Group expects elected leaders at meeting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2008

FRANKLIN—The first major public meeting of a group that organized to fight the Navy’s plans for an outlying landing field promises to be a Who’s Who of Virginia politicians.

With commitments from all four of the area’s state legislators and representatives from the offices of two congressmen, tonight’s meeting of the group Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field will offer voters from Southampton, Surry and Sussex counties a rare chance to see all of their state representatives in one place.

Perhaps even rarer is the fact that all of those politicians — Democrats and Republicans — are expected to agree on a point of policy: The Navy should not build an OLF where it is not wanted.

Tony Clark, chairman of the VAOLF group that has formed to oppose the Navy’s three potential Virginia sites, said Tuesday he is excited to have the state legislators and representatives of their federal counterparts committed to be present.

Each will have an opportunity to address what is expected to be a large crowd of citizens from all three of the potentially impacted counties. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Southampton High School in Courtland.

Clark said he had received commitments from each of the area’s elected officials serving in the Virginia General Assembly: Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-75th), Del. William K. Barlow (D-64th), Sen. Louise Lucas (D-18th) and Sen. Fred Quayle (R-13th).

Congressional representatives also will be on hand from the offices of Rep. Randy Forbes (R-04th) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-03rd), he said. The congressmen both will be in Washington, D.C., during the meeting.

Each of the six legislators has personally or through a representative committed to support the OLF opponents in their fight against the Navy. Tonight’s meeting will give them a chance to do so in a very public setting, before what is expected to be a crowd of hundreds, including regional and state newspapers and television stations.

That kind of support is invaluable to Clark and his group, which hopes to render as unpalatable choices the three rural Virginia sites that are among the five locations the Navy is considering for the airfield.

Clark and other members of the group have come to realize that legislative support can be a vital component of their strategy against the Navy.

&uot;There is a political dimension to this that cannot be ignored, at the commonwealth’s level and at the federal level,&uot; Barry Steinberg told a recent gathering in Surry.

Steinberg has been hired to represent the three Virginia counties in their campaign. He also will speak during tonight’s meeting to help citizens understand how to be effective in countering the Navy during the next couple of years.

&uot;There’s going to be a lot of emotion at this meeting,&uot; Clark said Tuesday. &uot;But emotion is not going to get anything done. We want to get the people there, get them excited and get them educated about the process.&uot;