NOTE: Blackwater's new facility is in an industrial park in Otay Mesa, South County San Diego, California, only a few blocks away from the international border and Tijuana International Airport.
NEWS FROM CALIFORNIA’S BORDER CONGRESSMAN!
CONGRESSMAN BOB FILNER
Serving California’s 51st Congressional District
333 F Street, Suite A. Chula Vista, CA 91910
1101 Airport Road, Suite D. Imperial, CA 92251
2428 Rayburn Building, Washington, DC 20515
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: AMY POND
April 24, 2008 (619) 422-5963 or (619) 889-5963
MEDIA ADVISORY – 10:45 a.m., Friday, April 25, 2008
Filner Protests Blackwater Development
in South San Diego County
On Friday, April 25th, 2008, Congressman Bob Filner will host a rally and press conference announcing his opposition to Blackwater Worldwide’s proposed training facility in Otay Mesa, South San Diego County, California. Joining the Congressman will be: Councilmember Ben Hueso, District 8; Council President Scott Peters, District 1; Carol Jahnkow, Peace Resource Center; Raymond Lutz, Citizens’ Oversight Projects; and Jeanette Hartman, Sierra Club.
“Residents of San Diego County rejected Blackwater’s proposed mercenary training facility in Potrero, and I cannot imagine that San Diegans will feel any differently about Otay Mesa,” said Congressman Filner. “The use of civilian-defense contractors is irresponsible, and should be stopped immediately. Not only are they unaccountable to the Military, the State Department and Congress; they are civilians serving in combat and combat-training. Many have been wounded or have wounded others, and yet, they are not veterans; there is no safety net when they come home. It is criminal to ask civilian men and women to perform the role of the military when they lack the support necessary to return to their civilian lives. The paramilitary-style training conducted at these facilities has no place in our backyards!”
Councilmember Ben Hueso added, “Military training belongs on a military base in a facility that is secure and not within an urbanized area. The political strain on the border debate caused by the presence of Blackwater USA will cause more of a detriment to our economy and our national security than the employment benefits they claim to provide. It is also unclear at what level or federal, state and local laws apply to the activities of Blackwater USA, or whether they will respect the delicate fabric of our border environment. Diplomatic ties with Mexico and resolving important issues of border security, border development and immigration have never been more critical to the welfare of San Diego and Tijuana.”
Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, California Senate District 40, pointed out, “There were environmental issues when Blackwater tried to locate in Potrero and now they want to site a facility in an industrial area within the footprint of the proposed cross-border terminal. Given the controversial nature of this corporation, residents and stakeholders in Otay Mesa should have been informed of a proposed training facility for mercenaries near their community. Their views on this matter need to be taken into account whether this facility is compatible to Otay Mesa’s residents and businesses.”
Blackwater recently announced that they plan to open an indoor training center in Otay Mesa to train Navy personnel. Blackwater will operate a 61,600-square-foot building, including an enclosed shooting range, in a business park on Siempre Viva Road, just south of Brown Field. The building has been permitted for use as a vocational trade school.
WHEN: 10:45 a.m., Friday, April 25
WHERE: Proposed Facility Site
7685 Siempre Viva Road
San Diego, CA 92154
Blackwater revives mission
Security contractor plans training center
By Anne Krueger
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
April 23, 2008
Although Blackwater Worldwide has given up its plans to build a training center in East County, the government contractor is still seeking a presence in San Diego County.
The North Carolina company is planning to open an indoor training center in Otay Mesa to train Navy personnel after abandoning its controversial proposal to build a larger facility on a ranch in Potrero.
Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, said the facility will operate out of a 61,600-square-foot building in a business park on Siempre Viva Road, just south of Brown Field. Bonfiglio expects it will cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to get the building ready for training, which could begin by summer.
“This is a cost-efficient means in which we can support the Navy,” Bonfiglio said of the facility, which is a little larger than a football field.
Bonfiglio said Blackwater officials began searching for sites early this year, at the same time the company was pursuing plans to build a training center in Potrero, a rural community about 40 miles east of San Diego.
Blackwater's plans there sparked intense opposition from those who said the facility would bring noise and traffic to the quiet community. Opponents also objected to the role of Blackwater's security guards in Iraq, pointing to a Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad in which Blackwater employees killed 17 Iraqi civilians.
On March 7, Blackwater dropped plans to build on the 824-acre Potrero site after noise tests showed gunfire shots exceeded county standards.
Opponents were quick to speak out yesterday against Blackwater's latest plans.
Jeanette Hartman, chairwoman of the Sierra Club's land use committee, said she is opposed to any new Blackwater facility.
“We don't need to go any further into training for violence in this country. We need more training for peace,” Hartman said. “I'll be happy when they open a peace center.”
Raymond Lutz, an El Cajon-area resident who maintains an anti-Blackwater Web site, said he has concerns about the new Otay Mesa facility, including whether it has the proper permits. But Lutz said the indoor site is better than the Potrero proposal.
“We're not ruining a pristine valley,” Lutz said. “If you had to site it somewhere, this is a better location.”
The building is at the end of a complex of warehouse structures and is owned by the Los Angeles company Hometex, which will lease it to Blackwater. Bonfiglio gave a reporter a tour of the still largely vacant interior yesterday.
Already in place was a ship simulator - a miniature version of a Navy ship - that Bonfiglio said will be used to train sailors for crisis situations at sea. An enclosed shooting range, with bafflers to cut down on noise, is being built.
Navy personnel will be trained in two classrooms holding up to 24 students each. Bonfiglio said the training at the Otay Mesa site will be on a much smaller scale than the Potrero proposal, where up to 300 students a day were planned.
Although the facility has a shooting range, it will emphasize training Navy personnel to be better prepared for terrorist attacks, Bonfiglio said.
“This training isn't about guns,” he said. “It's about prevention.”
Kelly Broughton, director of the city of San Diego's Development Services Department, said a permit for the Otay Mesa site was requested in February by Raven Development Group. Bonfiglio said the company is responsible for developing Blackwater's training centers and ranges across the country.
The permit was granted March 19. Broughton said the building was already permitted for use as a vocational trade school, and Blackwater's training center would be allowed under that category.
“As long as it was an educational facility, if they're training future police or security guards, that would be considered a vocational trade,” Broughton said.
Bonfiglio said Blackwater has had a contract to train Navy personnel since 2002 through a subcontractor, American Shooting Center in Kearny Mesa. The training will be transferred to the Otay Mesa site once Navy inspectors give their approval to the new facility, he said.
Bonfiglio said Blackwater hasn't determined whether American Shooting Center would assist with training in Otay Mesa.
“We want to improve on the curriculum. We want to improve on the teaching,” Bonfiglio said. “We want to improve on the facilities.”
Bonfiglio said other agencies may use the facilities occasionally if it doesn't interfere with the Navy's training. He emphasized that no independent contractors working for Blackwater would be trained there.
Marc Halcon, owner of American Shooting Center, said he wasn't aware of Blackwater's plans.
“I'm surprised,” Halcon said. “I was under the impression that they had pulled out of San Diego. They never indicated to me that they were going to do this.”
Anne Krueger: (619) 593-4962; email@example.com
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