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June 15th, 2005 Ryan Hume | News Stories
 

STRANGE BASEFELLOWS

Politicians up in arms about proposed Portland base closure.

     
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If nothing else, the U.S. Defense Department's proposed closure of Portland's Air National Guard base has united Oregon's usually fractious Republicans and Democrats in opposition.

Representatives of the federal commission reviewing that base-closure recommendation will be in Portland on Friday, and they'll face an angry group of Oregon's elected officials and Air National Guard brass.

"It touched a raw nerve with a lot of people," Democratic state Rep. Gary Hansen says of the potential closure.

Hansen, whose North/Northeast Portland district houses the base, has joined with Reps. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) and Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) to protest the proposed transfer of the 142nd Fighter Wing's F-15 fighter jets to other states.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski and state House leaders, including Republican Speaker Karen Minnis, Republican Majority Leader Wayne Scott and Democratic Leader Jeff Merkley, are also supporting those three lawmakers' concerns about the Northwest being left vulnerable to terrorist-controlled airplanes or offshore cruise-missile attacks.

The Defense Department, as part of its money-saving recommendations in May on base closures nationwide, called for 13 of the 15 F-15 fighter jets at Portland International Airport to be redistributed to New Jersey and New Orleans.

Hansen is suspicious that the proposed move east actually reflects the Defense Department's desires to mobilize more easily for fighting in Iraq.

"They're supposedly doing this to save money...we don't think that is the case," says Air National Guard Commander Col. Bruce Prunk, who will attend a news conference Wednesday morning organized by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden to blast the closure.

The Base Relocation and Closure Commission's nine members must review each recommendation, then make its own recommendations to Congress in September. Three of the commissioners will hold a public hearing at 8:30 am on the first floor of the Federal Plaza, 911 NE 11th Ave.

 
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