Reasons to vote ‘yes’ on airport ordinance |

Reasons to vote ‘yes’ on airport ordinance

by Terry LaLonde

The Record-Courier did a good job covering the airport debate and has been very good at including letters from both sides of the table. However, I think that the editor might have made an error in suggesting that both sides are threatening the community with dire results if the proposed airport ordinance does or does not pass. It’s clear to me that both sides want the same thing: to keep our airport as a non-commercial, community airport, one that is friendly to general aviation and in particular soaring. If we can tap into this joint desire, we may be able to overcome any argument.

The great threat that is pending is that if the ordinance does not pass, contractual obligations with the FAA will require the taxpayers to pay airport maintenance and repair costs up to $1 million a year and potentially use funds from other county programs or raise taxes.

We know how difficult it is to raise taxes. To put this in perspective, this dollar amount equates to 10 new police units (officers and equipment) on the county’s roads.

Do you remember a recent tax increase was turned down for the very purpose of adding needed units?

The touted threat of the “con” side claiming an inordinate increase of jet traffic if the ordinance passes cannot be substantiated, statistically or economically.

There are projections prepared by the best of experts that do not support their conclusion.

As to economic viability, the languishing of Pinon Aero’s grand plans for the past ten years to service large jets proves this point. Further, the operational cost of jets in thousands of dollars per hour and their limited numbers in the general aviation fleet will preclude any substantive basing of large jet operations here.

An airport watch dog group of concerned citizens spent over two years formulating and drafting this proposed ordinance. This effort evolved into an untold number of public meetings and resulted in an enforceable and acceptable ordinance. It was then submitted to the FAA for their review and is now on the ballot.

The opponents have yet to define any coherent argument against this proposed ordinance. The most reasoned position they have is that the ordinance should be re-written. Your comment “The promise made by opponents is that there is a better ordinance out there, yet to be written” reflects the fact that you have come to the same conclusion.

Here is a proposal. In that both sides agree that the current ordinance is unenforceable, and in that there is a grand potential risk of burdening the county with $1 million a year of airport maintenance and repair, shouldn’t the opposition support and approve the ordinance, and then offer up any amendments to it on the next ballot? This would solve our immediate problem and give us an enforceable ordinance. Importantly it would release the upwards of $6 million that the FAA says it is sitting on, which would have a significant impact on jobs (construction jobs) in the Valley during these tough economic times.

If the above offering is not deemed acceptable to the opposition, then one might search for more selfish reasons that they oppose it. We know that one vociferous opponent has tried to coerce the county in the amount of an $850,000 airport lease buyout or he threatened to fight the new ordinance, which he is doing; so it would seem reasonable to discount his opposition.

Two of the opponents left the debate team hanging when they dropped out at the last minute over an absurdly feeble excuse. Thus, we are left to conclude that they realized the indefensible nature of their arguments. We have one opponent trying to instill class envy by falsely claiming only the wealthy can afford to fly, when in reality, most of the planes and gliders at the airport cost less than the average RV one sees on Highway 395.

Lastly, we know that there are a few soaring pilots that mistakenly believe that once new and completed facilities are available on the eastside, they will be forced to move there.

Perhaps they have some negative Feng shui reports to base their beliefs upon because forced relocation of gliders is not planned. So, what other reasons could there be for opposing this ordinance?

You are right when you state in your editorial that “nothing in the debate has much to do with the airport as it exists today.”

It is also important to point out that nothing much will change in the foreseeable future with the passage of this ordinance, just as nothing much has changed in the past 20 years. What is important is passage of this ordinance will assure our little airport is operated safely and with funds we have already paid.

Terry Lalonde is a pilot, Minden Airport Association founding member and Airport Master Plan Committee member.