By Barbara Bailey
For The Herald
It’s not unusual for elected officials to use their position to garner headlines and signal to their political base. It’s not even unusual for Attorney General Bob Ferguson to continue his spate of lawsuits to bolster his progressive credibility.
But it’s very unusual for an elected official to attack one of the largest employers in their state when the thousands of people who depend on that employer are veterans he has claimed to support. This short-sighted approach is what Ferguson is doing through his lawsuit against the United States Navy on Whidbey Island.
It’s no secret I’m a Navy wife and mother. But my concern about Ferguson’s lack of wisdom in his current lawsuit against Naval Air Station Whidbey comes from a place other than my personal connection to the Navy. It comes from my primary loyalty to the people of Washington state.
Our state is key to national defense. We have multiple military installations located around Washington, resulting in more than a $30 billion economic impact. Each one of us is affected in some way. NAS Whidbey alone accounts for nearly 90 percent of economic activity on the island and almost 70 percent of the county employment.
Ferguson himself has claimed to be pro-veteran. But if you read the letter he links to in his news release about the lawsuit, you see that he, in fact, prioritizes a small bird over our veterans, over our national security, and over our state’s livelihood.
The letter, which calls on the Navy to redo the environmental analysis of base operations, indicates that Ferguson is using the lawsuit against the military to open a door toward suing the Navy on behalf of the marbled murrelet. If you remember the battle over the spotted owl, you know that Democratic leadership collapsed Washington’s timber industry, leaving many on the Olympic Peninsula and other areas unable to feed their families. Some towns have never recovered.
And this is exactly what would happen to Whidbey Island if Ferguson succeeds. What’s more, recent reports are clear that the suit has nothing to do with environmental concerns at all, but rather a political opposition to more training at the air station.
He is weaponizing the courts for political gain against industries despised by his voter base. This may be just the start of Ferguson’s war on the military. What’s next? Shutting down Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fairchild Air Force Base, Naval Station Everett, or any of the other bases in our state? Not only would this cripple our state economically, it would undermine our national security, putting us all at greater risk from enemy attack and greatly reducing our ability to respond to threats.
It may also leave our communities vulnerable in other ways. Navy Search and Rescue has saved countless lives by making emergency evacuations of heart patients, stranded hikers, or endangered boaters. It doesn’t seem that these valuable contributions of the Navy are of much concern for Ferguson in his crusade.
Our veterans and their families, our national security, and the economic survival of our entire region are worth more than Ferguson’s rhetoric and his taxpayer-funded personal crusade. Instead of using his office to bully political opponents under the guise of “environmental protection,” we need him to rethink the impacts his battle with the Navy will have on our community.
The tactics are unacceptable and if he has his way, the outcomes would be devasting.
State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, represents the 10th Legislative Distict.