Sunday, August 01, 2010

More Pallone Failures

After 22 years in congress, Frank Pallone has very little clout within the Federal government when it comes to representing the interests of the residents of the sixth district.. He does a good job representing the interests of the far left readers of the DailyKos, and victims of tragedy in India, Armenia and Ireland, but when it comes to the interests of the people he was elected to represent he is either missing or ineffective.

Fort Monmouth is an example that we are all well aware of and that has been written about ad nauseum. Pallone and his protege Rush Holt surrendered that fight to their partisan brethren and real estate interests in Maryland before it got started.

There are countless of other less visible examples of Pallone failures. The news of the last few weeks brings a few to the surface.

Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook is a prime example. As this letter from Peter O'Such of Fair Haven reminds us, the National Park Service is back to square one in its efforts to find a private partner to restore the historic fort.

Back in the late 90's when the NPS started the process of seeking private interests to rehabilitate the fort, Pallone was publicly supportive of those efforts. The Presidio in San Franciso had recently completed what was considered a hugely successful private redevelopment. The NPS transferred the superintendent who shepherded the Presidio project to Sandy Hook to do it again and appointed the man who managed the rehabilitation of the Statue of Liberty to be his assistant. The NPS was dedicating the human resources to rehab the fort and the local member of congress was supportive.

Pallone flip flopped on the issue when O'Such, Judith Stanley-Coleman and others stepped up their efforts to prevent commercial interests from having a home in the park. O'Such is a well informed and tireless advocate for his position. Due in large part to his efforts, Save Sandy Hook was successful in the 10 year + fight to prevent the Sandy Hook Partners redevelopment.

My point here is not to debate the pros and cons of the Save Sandy Hook vs Sandy Hook Partners controversy. That fight, which never should have occurred, is over. My point is to highlight the failure of both Pallone and the NPS over the issue.

Fort Hancock is never going to be a commercially viable location. Sandy Hook is not San Francisco. The Presidio model will not work here. NPS officials have been rightfully awed by the beauty of the location and intrigued by its proximity to New York. For years they have ignored the facts that Fort Hancock is difficult to get to, by land or sea, has commercially viable competition, and that the climate is inhospitable for much of the year. You don't need a six figure study to tell you that.

Fort Hancock should either be rehabilitated with federal government funds or torn down with the land being converted to recreational uses. Those are the only two options that will work there.

At a public hearing at the fort theater, I think it was in 2003, a resident asked Pallone why the government doesn't foot what was then thought to be a $65 million bill to rehabilitate the fort. Phoney Palloney blamed the G.W. Bush administration and all the money being spent on the war. The problem with that is that Clinton was President at the project's genesis. The fort had been deteriorating since before Pallone was first elected to Congress during the G.H.W Bush administration. If Pallone had been honest at that hearing, he would have said that the government won't foot the bill to rehab the fort because he didn't (and still doesn't) have the clout to get that kind of money for his district.

Pallone's solution now, after meeting with the NPS, is to go back to square one, but with a new level of bureaucracy to evaluate partnership applications, and with a preference given to non-profits to fund the rehab. That will never work.

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