In their own words: Paul Vatistas
[Editor’s note: This is a question-and-answer session with Truckee Tahoe Airport District candidate Paul Vatistas. Please see next week’s Sierra Sun for interviews with other airport district candidates.]Would you support the construction of a second runway as detailed in the master plan and why?No. I think the size of the airport is good right now. So I don’t think that we need another runway.People have said that that could be a noise abatement runway. Do you believe that that is legitimate?I don’t feel that that is legitimate, with what I know today. To me, if you double the number of runways you double the capacity. You invite double the operations in terms of maximum numbers. Would you support the construction of a de-icing facility, or heated hangar, and why?I think that is one that I need more information on. As someone who is running for election as opposed to being already on the board I have some information from the master plan. I think the construction would have positive and negative impacts, so we need to evaluate both of those and that is something that frankly I thought I would do after I was elected, if elected.What are the positive and negative impacts that you see?The positive impacts are obviously if you are coming in winter … you have a facility that can remove ice not only off the plane and the wings, but the leading edges, which is related to the lift of the airplane. That is a useful facility for planes, particularly jet planes. The negative side is that obviously if you provide a facility like that, in essence what you are doing is inviting more planes to come in the winter. And that has lots of negative effects on our community. So, what benefits one or two pilots, ends up being a hugely negative thing for thousands of people that live under the flight path. And that is what I mean by pros and cons. There are pros and cons to all these things, and if you talk to the current board their view is definitely, they are all pilots. [They say] “this is great, if I’ve got ice on my plane I’ve got a facility that can de-ice it.” They never think about, “and what are the consequences therefor the community and for the region and for the district in terms of increased traffic, increased jets, increased noise?” And that’s why it is tough for me to give you an answer because I that that should be a genuine negotiation between the airport and the neighborhoods that surround it.Would you support the construction of a new terminal building, and why?I think the terminal building has three issues associated with it. One is the existing building is old and there is an argument for refurbishment. The second thing is, would you want to expand that building and I think that there is a reasonable argument for some sort of expansion because if you talk to … some of the folks that are down there working there, it is pretty cramped. I think the people that work there … deserve a good environment to work in, especially in the winter when it is going to be cold… So there is an argument for expansion of it, which is separate from refurbishment, which is separate from the third thing, which is, do you need to relocate the building? And the current Master Plan seeks to relocate the building back from the runway. And what that will do is start the process of moving older buildings, the terminal, the FBOs [Flight Based Operations] the EAA [Experimental Aircraft Association] building. It starts moving them back away from the runway and it creates a wider apron… When you start moving any building towards an apron that is 150 feet, what you are doing is you are setting up the airport to bring in bigger aircraft, wider-winged aircraft. Because the runway is long enough to take bigger aircraft, but the restriction on bringing in bigger aircraft right now is that the apron needs to go up to 150 feet and that is in the Master Plan… The issue with the terminal … is which one of those three things make sense. Refurbishment I am in favor of, giving the employees a better working environment I am in favor of, moving it away to expand the apron to allow bigger jets to come in, I am not sure that I am in favor of. So as it is expressed in the plan I am not in favor of it because it includes all three elements. But I think there are very good reasons to give the employees a better working environment.Do you believe that by improving facilities at the airport, the airport will attract more usage and increased aircraft traffic?Absolutely. Yes, there is a direct linkage. If you look at the number of operations that are performed by someone who has a hangar here, I believe it is five times the number of operations that an itinerant pilot coming in and going out. Anytime you build some type of facility you are encouraging more operations and that is why every time you build a facility, whatever it is whether it is de-icing and so on, there are going to be pros and cons to it. And the same thing is going to be true of hangars, if you build more hangars then you are encouraging more people to base at the airport, obviously for the incremental individuals that is a good thing, but for the community as a whole I am not sure that it is a good thing. What are the major goals an airport district resident could count on you working for if you were elected to the airport board?I think the primary thing is to give a real voice to the community. And I can’t avoid plugging Kathleen [Eagan] and Mary [Hetherington]. They will give a real voice to the Truckee community, which is woefully underrepresented right now, given that Truckee takes all the negative impacts. I think they should get at least two or three people on the board that are from Truckee. Jet noise, well noise in general, is a huge issue. And I think that that can be broken down into three separate things. Again, jet noise is by far and away the major issue, so I think the voters can count on me to do everything that I can not just to abate jet noise, but to positively try and do something about reducing jet noise. The other one is there are gliders takeoff and landings around Glenshire. There are things that you can do to the airplanes to make them quieter, and perhaps the airport district should be investing in those technologies for the glider people. And then the touch-and-go’s there really needs to be a dialogue between the FBOs [Flight Based Operations] and the community. The touch-and-go’s are for pilots that are learning a takeoff and landing basically, and they tend to happen early in the morning, because the density altitude, with the altitude of the airport they tend to happen early in the morning. There needs to be a dialogue. I think that the people that are affected by the touch-and-go’s can expect that I will arrange a neighborhood dialogue… We will go to the neighborhoods and get the FBOs, Todd Aero and Regent Air, in the same room as the people that are impacted by the touch-and-go’s and try to work out a solution. Now that is not going to happen in one meeting. It’s going to take a few months I think. But the voters can count on me to really, genuinely address these problems, genuinely try and have a negotiation between the airport and the community… I think the issue for me, and the heart of this question is the current board is