OGDEN — Peter Cooke maintains that Hill Air Force Base is in jeopardy of losing more jobs — and future business developments on base aren’t enough to stop it from happening.
Cooke, the Democratic Party candidate for governor, says Hill has been in a vulnerable position since the Air Force initiated a restructuring plan to increase efficiency and save about $109 million annually earlier this year.
Hill was part of that restructuring, and on July 17, the Ogden Air Logistics Center was reorganized and redesignated the Ogden Air Logistics Complex. The transition resulted in the loss of 159 military jobs at Hill, and the management of the Air Logistics Complex now reports to Tinker Air Force Base.
Cooke said state leaders, specifically current Gov. Gary Herbert, haven’t been proactive enough in campaigning for the base.
He said that as a retired two-star general in the U.S. Army Reserves, he has the military experience and expertise to negotiate with Air Force officials.
Marty Carpenter, director of communication for Herbert’s campaign, said the governor will continue to be a champion for the base and is confident it will thrive based on its strategic military value, not because of politics.
“The assertion that just because someone has a friend at the Pentagon or they know people in the military, that they’ll be able to kept the base open is just false,” Carpenter said.
Cooke said even things like the $1.5 billion Falcon Hill project won’t seal Hill’s fate as a sustainable organization.
“That’s a public-private venture that has to stand on its own,” he said of Falcon Hill.
Cooke, who was in Ogden on Monday to speak with the Standard-Examiner’s editorial board, said he would give more funding to the Utah Defense Alliance to help bolster Hill’s standing.
Cooke also said he’s against a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year demanding the federal government hand over the Utah public lands by 2014 or face a lawsuit. He said it would cost more than $300 million for Utah to maintain the lands each year.
“The whole land grab proposition that was given to us doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We have to pay to maintain them and fight fires on them? It won’t work.”
As a Democratic candidate for governor in Utah, Cooke saids he does feel like an underdog, but feels good about his chances.
“Our state has crossed over before,” he said. “And I think that time has come again. I think people are ready to see the one-party system that we have in place come to an end.”