“Welcome to the Delmarva Sunday Report; I’m Hanna Page and today our special guest is Former Ambassador Roberta Jones in the first interview since the attack on her life.”
“Today we are filming the show from the JBG heavily fortified underground command center. I would love to show the audience the workings of the center but for obvious security reasons, the views of our cameras has been restricted to the observation seating,”
“Ambassador, the first question has to be – how are you?” Hanna asked.
“I’m getting better every day; I worked out in the gym for the first time this morning then spent an hour on the massage table to get my muscles relaxed,” I replied.
“Did you know that you were going to be attacked? Was there any advanced warning?” Hanna asked.
“No, no early warning , the helicopter flying cover saw what was going to happen but with only 20 seconds or so there was not any way to take evasive measures,” I replied.
“Is the group that attacked you the same one that was doing all the college attacks?”
“All indicators are that it is a previously unknown splinter group or else a new one trying to make a name for themselves,” I replied.
“The million dollar bounty on my head will bring them out of the woodwork,” I added.
“There were 24 terrorists killed in the attack; were the leaders among those that were killed?” Hanna asked.
“I don’t believe so at this time, the task force and its partners are still working with the intelligence and evidence collected. It will take a while to sort through it all. I would be extremely surprised if the leader was killed; that is just not their method of operation. Most of the leaders aren’t suicidal, just fanatics,” I replied.
“You have only a couple months left on the six month term with the task force, are you going to stay on longer given all the things that have happened with terrorism?” Hanna asked.
“I have not had any discussions with the President about any changes in my term of duty on the task force. The original term was for six months, as you know. I’m sure there will be discussions going forward,” I replied.
“I need to change direction for a minute. There have been some complaints about aircraft noise over C’ville from operations at JBG Morton Field to the county commissioners and in the editorial page in the local paper. Can you address that complaint?” Hanna asked.
“Yes I can. Executive Vice President Lorrie Jones – who oversees the aviation division – and our attorneys have petitioned the FAA for a departure route change from the North runway. That change was approved a few days ago and will be published in next month’s ‘Notice to Airmen’, a publication to all pilots. The change has already been placed in effect by the air traffic controllers at Morton Field,” I replied.
“You are on the record supporting county growth. There are two large projects that have been proposed, yet there are statements that you are opposed to both of them. Why?” Hanna asked.
“The first part of our statement is correct; I support county growth. The more the merrier, growth equals jobs across the total employment spectrum and increases the county tax base. Without growth the county will slowly wither and die as taxes are forced to rise, eventually driving people away. Our sons and daughters will move to where the jobs and better housing and lower taxes are,” I said.
“The problems I have are in the planning and zoning department. There is a serious conflict of interest in the administration of that department. I am surprised that there has been no lawsuit against the county. Also, the zoning rules are a mix of rules taken from other counties and cities that really don’t fit the area or the needs of the residents; sort of a cut-copy-paste thing. There is no flexibility and to appeal takes thousands of dollars,” I said.
“Then there is the suspicion that every time someone in zoning doesn’t like an applicant, application or a project, there is a midnight rule written or other delays until they do stop the project. It also seems like the zoning board is too eager to stop projects or force major changes just over one or two complaints at hearings. I have also heard the complaint that at the hearings the only voices allowed are those with opposition to the application,” I said.
“I have a friend who was told they had to plant $50,000 worth of trees on their three acre lot to be to get a permit to add a two car garage onto their house. A neighbor complained at the hearing that there were not enough trees on the property. Just an example of plain excessive overreach,” I said.
“So you are saying to throw out the existing zoning and rewrite the book,” Hanna said.
“That’s right, written by our own people to serve the real needs of the community and not the special interest groups, and not by and for architects and insurance companies. There also needs to be a quick way to eliminate rules and regulations that prove to be an unnecessary burden, or prohibitive to the property rights of the owner,” I replied.
“Can you explain that or give me an example?” Hanna asked.
“A different friend wanted to put a decorative fence across the front of their property; you know the traditional three board fence out of the new plastic materials that never need painting or replacing. First it was a 500 dollar permit; then they had to get a print from a certified architect for 1000 dollars more.”
