Between electing two new chairmen and naming three new members, the Home Port Alliance had a full plate last week at its first reorganization meeting.
The group that oversees the USS New Jersey was so busy
that it didn't have time to talk about an important topic:
According to officials in attendance, the idea of
opening the group's meetings to the public never made it to
a motion or serious discussion because the meeting ran too
We'll buy that excuse, for now, so long as at the group'
s next get-together, item No. 1 on the agenda is public
access to alliance meetings. There should be much
discussion, and then a decision to open the meetings and,
together with the public, build the most successful ship
museum in history.
We could argue logic and practicality in encouraging the
alliance to open its meetings. Millions of public dollars
will be spent refurbishing the ship and building the
museum. Shouldn't taxpayers have the right to see how their
money is spent?
And what about the alliance's long-term concerns? The
group needs volunteers and visitors, not only now, but in
the years and decades ahead. Maintaining an open and honest
relationship with the public will help to meet those
But the real story of the "Big J" is one of people.
Therefore, the most compelling reasons to open the meetings
to the public revolve around people.
Take nothing away from leaders such as David McGuigan,
Thomas Seigenthaler, Pat Jones or John Matheussen. They,
and many others, worked tirelessly with Reps. Jim Saxton
and Rob Andrews to bring the "Big J" home.
Their efforts are applauded and appreciated.
But the battleship would be headed for Bayonne if
regular folk hadn't offered their resounding and passionate
support. They signed petitions, made phone calls and
otherwise told the Navy in no uncertain terms that the the
battleship belonged right here in South Jersey.
And when the "Big J" finally made her way up the
Delaware River, more than 25,000 of them lined the shores
But let's go back even further and look at other people
and what they mean to this story.
We're talking about the young sailors who, for decades,
climbed aboard the huge vessel with one, and only one,
duty: to defend - with their lives, if necessary -
They placed themselves in harm's way, spent months or
years away from loved ones and endured great hardship to
protect American liberties - one of which is government by
As members of the alliance's board consider allowing
regular people into their meetings, we hope they think
about all of those sailors and all of this history.
We hope that they trust the people of South Jersey
enough to allow the public a voice in how the ship and
museum are administered.
We hope that they will honor the legacy of the ship and
her crew by upholding the liberties and values Americans
We hope the alliance recognizes that opening up its
meetings to the public simply is the right thing to do.