PhillyBurbs - "Congresswoman Made Wrong Choice in Willow Grove Air Base Debate"


Date: April 8, 2008

PhillyBurbs - "Congresswoman Made Wrong Choice in Willow Grove Air Base Debate"

Recently Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, D-13, stood in front of anxious Horsham residents waiting to learn about the future of the Willow Grove air base and intently explained that she delivered on the concerns of the community.

Horsham residents saw a plan presented, supported by Schwartz, which delivered 57 new buildings, 12 new hangars and no local control for the future of Willow Grove. Clearly, this is not what residents wanted. And they are angry.

The redevelopment of the air base has fostered a heated and at times confusing debate. The debate all boils down to one issue: control.

The traditional base-closing process involves forming an authority that joins the opinions of those from local, state and federal authorities to develop a strategy for the future of a former military facility. In the case of Willow Grove, something very different happened: As opposed to a collaborative effort, federal legislation was passed that would give exclusive control of air base redevelopment to decision-makers outside of Horsham and Montgomery County.

This was accomplished through two steps. First, local Congresswoman Schwartz wrote a letter enabling a local redevelopment authority for the base. Second, Schwartz worked with Congressman Jack Murtha, D-12, to pass legislation that granted sole control to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

While those actions clearly contradict each other, I do not believe Schwartz was malicious in her intent to remove input from local decision-makers. As residents wanted to maintain a military mission at the base, commonwealth officials argued the best way to do so was to grant authority to them.

Unfortunately, Schwartz made the wrong decision.

As opposed to allowing members of the community to make their own decisions on what is best for them, Schwartz followed the advice of people from outside the community and even outside of her own district. Those same people who gave advice to Schwartz are now proposing an air base redevelopment plan that will fundamentally alter the complexion of the community. Most believe that change is for the worst.
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While hindsight is always 20/20, a decision like this should have been easy for Schwartz to make. All politics is local; support local control.

Adding insult to injury for those in Horsham, several community leaders like Todd Stephens and Greg Nesbitt were quite vocal, in both public and private, regarding the potential for ensuing disaster. Their concerns fell on deaf ears.

Thus, Schwartz's poor judgment on this critical issue cannot be overlooked. She disregarded the local perspective and failed at a relatively basic function of her elected position: represent your constituents.

Rarely does a member of Congress have the direct ability to make such a significant impact on his or her constituents. In this case, Schwartz clearly made the wrong decision, and those consequences will be felt for generations.

As a congressional representative, I will fight to restore local control to the air base redevelopment process. The residents of Horsham, not people outside of the community, should be determining their own future.

I will work in a bipartisan fashion with Gov. Rendell to bring all stakeholders back together to develop an air base plan that is not only good for Horsham but for the entire region.

It is not too late to fix this dreadful situation. I just hope Allyson Schwartz will immediately reconsider her decision, because her actions thus far have been clearly out of touch.

Marina Kats, an attorney, was born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine, before moving to the Philadelphia area in 1979. She is running unopposed in this month's primary as the Republican candidate for Congress in the 13th District.