“Then all the holes for the posts had to be dug so an inspector could look at them before the posts could be installed. The inspector took four days to show and that was one day after a 4 inch rain. He failed them because they had been washed in and were no longer to depth. They had to be dug again. Five days later he inspected them again. It’s a freaking fence; line up the post with a string line or a laser, measure them out and put posts in the holes. They have to be assembled like a puzzle anyhow and you need to level the post, back fill and tamp. Needing a permit, drawing and inspection is insane. This is nothing more than planning looking out for their own and domain building,” I said.
“Another example of how outdated the rules are; there is the ninety foot maximum building height restriction. The original reason for it was the tallest ladder truck in the county was 100 feet. The tallest ladder truck made now is 150 feet. There are hundreds of thousands of buildings worldwide well over ninety feet made possible because sprinkler systems and changes in construction techniques practically fire-proof tall buildings,” I said.
“Several years ago the county changed the rules after arm twisting by the insurance companies to require all housing have sprinkler systems – even in rural areas – adding in some cases $50,000 to the cost of a residential house. Even a house that is gutted for renovation has to have one installed. There is simply no need for such a restriction anymore,” I said.
“The county has an open space rule; if you really are dedicated to preserving open spaces you allow buildings to go higher, not require huge lots for a single house; and you approve the condo complex applications without years of delay,” I said.
“Let’s change directions again. You heavily support the Uganda refugee camp and there those who are critical of that given all this year’s hurricanes in the South and South East. They think the food and clothing you have collected should go to those areas,” Hanna stated.
“Not one person in the hurricane affected areas was starving to death before or after the hurricane hit. The government did an exceptional job responding with critical water and food. They may have missed a few meals but not one was starving to the point that the loss of the one small meal the camp supplies could be a death sentence for small children. That is the reality in the camp for children,” I replied.
“Yes, I agree and was there with you at the camp; conditions there are heartbreaking. I asked the question so you could answer the critics,” Hanna replied.
“To go back to earlier questions; where are the remains of the SUVs you were in when attacked? Do the authorities still have them or have they been disposed of?” Hanna asked.
“We have them back; they were taken to Camp Smith after the MSP finished the investigation,” I replied.
“Camp Smith?” Hanna questioned.
“Camp Smith is one of our training sites for our security division. We do a variety of training there and they will be used in that,” I replied.
“Would it be possible for the camera man to take some close video of them?” Hanna asked.
“I can get someone to take you there for that, I think,” I replied.
The questions were finished in seventy five minutes. The majority of them were on terrorism, my time in the White House, the threats and the attack. A lot of topics were covered. A lot of the questions were hard hitting and I gave solid hard answers; I pulled no punches. I was sure some would be cut to fit the program into the time slot plus ads.
After the cameras stopped and Lorrie was looking for someone to take them to Camp Smith, we made small talk.
“Did you ever listen to WFZZ radio?” Hanna asked.
“The hard rock heavy metal station? No. Gave me a headache. Why do you ask?” I replied.
“It’s shutting down the end of the month, the rock and metal crowd has made the transition to I-pods and I-phones to get away from the five minutes of ads between songs. When the listeners went away so did the advertisers; the ones that were left balked at the higher prices for the ads. On top of that they were always over staffed in every department,” Hanna said.
“Interesting that it has lasted so long with so many country folk in the area. They came to us wanting us to advertize, but we did not think it would reach our active customer base,” I replied.
I was also sure I had opened a rat’s nest with some of the answers in the interview. Let the buffalo chips fall where they may.
Marcy, Lorrie, Jenny and I went over to the house via the tunnel. Lisa and Mindy had been sitting the boys and making supper. With Jason and Jake in Japan and since the attack on me, Mindy and Lisa was spending most of their time with us.
After supper I did turn on the network news from Washington to listen to the world segment, just to see how much it was distorted from the real events that I had access to. Midway through was a plug for Channel 34’s Delmarva Sunday Report with a short clip of the opening questions that was repeated through the news cast and on the other three major networks.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.