooperative and giving up some of their land for a new airport, they are justified in looking at us like we’re schizophrenics.

And maybe we are. But if so, we shouldn’t have ever pretended otherwise.

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