On Tuesday, June 17 at 10:30 AM, City Attorney Mike Aguirre argued the case for the city in Blackwater Lodge and Training Center vs. Kelly Broughton/City of San Diego before Judge Marilyn Huff. On June 4, Huff granted Blackwater a restraining order against the City in order to ensure that it would be able to open its Otay Mesa training facility without further delay.
Today, Huff granted an injunction to Blackwater Worldwide, rejecting City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s legal arguments, and allowing the company to continue operating the training facility.
The transcript of the May 30 Federal District Court hearing shows that Blackwater claims the permits and applications made their intention to build an indoor firing range clear from the beginning and that “there are indications everywhere that this is a Blackwater facility.” Indeed, an internal audit by the city determined that Blackwater had not misrepresented its identity in the permits and applications. The audit was requested by Mayor Jerry Sanders on May 5 after concerns were raised about the city’s grant of permits to Blackwater without prior public hearings on the issue. Given the level of opposition to a similar proposed facility in Potrero, these citizen concerns come as no surprise.
What’s at stake in this case is local control over land-use and neighborhood planning in the City of San Diego. Aguirre’s legal arguments called for a review of the project by the city to determine whether the company’s military training deviates from existing land-use regulations. It is widely argued that the Blackwater shooting range and paramilitary facility does not belong in Otay Mesa, near schools, businesses and residential areas, and only a stone’s throw from the US-Mexico border. Aguirre contends that the City Council should have the right to make land-use decisions in the city. “Obviously, if the federal courts intervene in standard land-use matters then I think there’s a risk that every time somebody doesn’t like ea process, they can go to federal court.” Marilyn Huff, an appointee of George H.W. Bush, supported Blackwater’s claims that they were victims of discrimination on the part of the city. Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater VP and one of the company’s more visible spokespersons, has demonstrated animosity throughout this process against local citizens of Potrero and San Diego, and has argued that such Aguirre’s legal attempt to protect the city’s interests was a “terrific waste of time and money.” Claiming that as an “out-of-town-company,” they needed protection from discriminatory locals, Bonfiglio argued that it is the role of federal courts to enable companies like Blackwater to overstep local control. “Federal Courts were designed and developed to protect the rights of those who in this case aren’t from San Diego.”
Aguirre will appeal the decision to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Citizens of San Diego gathered in front of the Federal Courthouse downtown at 10 AM Tuesday morning for a demonstration.
Photo credit: Peace Resource Center