Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Isle Chamber officials
to miss BRAC
panel hearing

Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii officials who recently joined the effort to keep the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard open say they will forgo a federal base closure panel's hearing in Los Angeles this week.

Jim Tollefson, chamber president and chief executive, said yesterday there "wasn't enough time" to prepare for a hearing Thursday by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Instead, chamber leaders will work with Hawaii's congressional delegation as well as Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Mufi Hannemann "to put together facts and background materials" for a possible meeting with commissioners in Washington, D.C., next week.

Tollefson said Lingle and Hannemann plan to be in Washington next week when the Senate is scheduled to debate the bill authored by Sen. Daniel Akaka to set up a process for the federal government to recognize a native Hawaiian governing entity.

Local business leaders also have hired Defense Conversion Resources, headed by William J. Cassidy Jr., who served as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for conversion and redevelopment from 1994 to 2001, Tollefson said.

Cassidy handled issues for the Navy arising out of the closing of Navy and Marine Corps bases in the 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 rounds of closures.

Tollefson said Cassidy also counseled the Navy on the return of Kahoolawe and closure of Barbers Point Naval Air Station in 1993.

"He is very familiar with Hawaii," Tollefson said. "He very well known and very well regarded in these matters and very experienced."

Pearl Harbor labor leader Ben Toyama said last week he thought Hawaii should prepare for a possible fight after next week's Washington, D.C., BRAC meeting.

The BRAC commission has scheduled a hearing Monday to question the Pentagon about its May 13 recommendation to close Portsmouth rather than Pearl Harbor.

On the following day, the commission -- with the approval of a minimum of seven of its nine panel members -- could amend the closure list and add Pearl Harbor. Then it would be required to send two commissioners to Hawaii for a public hearing.

Toyama has said he believes the chamber and Hawaii political and business leaders should be working on a detailed presentation for that possibility.

Tollefson said the chamber's plan centers on Pearl Harbor's strategic military value in the Pacific.

"We see that's the reason for the entire military presence in Hawaii and for Pearl Harbor," Tollefson added.

The chamber has established a special committee -- whose members include Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the state's adjutant general; retired Adm. Thomas Fargo, a former head of both the U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor; retired Adm. Ron Hays, also a former commander of the Pacific Command; and retired Adm. R.J. Zlatoper, a former commander of the Pacific Fleet -- to work on the first major challenge on retaining Pearl Harbor in 97 years.

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