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Navy airfield tensions flair at Larsen campaign event in Coupeville

A Coupeville-based group took over a campaign kickoff event for Congressman Rick Larsen Tuesday by demanding he address the topic of jet noise.

Approximately 50 people attended the event, held at the Coupeville Recreation Hall, many of whom were members of Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, a group opposed to the use of Outlying Field Coupeville for Navy’s EA-18G Growler touch-and-go landing practices.

The group claims the jet noise is detrimental to their health, lifestyles and property values.

Tuesday’s informal campaign launch was intended as an opportunity for one-on-one conversation with Larsen, a Second District Democrat, and a short speech by the candidate outlining his platform.

“Ballots go out in 45-50 days for the primary,” Larsen said. “We’ve got some work ahead of us.”

As Larsen began his speech, the Navy began touch-and-go practices at OLF Coupeville, the noise from which could be heard inside the Recreation Hall.

One attendee who was walking by outside yelled into the open door, “I can’t hear you with the Growlers on!”

After his brief remarks, Larsen left the podium and resumed one-on-one discussions.

COER member Maryon Attwood then stood and called for a raise of hands by those who want OLF to be closed. A majority of people in the room raised their hands.

Another attendee demanded that Larsen address the OLF issue before the group. Larsen declined. 

A couple dozen attendees then stood and left the meeting, including COER President Michael Monson, Crockett Barn owner Paula Spina and retired attorney Ken Pickard.

As people exited, Pickard held a boom box playing jet noise sounds at the door of Recreation Hall.

“People in this room have all voted for Rick,” said Attwood before she left. “I don’t know why he doesn’t want to listen on this issue.”

Monson said he didn’t approach Larsen personally Tuesday to address his concerns because he already spoke with him during a recent trip to Washington, D.C. with Attwood and Pickard.

Earlier in the event, Monson repeatedly followed a local realtor making remarks and calling him a “snake.”

The realtor, trying to avoid Monson, left before Larsen made his remarks.

Monson said he believes it was the Democratic process to have people “speaking their truths rather than being silent.”

He added that Larsen’s stance on OLF was “a shame” because “he’s so right on so many issues.”

Larsen said that he came to the event to speak to people one-on-one and did not want it turned into a forum about the Navy.

“This is a campaign event,” Larsen said. “I know people who came here are disappointed that it wasn’t a town hall on OLF. I was willing to stay and talk to people on an individual basis but they all left.”

“Any argument that we’re not talking to people about this is not an accurate picture of our engagement on the issue,” Larsen said.

During an interview earlier this year, Larsen said that it is unlikely the Navy would relocate the Growlers or close OLF Coupeville.

The Navy has maintained that OLF Coupeville is an irreplaceable asset for proper training of Growler pilots.

COER filed a federal lawsuit last year demanding the Navy do an Environmental Impact Study on the Growler, which is currently underway.

 

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