Saturday, September 4, 2004
At the end of her Viewpoints letter on Aug. 29, Gail Garneau poses an excellent question: "If the City Council pro-airport majority of Paul Strong, Kathy Connell, Nancy Kramer and Loui Antonucci will not put this issue on this November ballot, why not?"
Fortunately the first few paragraphs of her letter answer her own question. These lines are one more example of misrepresentations that cause the facts to be distorted to an extreme. If the electorate is continuously bombarded with tainted financial information from individuals and LLCs operating as Political Action Committees, they cannot be expected to vote in an informed manner.
Taking last weeks letter as an example of tainted truth:
The statement "the city's proposed 2005 budget includes $379,000 transferred from the general fund to the Steamboat Springs Airport" implies that it costs $379,000 in operating funds to keep the airport in business.
But the fact is $287,000 of the $379,000 are interest and lease costs associated with the terminal building. The terminal is not necessary for the operation of the airport but rather the result of mistakes made by prior councils.
The statement "there will be an additional $1 million in taxpayer dollars for airport capital improvements with the possibility of more" sounds like the council is going to spend another million bucks.
The fact is the city would be asked to spend $32,000 for capital improvements. The balance of the funds ($952,000) would come from grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the state of Colorado. Maybe they can form an LLC to keep the airport open.
The statement "if the two airports were combined, the $7.5 million from the Steamboat Springs Airport would not go away, but instead be shifted to the Hayden airport" implies that the businesses, employees, emergency medical services, and aircraft all will relocate to Hayden. It assumes that tourists who fly their planes to the Steamboat Springs Airport will find Hayden just as convenient. While it is a bit presumptuous, I am quite sure that none of these will transfer their activities lock stock and barrel to Hayden.
In closing, I am a pilot and would be quite disappointed to see the airport close. However, I think public debates on how a local government spends its money are healthy and should be enjoined.
The disturbing thing to me is that there is a group of residents in our town who wish to distort the facts for their own personal agendas. If the debate needs to continue to analyze the airport financials, we all need a common set of facts so the debate can be logical and not self-serving for either side.
Any debate should include the millions of dollars in private money that have been used to construct buildings at the airport that over time will revert to city ownership and become income-producing assets for Steamboat. Perhaps the City Council could agree (all members) on a legitimate set of numbers for the direct operating costs and benefits of the airport and present those to the public without prejudice. That way we can have an intelligent electorate, not one molded by propaganda.