either unwilling or unable to really, genuinely engage the community. They see a lot of what is going on as a PR problem. So, “if we send out a newsletter, if we just educated the public, then they would understand.” They haven’t actually internalized that there is a real problem here. And I think what is really, really different and this is a real distinct difference between Mary, Kathleen and I, and the other five candidates we genuinely believe that there is a problem. We genuinely believe that it is going to take a lot of hard work to solve the issues around that problem, which is getting the airport to coexist with its neighbors. And I think the current board really just sees all of that as a nuisance. When people come in they talk about complaints, not calls. For everybody that comes in and says, “Hey, I have a noise problem,” there are a hundred people that live around that person that have the same noise problems. And I think that Mary [Hetherington] said it in the debate, there are typically 20 to 50 for everybody that comes in… Now the airport, instead of focusing on the fact that 221 people have called in… they spend their whole time trying to fabricate these statistics that say 45 percent of the calls came from five people. Well, they are five pretty courageous people … Instead of saying… “yes, here is a real problem and we need to address it. How do we work with you, how do we work with your … neighborhood to find real solutions,” they are trying to just stigmatize the people that come in. And it is a real attitude issue. And that is where I come back to the current board is unwilling or unable. They either don’t want to do it, or they don’t have the skills to actually engage the people that are in front of them raising genuine concerns.What specific things would you do differently than the current airport board?The key difference is a very different attitude and a genuine commitment to solve problems…Do you believe that the Truckee Tahoe Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan [CLUP] should undergo an Environmental Impact Report or include mitigation in its environmental report?I think that it is kind of the wrong question … The Master Plan drives the CLUP, so it is the Master Plan that should have had an EIR. We definitely want to revisit the Master Plan, and then the CLUP follows on. It’s an arithmetical calculation. If you put a second runway in … it pushes out that CLUP envelope. And that will immediately impinge on the Truckee sewer facility. I think that it is the Master Plan that drives the CLUP.Do you support noise monitoring outside of the airport property?Yes. What purpose do you think that will have?I think we need better information of noise levels in the different neighborhoods. And a good noise measurement program … has to have a wide variety of measurement sources. Because what happens with a lot of other airports is they have a couple of noise monitors at the end of the runway, and when pilots takeoff they will throttle back as they go over the noise meters and then they will just power up again. So the change that you affected is to get people to try to cheat the systems opposed to genuine change in the way that they fly out of that airport. So I think we need more noise monitors, but again the way its done and the commitment behind it is really important.Members of the group, Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport and the other two independent candidates, have suggested that if the Community Airport Restoration Effort slate, which you are a part of, is elected, the airport will close. What is your response to that?It’s a really nasty rumor. That’s the reality of it. It’s a nasty rumor. …Absolutely not. We have no intention of closing the airport …The airport is going to grow. The whole election is about what type of growth we are going to have. It’s kind of a stupid question. Now, why is this floating around. It has been floating around since August, and I think you’ve got to ask yourself, “who benefits from this rumor?” And the people who benefit from this rumor are the incumbents … The reality is the FAA will not allow you to close the airport. There are 20-year contracts in place at the airport. It is physically impossible to close it. This election is not about closing or not closing, it is about what type of growth are we going to have going forward … The innuendo around the closure is another attempt to stigmatize people who come in with genuine concerns about the way the airport’s headed … The FAA will not allow you to close the airport. Ken [Foster] knows that, Connie [Stevens] knows that…Considering that five households have registered 354 of the 787 noise and low-flight complaints, so you believe the noise problem at the airport is being exaggerated?No. There’s 221 people that have called in since January 1, 2003. There’s 787 complaints in the first nine months of this year, which is an increase over last year and last year was an increase over the previous year. The current board again, they are either unwilling or unable to understand that there is a real problem here. So instead of focusing on the fact that 221 people have called in, that those 221 people probably represent 20 to 50 people … The board’s response instead of saying, “we have a problem, we need to engage it,” is just to batter five individuals. Now the reality is those five individuals change every quarter. It is not the same five people every quarter that are the bulk of the complaints. It’s the five people that are brave enough in that three-month period to call in and take the backlash from the airport when they do that… The employees are doing what they have been asked to do by the board. I have tremendous respect for the employees. I think they are doing a great job. It is the board that is not providing the leadership that this community needs…Are jets appropriate for this small town airport in regard to the positive economic impacts and the negative noise impacts that they bring?I think that there needs to be some sort of control of the jets. We’ve heard from hundreds of people in the community that that is a big issue. Jet noise is a huge issue for the people of Truckee and Martis Valley. In terms of positive impacts, I think that it is approximately one in 100 people that live here is a pilot, and then within that the jet community might be one in 400, one in 500. So the benefits of one jet owner flying in, compared to the negative impacts … therefore on the 495 other people. What is the economic benefit from that one individual? What is the economic benefit from the 495 people that don’t have a plane. And you can’t ignore that if we get enough jets here those 495 people are going to go somewhere else.Would you support revising the Master Plan before the trigger set up by the airport board of 61,600 annual operations or the jet traffic exceeding 15 percent of the total airport traffic?The Master Plan needs to be revised because it doesn’t have the genuine input of the community right now. There was a process, they checked boxes, but there was no genuine effort to negotiate with the community about what this thing should be. I am sure that Ken [Foster] and Connie [Stevens] would say there was, but there wasn’t.
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