Off the fence — now what?

Published 8:08 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2007

By Staff
Relaxing at The Mecca on Tuesday afternoon, David Edwards said what’s on a lot of people’s minds these days.
So are thousands of other people who would be affected by a Navy decision to put an outlying landing field at Site C. That spot is on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties. And yes, any decision about it really does affect thousands of people — not just the ones who stand to lose homes or land.
As of Monday, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said he felt “compelled to reject” Site C, joining fellow North Carolina Republicans Rep. Walter Jones and Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
All three of the leaders have taken a stand on the OLF issue in a span of less than two weeks. Opponents whose homes and livelihoods would be threatened by an OLF on 30,000 acres in eastern North Carolina have been battling the proposal for six years.
Those two facts, considered side by side, leave one question flying about: Exactly where have our lawmakers been all this time?
Both senators said they didn’t want to interfere with the military’s efforts to find a suitable spot for pilots to practice aircraft carrier landings.
Meanwhile, Site C opponents were waiting for Dole to ask the questions. When she did, everybody paid attention.
Not so long ago, Burr said he didn’t think “it’s a member of Congress’ role to tell the Navy where or where not to place something,” according to an AP report.
This week, Burr said he waited to voice an opinion because he didn’t want to affect the public hearings on the OLF.
Whatever the reasoning, at least Burr has decided — at long last — to speak. So has Dole.
Jones had the most plausible explanation for his delay.
Jones’ research took him to Lt. Col. Russell DeFusco, the former chief of the Air Force’s Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard team.
It makes sense to seek the opinions of military experts, absolutely, but were they all missing in action until now?
The bottom line is this: Yes, it is good that members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation have decided to speak on behalf of the eastern North Carolina voters they represent. They’re finally off the fence they’ve so beautifully straddled.
But now that they’ve taken a stand, what will they do with it?
Voicing questions and concerns is good. Feeling truly and completely represented by one’s elected officials is even better.