My Turn | SierraSun.com

My Turn

Paul Vatistas

The struggle over the future of Martis Valley is about to open a new chapter with the November elections for the Tahoe Truckee Airport Board (TTAB). Get ready for more jets, more noise, more development, more pollution, and another blow to the wildlife and our environment. Or, instead, ask Ken Foster, Don Starbard, and Connie Stevens to stand down in November. The current five member TTAB controls policy at the Truckee Airport and is supposed to balance the needs of general aviation with the needs of our local community. However, all five members of the board are pilots, and see their role as serving the aviation community, and not the 99 percent of our community in North Tahoe and who are not pilots.The current board of pilots supports the existing Master Plan for the airport that includes doubling the number of flights over the next ten years, a new runway, new hangars, a new terminal, and de-icing facilities. This is great news for the Chicago-based private jet owner, but not such good news for the 99 percent of Tahoe residents who are not pilots. More planes and jets means more noise, a greater safety risk for our community, more pollution, more traffic, and further negative impact on local wildlife that is already under stress. You can find more detail on these impacts on the web at http://www.airportcare.org.The current board of pilots also believes that the airport expansion Master Plan does not need an environmental impact report, as this might highlight some of the concerns that have been raised by the 99 percent. This is definitely irresponsible in a place such as Tahoe, and probably illegal too, but five-out-of-five pilots agreed it was unnecessary. To add insult to injury, you are paying for these negative impacts. The Truckee airport receives $2.6 million from property taxes in a district that is drawn from Meeks Bay right around the northshore to Kings Beach, and not just from the Truckee/Martis Valley area. Some of that money goes to paychecks for a board of pilots that is endorsing a plan that further degrades our way of life here in North Tahoe.Some current board members will claim they are against expansion of the airport or that they are powerless to prevent the additional traffic that will be landing at the airport. This argument is weak – if the board members are that ineffective in representing the 99 percent of non-pilots in our community, then they should step down.The Truckee Tahoe Airport Board has been hijacked by a group of pilots who cannot claim to represent the true interests of the 99 percent of our community that do not fly. It is self-evident that the TTAB needs to be controlled by non-pilots who live in the community around it, and if you are a non-pilot voter it is clear that the current board does not represent you. If Don, Connie, and Ken refuse to stand down, then we need to vote them out in November.Paul Vatistas is theexecutive director of the North Tahoe Conservation Coalitionin Tahoe City