Campaign rhetoric fueling airport board election debate
August 17, 2004
A recent article in the Sierra Sun quoted a candidate for Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors as stating that Truckee is a victim of its own success. The candidate quoted by the newspaper couldn’t be more correct. As this community grows, air traffic will increase. As a member of the board of directors not up for re-election, I want to share with you, my constituents, the facts about air traffic and overflight. The airport district has gone to great lengths to address the community’s concerns about an increase in air traffic we have experienced in recent years. In fact, we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into this issue, creating the most progressive noise abatement program to be found at any airport. However, a small group of vocal folks have taken it upon themselves to use local government as a means to further their own personal agenda. In lieu of addressing the root of the problem, this group has decided to sensationalize an issue with which our airport has no authority or control over. The root of the problem is actually located immediately adjacent to the airport on Airport Road – it’s called town hall. It’s a place where a town government has handed out entitlements and permits for new construction like candy on Halloween over the past several years. One need only look at the Town of Truckee’s budget to see how economically advantageous it is for it to grow this community. Permits and development fees account for the third greatest source of the town’s budgeted revenue. If you take into consideration that property taxes, which are directly related to growth, are the number-one source of revenue for the Town of Truckee, it becomes clearly evident why the town continues on a fast-tracked path of growth. Without growth, the Town of Truckee’s bureaucracy couldn’t support itself. Growth is an absolute economic necessity to the Town of Truckee. There’s always going to be a certain percentage of people who choose to fly as their mode of travel. And with growth, more homes are built in the flight path. Accordingly, with more growth, more people use the airport. All the while, the Town of Truckee does nothing to curtail growth or discourage housing development near the airport. To the contrary, it supports development close to the airport. Then, the citizens of this community decide they have an ax to grind with the airport because planes are flying over their homes. Now I don’t knock the Town of Truckee for its decision to permit growth within our community. But don’t blame the airport for planes flying over your homes. The airport district has no control over airspace or air traffic. That responsibility rests with the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport is merely meeting the demand of increased air traffic by providing a safe environment to takeoff and land, to depart and deplane. Truckee Tahoe Airport is a public-use facility that is part of the national air transportation system. We are obligated to uphold federal regulations, and we must permit access to all who desire access to the airport at all times, weather permitting. If you show me a first-rate community, I’ll show you a first-rate airport within that community. Truckee Tahoe Airport is a fine representation of this analogy. Currently, Sierraville’s Deerwater Airport is being reconstructed from the ground up. Last year, Beckwourth’s Nervino Airport was completely resurfaced. Reno-Stead Airport is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar upgrade. In the past three years, Truckee Tahoe Airport has received approximately $20 million in federal grants, as the FAA recognizes that our airport is critical to this community. Yet critics of the airport oppose any improvements and want to curtail operations. Truckee Tahoe Airport is often the first place people see when they arrive in Truckee. Thousands benefit from our airport being here, and as your representative, I will stand by you to ensure the continued operations of our airport are maintained in a first-rate manner without any restrictions whatsoever.An organization of citizens called C.A.R.E., who are opposed to the airport and its board of directors, have publicly stated that we should be promoting the use of Reno-Tahoe International Airport to reduce the negative impacts of air traffic in and around Truckee. This is one of the most absurd and preposterous concepts I have ever heard. Nevada is not a wasteland or a dump at our disposal for those undesirable impacts of community growth. We don’t send our sewage to Reno, nor does our refuse get trucked down there for processing. Further, our friends and neighbors in Reno certainly wouldn’t appreciate this Not In My Backyard attitude (NIMBYism) where they take the impact of our unchecked, rampant community growth. But C.A.R.E. and other candidates have made representations and campaign promises that are nothing more than self-serving political rhetoric. Like the airport district itself, C.A.R.E. has no ability to control or restrict air traffic into or out of our airport. Their efforts would be better served voicing their concerns about the rampant, ongoing community growth to our representatives at town hall adjacent to the airport. C.A.R.E. should not expect the airport to reduce or restrict air traffic, as the root of this problem rests squarely on the shoulders of the Town of Truckee’s desire for community growth. As our election season heats up, voters should be leery of any representations made by any candidates who claim they can reduce air traffic. These representations are merely political promises that cannot be delivered. Michael Golden is a director on the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board.