08/03/04 — Planes, trains and rivalry: Goldsboro vs. Fayetteville?

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Planes, trains and rivalry: Goldsboro vs. Fayetteville?

Charles Broadwell asks if Goldsboro and Fayetteville, two cities with similar interests, are on a collision course.

Broadwell would be attuned to that because he began his career as a reporter for the News-Argus and then went home to Fayetteville to become editor and publisher of the Fayetteville Observer.

In his Sunday column in the Observer, he mentioned two issues in which the two cities might be at odds.

The first was passenger rail service.

The state Department of Transportation is supposed to decide in the next few weeks whether to establish a passenger train circuit between Raleigh and Wilmington. If so, it will have to choose between two routes, one through Goldsboro and one through Fayetteville. Interests in each city have tried to convince the DOT that their city is best for the route.

The other point of potential contention is the planned military base closings.

The Pentagon and Congress have agreed to another Base Realignment and Closing commission, or BRAC, an ostensibly nonpolitical way of closing unneeded bases. Broadwell says that there is no need to worry that big bases like Fort Bragg, near Fayetteville, will be closed. If anything, he said, BRAC would strike smaller ones like Seymour Johnson Air Force Base at Goldsboro.

He said he had heard that Goldsboro people might suggest that Pope Air Force Base at Fort Bragg be closed to make it less likely that Seymour Johnson will. That way, the community that lost a small military base would have the consolation of keeping a huge one.

Not a bad idea, except that BRAC is supposed to make its recommendation strictly on the needs of the military. It will consider such concerns as ultimate efficiency — whether a branch of the service can better accomplish its mission at a base it is using, or whether it should realign a given function and close the base.

It will also take into account issues like the base’s relationship with its host community and whether encroaching development endangers the base’s mission.

Any rumors that a given base might close are unfounded. The BRAC commission has not yet started the study that will be necessary before it makes its recommendations. In fact, the members of the commission have not yet even been appointed.

As for suggesting that a particular base be targeted in order to divert the commission from another, that would be unlikely. Such maneuvering is discouraged by the BRAC process.

The state has a military-affairs committee to keep up good relations with the Pentagon. It would be foolish not to. But that effort is to save all North Carolina bases, in part by demonstrating that this is a military-friendly state. Which it is.

As Broadwell said, Goldsboro’s and Fayetteville’s bases and the two cities’ advantages for the train route can stand on their own. There is no reason not to be neighborly.

Published in Editorials on August 3, 2004 11:20 AM