Archived Story

Citizens speak out on Obama policy directive

Published 11:20pm Thursday, August 23, 2012

ST. JOSEPH — A presidential policy directive Barack Obama made March 30, 2011 — PPD-8 for short — was the subject of lengthy public comment at Thursday’s Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting.

On the subject of national preparedness, Obama said PPD-8 aims at “strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk” to national security, including acts of terrorism, cyber attacks, pandemics and catastrophic natural disasters.

“Our national preparedness is the shared responsibility of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors and individual citizens … while this directive is intended to galvanize action by the federal government, it is also aimed at facilitating an integrated, all-of-nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.”

“They can’t even balance the budget according to their own rules, and they’re going to try to pass this down to us?” Jim Athanasopoulos of Niles said. “The head of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) says our borders are more secure than ever; 250,000 employees haven’t really caught anybody in the last eight years. Think of the payroll on that. I don’t know if I can trust these people to implement a community-wide program of neighbors telling on neighbors.

“The fish rots from the head down. You guys are more honest. If there’s any corruption, it’s probably little. We can’t have the federal government coming in here trying to overrun our sheriff when there’s a disaster.”

Speakers mostly identified themselves as precinct delegates from around Berrien County.

Michael Ashbrook of Coloma Township said, “The American people have suffered more since the 911 attacks than the terrorists, illegal aliens or anyone else in this country. Our rights are systematically being stolen from us. PPD-8 doesn’t stop terrorism. It can be environmental — anything they want — they can come in here and tell us what we can do. You guys aren’t elected to sell us out for $50,000,” a reference to the board’s $44,170 emergency performance management grant.

“You guys are elected to support the Constitution and to protect the people who live in this county,” Ashbrook said. “Unless we start standing up against this, our rights are going to be systematically destroyed and taken away from us.”

Commissioner Marletta Seats of Benton Harbor said, “I empathize with some things you’re saying, but I’m still glad to be a citizen of the United States of America and proud to be a resident of Berrien County. I feel very protected. I don’t agree with all laws put in place. I don’t like putting my seatbelt on, but I do it because I think it’s for my own protection.

“PPD-8 has been here since 2003, with very few changes this particular president has put in place. I believe in contingency plans and prevention. I don’t believe in reaction.”

Sheriff Paul Bailey escorted one man from the chamber after Seats was called a “traitor.”

Commissioners Jeanette Leahey of St. Joseph and John LaMore of Niles agreed that there is a process government levels follow, but as she said, “Disaster is owned locally. We are responsible for it.”

Commissioner Andrew Vavra of Three Oaks said while terrorism is a possibility with two nuclear plants in the region, responses to weather events, which disrupt power are more likely.

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