As a city of Concord public official, I have longed for possession of the former Naval Weapons Station property for our city. This dream, of four decades, has become a reality, and I am excited for Concord's future.
When I first served on the Concord council, I would visit with various commanding officers at the Navy base and suggest that the Navy could afford to relinquish the site because other locations were better suited for ammunition storage.
I said "Port Concord" would solve all of our future financial needs. Laughter usually followed each suggestion, but I let the Navy officers know I was serious.
Then, during the time that I returned to active duty in the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense realized that many military bases were, in fact, excessive to our national defense. A series of Base Realignment Advisory Committees (BRACs) were formed for the express purpose of reducing the base inventory.
One particular iteration of this process hit California quite hard and we lost about $9 billion in revenue owing to base closures, plus more than 100,000 jobs.
A few years later, another BRAC process was being scheduled and then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to resist any further closure of California's bases.
In 2004, the governor formed a Council on Base Support and Retention with the express purpose of writing a report urging that no further bases in California should be scheduled for closure.
The council was comprised primarily of retired senior military officers, generals and admirals. I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the council, which was co-chaired by Leon Panetta and Donna Tuttle.
At the first meeting, I announced that I had a conflict of interest. I noted that the U.S. Navy had publicly declared that the Concord Naval Weapons Station was excess to their needs. I stated that I would vigorously support the retention of every base in California except one. You already guessed which base I had in mind.
Gen. Joseph Hoar, a retired U.S. Marine four-star general, advised me that he was aware of the Navy's decision, and when it came to the part of the report dealing with Concord I could write that segment.
Then, if we (Concord) did not get the base it would be my fault. I quickly and somewhat brashly announced that if I were to write that part of the report we would get the base. I believe we got it because the Navy truly didn't want it; not because I did a great job of writing.
Concord then formed a citizens' committee to develop the optimum plan for more than 5,000 acres that the BRAC decided was surplus. I volunteered to serve on that committee and eventually served two years as its co-chair.
Fortunately for Concord, we were able to obtain the services of Michael Wright, one of the brightest men I have ever known, to become the project manager. Michael has since been promoted to the position of project director. His presence is essential to a good result in obtaining the property from the Navy with the fewest disabilities.
Unfortunately, the Army had stepped into the picture and requested that more than 7,000 acres on the port side of Highway 4 -- over half of the total base acreage -- was essential for military purposes. They prevailed, but I still hope that someday we will get our Port of Concord.
Following a marvelously transparent process, a plan was adopted for the 5,000 acres, most of which will remain in an open space status. Happily, Concord has a policy against building on the hills.
Our challenge is to find a magnet with which to attract developers, because the demise of the Redevelopment Agency -- which normally would give us the finances to construct the infrastructure, roads and bridges, necessary for this purpose -- is no longer available. We are working diligently along these lines and I am hopeful of success.
Finally, another goal I have is to lease the commercial property rather than sell it. If we do this, we will have a long-term source of revenue that will enable us to pay for the services our citizens demand without seeking temporary help from programs such as Measure Q.
One example where this was done with extreme success is Stanford University, which purchased every parcel in Menlo Park as it came on the market. They now lease those properties and enjoy an enormous surplus of money. I want that for Concord.
Helix is the mayor of Concord. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.