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Blackwater-like Procinctu-Group Project Given Hearing without Notice

Citizens Oversight (2009-04-06) Raymond Lutz

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Blackwater-like Procinctu-Group Project Given Hearing without Notice

Riverside County Board of Supervisors conduct “mock hearing” on March 17th in blatant disregard of Brown-Act notification requirements.

Attendees reach false conclusions, rely on off-the-record statements by the developer.

RIVERSIDE, CA (April 6, 2009) – The Riverside County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act -- which requires public notice of any item processed by the Board -- when they conducted a “mock hearing” March 17th regarding the Blackwater-like warfare training camp proposed by the Procinctu Group for eastern Riverside County. Developer John Choate was allowed to speak for about 22 minutes, far more than the three minute limit, and the Supervisors interacted for eight minutes, acting like the item was on the agenda. Some attendees left the meeting with the impression that the public comment period was sufficient for the Board to make a ruling.

“The mock hearing conducted by the Board of Supervisors was an obvious violation of the Brown Act which requires any public body to notify the public if they are to take up an item for discussion,” said Raymond Lutz, founder of Citizens' Oversight Projects Committee (COPS), an organization that helps citizens have a fair shake with such governmental bodies. “We noticed that some meeting participants got the wrong impression, and even published news releases, apparently prompted by Choate to spin their project as a 'done deal.'” At least one news release prepared after the event included statements that had no basis in fact, such as the claim that the facility has been in operation for two years, pointing out the confusing nature of the mock hearing, and apparently relying on private off-the-record statements by Choate.

Lutz said this was a good example of why the Brown Act was put in place in the 1950s so that impromptu hearings—setup to avoid public involvement—could be avoided. Indeed, the Supervisors each took a turn to comment on the project, completely in violation of that law, and then gave the inaccurate impression that they could rule on the project, even if that meant to decide to take no action.

“We plan to make a formal complaint about the conduct of their meeting,” said Ann Weston of Citizens Against Private Armies (CAPA), one of the organizations that organized the rally and encouraged the public to speak out against the Blackwater-like training center. “We appreciated Veterans For Peace of the Inland Empire speaking against the project. Other chapters of Veterans for Peace have also recognized the danger of for-profit warfare training and the risk that these paramilitary groups will morph into Blackwater-like mercenary armies that will threaten our democracy.”

“Indeed, there are many severe problems with this project,” Lutz said. “Property owners in the area never expected to live next to a noisy, dangerous warfare training area. The developer says this is just another public educational institution, but the actual plans are a far cry from children frolicking in a playground. Others—even those who live miles from the facility—are concerned of that we are encouraging the development of private security training that can just as easily be used for legitimate purposes as to train paramilitary and guerrilla forces, something which is a crime under California Penal Code 11460.”

Opponents of the project point out that the project was inappropriately approved: The Riverside Board of Supervisors based their approval on the inaccurate claims that the Procinctu Group is a public institution and the idea that the facility is nothing more than a educational institution, avoiding normal public scrutiny as a result.

Weston said CAPA will continue to fight the project and will push for a legitimate hearing on the matter.

There is a growing momentum of citizens in communities across the country to prevent private armies training in their backyards including Riverside, Potrero, Otay Mesa, Southwestern College, Illinois, Idaho, Ohio, and North Carolina, just to name the most notable examples.

A national “Stop Blackwater” conference is scheduled for Saturday, April 25 in Stockton Illinois, with keynotes Jeremy Scahill, award winning journalist of the Nation Magazine and Democracy Now!, author of the bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Also the morning keynote will be Kathy Kelly, co-founder and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. Ray Lutz and other California activists will provide an update of the battle against Blackwater and the Procinctu Group.

Although locals in each of these areas must be acknowledged for taking a leading role in the fight, a number of organizations must also be acknowledged for their continued activism to stop this growing trend. Those groups include the following:

Citizens Against Private Armies (CAPA – CitizensAgainstPrivateArmies.org ) Recently formed to fight the Procinctu Group project in Riverside.

Citizens Oversight Projects Committee (COPs), Ray Lutz, Coordinator ( CitizensOversight.org) Took a leading role to “Stop Blackwater” in the Potrero, Otay Mesa, Southwestern College, and assisting with the Procinctu Group battle in Riverside, and the Wind Zero project in Imperial County. Operates the website: StopBlackwater.net.

San Diego Peace Resource Center; Carol Jahnkow, director ( prcsd.org) San Diego organizer.

Activist San Diego; Matt Romain, president ( activistsandiego.org/ )

Veterans For Peace, San Diego Chapter; David Wiley, president (sdvfp.org)

Clearwater, Illinois, Dan Kenney, founder ( noprivatearmies.org/ ) ushing to “Close down Blackwater in Illinois”

Blackwater Watch http://www.blackwaterwatch.net/ Taking the lead in North Carolina, location of Blackwater -Xe headquarters.

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Title Blackwater-like Procinctu-Group Project Given Hearing without Notice
Publisher Citizens Oversight
Author Raymond Lutz
Pub Date 2009-04-06
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Keywords Private Mercenaries, Procinctu Group
Media Type Article
Media Group News Release
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Topic revision: r1 - 2009-04-06, RaymondLutz
 

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