Calif. Town Nixes Blackwater Plan
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Media Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/12/national/main3609557.shtml
Small Mountain Town Ousts Officials Who Backed Blackwater Training Camp
(AP) Residents of a mountain village in California who oppose plans by security contractor Blackwater to build a training camp nearby voted to recall five members of an advisory planning board that endorsed the proposal.
The results of a mail-in-ballot recall were announced early Wednesday, several hours after polls closed Tuesday night. The board members lost by wide margins. A sixth member who was not on the board at the time of the endorsement was not up for recall.
Blackwater wanted to turn an 800-acre former chicken farm into a training camp for law enforcement officers. The facility would have included 11 firing ranges, a driving track and a helipad. But opposition to the plan intensified in September, after Blackwater guards were investigated in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.
One of the removed officials, Gordon Hammers, said the board's decision had been misconstrued, and that its goal was to investigate what jobs and other perks having Blackwater could mean for the community.
"We chose to stay engaged," Hammers said. "Certain elements made it an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war surrogate and sold that to the community. They were successful."
A call to a Blackwater spokesman early Wednesday was not immediately returned.
Final say over the project rests with the county board of supervisors, who will not consider the plan until environmental impact reports have been completed.
Since the Baghdad shootings, Blackwater says it is focusing on its training operations and trying to wean itself from overseas contracts.