September 14, 1998
Keelhaul commission for battleship decision
Despite public assurances that
no decision was reached beforehand, the USS New Jersey Battleship
Commission chose Bayonne for berthing the "Big J" -
just as predicted.
Talk about arrogance - or is this stupidity? - it even went
so far as to follow the script touting Bayonne which had been
obtained and printed earlier by the Courier-Post.
That was written long before the commission visited Bayonne.
Caught red-handed, commission Chairman Joseph Azzolina called
the script a working report and insisted he didn't pressure commission
members to choose Bayonne.
However, when two commission members asked to vote by secret
ballot, Azzolina refused.
Had it not been for media pressure, the commission wouldn't
have visited Bayonne at all. The fix was in. The decision was
made months ago.
Azzolina grasped for straws to justify it. First, he said
Bayonne was more secure from terrorists. Then, he said the walk
from the parking lot to the site on Camden's Waterfront was too
much. Perhaps he should get more exercise. The World War II vets
who came to support Camden's bid didn't have a problem.
To the people of South Jersey who sent coupons, wrote letters,
collected petitions and stood in the rain in Camden to welcome
the commission members when they viewed the Camden Waterfront,
we say: Hang in there, this is not over.
To Camden County Freeholder Pat Jones, state Sen. John Matheussen,
R-Gloucester, and Camden Mayor Milt Milan, who led the effort
to rally the public and private forces that went all out to show
what this area can do, we say: Keep fighting.
To the majority of the battleship commission that perpetuated
this fraud, allowing people to think the playing field was level
when all along it was tilted toward Bayonne, we say: Blow it
out your port hole.
And to Gov. Whitman, we say you need to take a long, hard
look at what this commission did in the name of New Jerseyans.
The devious way it went about this is a disgrace.
Earlier, Whitman indicated she would go along with whatever
the commission recommended - it is only a recommendation, not
the final word.
The governor must realize if she rubber-stamps this outrage,
she will be a conspirator in this injustice.
Unfortunately, her office gives the impression she has better
things to do.
There are options open.
The Home Port Alliance for the USS New Jersey plans to file
its own application to the Navy to get the "Big J"
The Navy would have to be more objective about Camden's benefits,
such as the less corrosive fresh water of the Delaware River
and the 23 million tourists who visit the Philadelphia area every
year. Azzolina told the commission it was only 4 million.
U.S. Reps. Rob Andrews of Haddon Heights, D-N.J., Jim Saxton
of Mount Holly, R-N.J., and Frank LoBiondo of Vineland, R-N.J.,
said they were unhappy at the way South Jersey was slapped in
the face by the battleship commission, which has only one member
south of Princeton.
"We are committed to continuing our fight to bring the
USS New Jersey back to South Jersey where it belongs," said
We hope Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., will join Sen. Bob
Torricelli, D-N.J., who was onboard early supporting Camden as
the ship's final berth.
So, to your battle stations, South Jersey. Batten down the
hatches and full steam ahead.
This is one fight we don't intend to walk away from, which,
considering the USS New Jersey's proud history, is entirely appropriate.
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