Factual blunders in the Daily Press opinion editors’ attack on Gov. McAuliffe’s effort to save Fort Monroe:
* Neither the governor nor anyone else is calling for “designating all of Fort Monroe as a national monument,” as falsely reported in the editorial’s subheadline (and online in a headnote). All scenarios devote the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel side of Fort Monroe to development. That’s why unifying the split national monument over on the bay side won’t, as another online headnote falsely reports, take “Fort Monroe off [Virginia’s] books.”
* The “great debate...over how best to protect the property for future generations” emerged not in 2011 with Army decommissioning, but way back in September 2005—thanks in part to energetic but unwise Daily Press advocacy of donating Fort Monroe to Hampton.
* The Fort Monroe Authority was not “a new organization” in 2010. Via two stages of state legislation, it had evolved from Hampton’s Federal Area Development Authority, established ca. 2005 following the presumption of Governor Mark Warner and others that this national treasure would be donated to Hampton as a development plum. The present “master plan” for development originated early in that evolution, which both political parties have grimly advanced for a decade.
* It’s false to report that either as governor or as senator, Mark Warner ever did anything that can even remotely be described as “pushing for the federal government to make...a continuous national monument.”
* It’s false to report that in 2011, “the president’s decision rekindled a heated debate over what to do with” the land between the two parts of the split national monument. It’s also false to report that the “debate, once settled [by Gov. McDonnell’s signature on the development plan], was reopened by Gov. McAuliffe’s announcement.” The nearly decade-old debate has always been about respecting and enhancing Fort Monroe’s Chesapeake Bay spirit of place. Despite the Pollyannaism of some journalists and opinion leaders, the debate has never paused.
* It’s false to report that the development plan allows merely “limited development” in the land omitted from the split national monument. Inside Business reported that on “390 acres of open space, the plan allows for 720 newly constructed mixed-use residential units and 160,000 square feet of commercial mixed-use space.” The Daily Press itself reported that the “plan includes creating 1,120 new residential units using existing buildings and building anew,” adding that this “would bring an additional 2,500 to 3,000 residents to Fort Monroe.”
* It’s false to report that activists “reject the idea of development at Fort Monroe.” From the beginning, as the record plainly shows, activists have called for limited, sensible development to enrich Virginia and the country in various ways, including financially. That’s why activists in 2006 introduced the example of San Francisco’s Presidio. And it’s false to charge that activists “decry any intrusion on what they consider hallowed ground.” What activists decry is financially unnecessary sacrifice of spirit of place—same as any sensible American would do if developers ogled the Monticello hillsides around Thomas Jefferson’s house.
* It’s false to imply that the National Park Service controls establishment of a national park or national monument. National stewardship comes when a state’s leaders do what Gov. McAuliffe is doing now—and what past Virginia leaders of both parties neglected to do. When the Pentagon wants to move an aircraft carrier away from Norfolk, Virginia’s leaders become explosively assertive in Washington. But during the decade when Virginia’s leaders should have pressed for a real national park, they instead engineered a fake, split national monument—and then hoped that no one like Gov. McAuliffe would come along.
* It’s false to report that the Fort Monroe Authority “leadership worked with members of the community to create a workable, promising plan to protect this historical site.” Here’s another excerpt from the Daily Press article cited above: “Members of the Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park objected to the plan, saying homes in [the area omitted from the split national monument] will devalue the nearby national monument. ‘Americans will ultimately not permit this subdivision,’ said Mark Perreault, the group’s president.” For a decade, disingenuous politicians of both parties—abetted by unskeptical journalists—have bragged speciously about public involvement. But in fact, in 2005, before anyone in the public could say anything at all about post-Army Fort Monroe, they rigidly framed the issue in a way that has brought us all to a point where we still might very well squander—the Virginian-Pilot’s word—this once-in-a-millennium national-treasure opportunity. They’ve relentlessly and ferociously guarded that original misframing, shielding themselves from actual civic engagement.
The Daily Press’s editors are tampering with Virginia’s only political issue having thousand-year implications, yet they haven’t even bothered to find out what they’re talking about.