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Working For the Saltwater Resource and Marine Anglers
1201 Route 37 East, Toms River NJ 08753
Phone 732-506-6565 Fax 732-506-6975
Web Site http://www.jcaa.org
Working For The 150,000 Sportepersons Of New Jersey
190 Oberlin Road North, Lakewood NJ 08701
Phone 732-905-0755 Fax 732-905-5261
Web Site http://www.njsfsc.org

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Press Release

The Army Corp of Engineers Got What It Wanted.

Shutdown of Fort Monmouth Mud Dump Hearing on January 24, 2000 before the Citizens of New Jersey spoke

The Army Corp of Engineers got what it wanted. On Monday, January 25, 2000, I attended the Mud Dump Hearing at Fort Monmouth. I have probably attended hundreds of public hearings, many of them on very controversial issues. I have never experienced such lack of leadership from the podium to control the meeting. As a former Army Corp of Engineers officer, I was embarrassed and ashamed that Colonel William Pearce demonstrated such poor leadership. Either he doesn't belong in a leadership position, particularly when he represents the Army Corp to the public, or he deliberately sabotaged the hearing by allowing the longshoremen present to run roughshod over the proceedings inside and out. This was a military base. There should have been some crowd control in place. Instead, Colonel Pearce allowed the longshoremen to attempt to intimidate the public citizens, representatives of various organizations and elected officials who were in attendance. Shame on them! But more clearly, shame on the Army Corp of Engineers. Congressman Frank Pallone, the first speaker in the afternoon session, was continuously harassed from the audience by the longshoreman. Once the Colonel allowed that to happen, it was clear who was in charge. We should have expected a lack of respect for our position from the Army Corp of Engineers. They didn't want this hearing and violated every rule possible to avoid it. But we didn't expect them to allow such a potentially dangerous situation to continue throughout the day.

As the evening session opened, the crowd was clearly out of control. Congressman Pallone attempted to make another statement and was continuously harassed. Colonel Pearce again allowed this behavior without a word. He then allowed a representative of Mayor Giuliani to speak. This man ignited the union crowd, attacked New Jersey's representatives and promoted the dumping of toxic materials into the ocean. His remarks pandered to the Brooklyn longshoremen in the most negative fashion. I guess Mayor Giuliani has no desire to get the vote of the 800,000 saltwater anglers who live in New York State. Can we expect any more from the mayor who wanted to dump raw sewage into the Hudson River? I have never seen Mayor Giuliani as an environmentalist but this statement was hostile and mean spirited to the citizens, anglers, environmentalists and New Jersey's elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats. Ocean Gate Mayor Peter Terranova insisted, "I will not be shouted down by a mob from New York City. I will not be intimidated by a mob or union officials. If these (spoils) are so harmless, why not let us speak?" At that point, Colonel Pearce called a recess in a much-delayed attempt to control the meeting. He met only with union officials. In the meantime, I spoke with Congressman Pallone and Lillian Borrone, director of the Port Commerce Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. We agreed to speak to the group together but needed a union official's support. I asked Albert Cernades, executive vice president of the Longshoremen's Union to join us in an effort to continue the hearing in a more civil manner. Albert was unwilling to speak to the crowd with Congressman Pallone, guaranteeing that we would not be successful. He made a veiled attempt to exercise some control but the agenda was clear. When one audience member interrupted him, he threatened to have the longshoremen turn the hearing "into a warehouse." At that point, Colonel Pearce should have sent all the union members packing. Instead he sent us all home by closing the hearing and, in truth, getting what he wanted in the first place.

There is blame to share for this fiasco. Although Colonel Pearce is clearly responsible for his lack of leadership, the Port Authority and the Longshoremen's Union set out to disrupt this hearing from the beginning. They didn't need 40 busloads of longshoremen to guarantee their right to testify. The majority of the people who signed up to testify represented the public interest and the environmental community. The purpose of the union presence was without a doubt to harass and intimidate. Since Colonel Pearce indicated there were only 100 people signed up to testify and I know at least 70 of them represented groups and individuals opposed to this plan, no more than 30 of the longshoremen came to testify. The rest came to disrupt. The Port Authority and the union officials worked together to guarantee an audience that would be hostile and potentially violent. For them to pretend that this wasn't their purpose is ludicrous.

On a personal note, my dad was a union man and I was working to get my union card when I was drafted. My Grandfather and uncles were union organizers in early days of the New York Newspaper Deliveryman's Union. My family has a long history of union support and membership. I have always defended the unions, even when we disagreed on this issue. I always saw the unions as supporting the working man and woman. I am never upset when people set out to represent their own self-interest and speak out publicly in opposition to my ideas. But this performance was just plain stupid. All the longshoremen and their officials did was reinforce the public perception that they are only out for themselves and that they have no respect for the rights or opinions of others. Union officials only discourage union membership when they allow their members to be portrayed as being in opposition to free speech and being willing to intimidate and harass people who disagree with them. They may win the short-term battle. They closed the hearing. They may actually get to dump this toxic material in the ocean. But they certainly lost the public relations battle yesterday. We are not opposed to dredging. We are not out to take their jobs. We simply want a safe way to dispose of the material. If the union had any sense, they would see that treating this toxic material might actually result in more jobs, not less. And finding new, improved ways to deal with the toxic material might allow even more dredging in the future. At best their behavior was shortsighted. At worst, it was bullying.

In a day of many disappointments, I have one more. Early in the afternoon, when no fishermen had been allowed to speak, I approached Colonel Pearce and asked for his help. I was assured that fishermen would be represented among the speakers. The politicians spoke, the union officials spoke, the port spoke, the bureaucrats, the environmental groups spoke, even the garden club spoke. But no commercial or recreational fishermen were allowed to testify. We are among the working men and women of both New York and New Jersey who contribute to the economy of both states through fishing. Some of us are union members. All of us care about the ocean. We are the harvesters and consumers of the ocean and are most directly affected by its contamination. To close a hearing without allowing us to speak proves the Army Corp of Engineers doesn't really care about anything but protecting the Port Authority. They have no interest in protecting or even hearing from the people who make their living or spend their lives on the ocean


Thomas P. Fote
Legislative Chairman JCAA & NJSFSC
22 Cruiser Court, Toms River NJ, 08753
732-270-9102 Fax 732-506-6409
Email tfote@jcaa.org