Senator Barbara Mikulski is demanding that federal officials extend the time for public comment on the State Department training facility that has raised a storm of controversy in Queen Anne’s County.
Just three days after the public hearing intended to quiet protests, Mikulski wrote a blistering letter to the head of the General Services Administration that basically accuses GSA and State Department officials with being lazy and incompetent – and with sabotaging their own project.
“They displayed a shocking, inexcusable and inexplicable lack of preparation, which has resulted in threats of lawsuits, widespread anger and what I fear is now an implacable opposition to the project,” Mikulski wrote on Friday.
She said their “disastrous lack of preparation” and their “dismissive attitude” revealed very plainly their “unconscionable lack of respect for our democratic process.”
Mikulski’s angry stand today is remarkable considering that she, along with two other Maryland Democrats, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Frank Kratovil, had been involved in bringing the training center to a site near Centreville and announced its coming proudly in the fall.
Her letter to acting GSA Administrator Stephen Leeds begins, “I want you to be aware of the unmitigated disaster caused by the General Services Administration in rolling out your proposal for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center. . .”
The senator noted that the proposed facility’s consolidation of security training is greatly needed to improve the safety of American diplomats who are at risk around the world.
But she said, “Apparently, the selection of the location did not take into account the fact that citizens of the local community must be fully involved in any decision to build or expand federal facilities.
“My constituents have a right to know, and a right to be heard. Instead of reaching out to the community, GSA has treated them with a disregard that borders on arrogance.”
Mikulski charged that at the public outreach hearing, GSA officials were “completely unprepared to answer fundamental, legitimate questions.”
“This,” the senator wrote, “conveyed a lack of transparency into the process that is completely unacceptable.”
She complained that GSA “inexplicably” moved the second meeting from the auditorium where it was advertised into a smaller cafeteria “that deprived my constituents of their rights to have their concerns addressed.”
GSA briefers at two meetings were unable to explain in clear terms, she said, either the environmental impact process or steps to comply with open-space restrictions.
“It is hard to imagine how your team could have done a worse job in explaining this important profject to the community,” Mikulski wrote.
“And while their support might now have been a given even with superb preparation, what might have been viewed as a tremendous economic boost to the Eastern Shore of Maryland is now perceived as a threat to the community’s safety and well being.”