Hey, Sailor!

The untold story of the selling of the USS Missouri

"To achieve those objectives," Garrett wrote, "I believe we should force the City to make a formal decision contrary to its declared intentions in the MOA before we take any action that can reasonably be interpreted as an abandonment of San Francisco."

By May, Secretary of the Navy William L. Ball III wrote Weinberger with his latest political intelligence from San Francisco, informing him of the likelihood of a November 1988 citywide referendum on the homeporting issue.

"The pressure on Mr. Agnos is mounting, and our information is that the 'new' homeporting plan is not selling well in the Bay Area. There is general understanding that without the Missouri we will not proceed with the development of Hunters Point and this proposal has energized a broad coalition of business and labor interests in opposition to Mr.Agnos. We further understand that a referendum on the homeporting plan may very well be included in the November election."

A month later, the Pentagon was orchestrating visits of San Francisco politicians to Washington to boost the chances of a referendum.

"A delegation of supporters of homeporting headed by Supervisor John Molinari has requested a meeting with the Secretary on or about 9 June," a memo states. "The delegation intends to express its support for homeporting of the Missouri, and believes that it is very important to meet with Secretary Ball personally, both in light of his meeting with Mayor Agnos and to enhance the visibility of the delegation's trip and efforts. RADM Toney asked that I ensure this 'nuance' is considered in deciding whether or not this group should be scheduled."

The months preceding the November referendum were marked by claims and counterclaims about the economic benefits of homeporting. But Jim Green, leader of the carpenters union, was not convinced, expressing his doubts to the Navy in a letter questioning if any jobs would be union jobs or if they would go to Bayview/Hunters Point residents. Labor leaders had been "wined and dined into supporting the homeporting of the USS Missouri," Green wrote, but he cited case after case of nonunion employers winning Bay Area Navy construction contracts and anti-labor tactics by the Navy that forced concessions from unions.

A low-level Pentagon official finally got around to answering Green's letter a week after the election, in which the referendum passed by a bare margin of 51-49 percent.

"No provision of the Federal Acquisition Regulations allows the Navy to award ship repair contracts only to unionized shipyards," the deputy chief of Naval Operations wrote Green. "No requirement exists for construction contractors to be signatory to union labor."

A month later, the Navy broke the homeporting promise that the USS Missouri would be berthed here when the president's budget eliminated funding for the USS Missouri as an active warship. A year later, the ship was mothballed; the following year the Navy decided to abandon Hunters Point shipyard entirely.

Although the USS Missouri never homeported in San Francisco, its wake churned the city's politics and taught a resounding lesson: Enticing businesses or other enterprises with tax breaks, subsidies and rent concessions ain't much more than a floating crap game.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.