A good conspiracy
Being opposed to the airport ordinance on the November ballot, I thought I ought to bounce my concerns off my old friend Bo the Builder. Bo’s a retired contractor and flies his own Beechcraft. We met at a favorite Minden coffee emporium.
“Bo, any inspiring thoughts about voting for or against the new airport ordinance?” I greeted him.
“Inspiring? Like in a sermon?” he laughed. “I’ll tell you though, that Ordinance has more than enough words to be a sermon. Why complicate it with so many words?”
“My experience with laws and contracts,” I replied, “is excess words give lawyers more ‘letter of the law’ to argue in court. Doesn’t hurt their fees either.”
“Simpler is usually better,” Bo agreed. “The 1984 ordinance was one page, the 1992 ordinance grew to two pages. This new version expands to six pages.”
I responded, “That existing 1992 Ordinance is really straightforward. The 1992 Ballot question explicitly stated the 50,000 pound weight limit conformed to FAA standards. So why would our district attorney refuse to enforce it against a 100,000 pounds plus Boeing 737 that landed here? Isn’t it rumored the FAA declared the weight limits non-compliant?”
“Yes,” Bo said, “in 1994 the FAA agreed the runway capacity was 50,000 pounds. But around 2002-3 the FAA didn’t question a new runway study showing it mysteriously grew to 75,000 pounds. Yet the 1994 ordinance restricted any changes in the runway to 50,000 pounds.”
“No!” I exclaimed. “Bo, don’t tell me! You suggest either the capacity is still the same 50,000 pounds the FAA agreed it was in 1994, or the county misused FAA funds to build it up to 75,000 pounds? A real conspiracy?”
Bo laughed. “Well, maybe the proof of the pudding is in some facts. The FAA also wrote that heavy planes can be routed away from weaker taxiways and pavements to avoid damage. Yet the latest maintenance estimate exploded to $1,000,000 a year. Any college student could correlate use by heavier airplanes to the escalating cost of repairing taxiways and ramps they use but shouldn’t. Heck, even a lawyer might.”
“One more tidbit. In February 2006 commissioners discussed a 2005 weight study right after a major overlay that capacity sprouted to 110,000 pounds for a limited number of landings if steered away from weaker sections. That information seems to have died.”
“So,” I mused, “let me guess. The FAA letter acknowledging 75,000 pounds capacity is a red herring. The ordinance on the ballot allows weak sections to be built up to 110,000 pounds, costing millions. Taxpayers are forced to guarantee it for 20 years. Down the road the county can threaten us all again as they did last year about being on the hook for $19 million.”
“And presto,” Bo grinned, “they’ve got the big jet airport they wanted that the fancy six-page ordinance pretends to prevent. And goodby gliders. Holy smokes, I’m sounding like you!”
“Well,” I smirked, “a good conspiracy shouldn’t go unnoticed.”
Jack Van Dien