For those of you that don’t receive the print edition of the Longmont Times-Call, you missed a barn burner of a Longmont City Council meeting on October 26th. For some odd reason, it wasn’t in the online edition, which probably would have started a flame war in the comment section anyway. Allow me to fill you in…
Check out the video of the meeting here
See the meeting minutes here
Two major developments occurred at this meeting. One was a big change to the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act (LFCPA) which ended the Election Committee. You’ll find on this blog and my previous ones all the problems I had with the LFCPA and the EC, enough so that I sued the city on First Amendment grounds and won. Some of the judge’s decision was instituted in the change to the campaign law, and it basically made the Election Committee moot.
I advocated early on to strip the “quasi-judicial” aspect of the EC – as I saw them as kangaroo court, judge, jury, and executioner – but council went one step further and just got rid of them altogether. This was a major blow to the radicals who swept into office in November 2007 and their followers. The amended LFCPA and some of the appointed hit-squad on the EC was a crowning achievement of theirs, but one that cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars on a poorly conceived law and procedure. Good riddance.
The other development involved the Vance Brand Airport and its Master Plan update. The first 2 hours of this meeting was public comment. By an unofficial count, there were 14 pro-airport, 11 anti-airport expansion, and 3 somewhere in the middle. This may have broken all records for Public Invited To Be Heard. CARE, Citizens Against Runway Expansion, were the majority of the anti-airport expansion group. Their latest theme is that the Master Plan is “flawed“, someone needs to go back and count how many times this word was used. I guess this simplistic strategy works for the lowest common denominator – well, they did get a single vote on council for their effort from the quite “flawed” Sean McCoy. Some of them weren’t too happy with a blog entry on this site I titled “Quelling an anti-airport jihad“. Needless to say I got the desired effect and I don’t much CARE what they have to say or think. Why’s that? Please, let me explain.
I am on the Airport Advisory Board (AAB), as appointed by city council. I do care what people have to say about the airport – pro or con – done in a civil and fact based way. CARE does not fit into those categories. They deal in over-the-top fear mongering based on the thimble’s worth of aviation knowledge they’ve gathered over the last couple of months. Sorry if it’s getting harder for reasonable people to take them seriously. They started out with a logo with a Boeing 747 with a slash through it (hmm, wonder if that’s where the “jihad” concept came from), not very smart. They then held meetings where they booed and shouted down people with differing opinions – now I hear their meetings aren’t so publicized and kept pretty non-transparent.
They put up billboards and sent out postcards with their logo and propaganda, which sounds like it had the reverse effect they were hoping for. So far, they’ve garnered 1 vote (out of 7 council members) in a couple council meetings for all of their efforts and have awoken a pro-aviation community that is fed up with their smear campaign. After their recent attacks on legitimate airport businesses, pilots, and users I decided to make the controversial move of removing them from the Community Involvement Committee (CIC). This recommendation to council is clearly within our role as an advisory board, and council didn’t have to go along with it. I knew it would bring heat to us, but that didn’t matter.
What did matter was that we as a board were not going to reward bad behavior and condone CARE’s tactics by keeping them on the CIC with legitimate groups like LAVA, LAEC, Chamber of Commerce and the other stakeholders involved. If council felt differently, so be it. Much to my surprise and delight, the AAB vote was unanimous.
The city council went one step further and dissolved the entire CIC at this meeting, something the AAB briefly talked about but did not include in our recommendations. This is no great loss though and won’t lessen community involvement. In my opinion, and I’m not alone, the formation of the CIC was questionable. Refer back to an earlier piece I wrote called “Airports and activists: Question motives, agenda of airport detractors” where a vote on council was misconstrued by CARE to say they should be involved with the Scope of Work. That’s not what Councilmember Sarah Levison moved or what was voted on. But the CIC was born, and CARE was put on it. Instant de-legitimization of the process quickly followed.
Emboldened by that, CARE went further on the attack and their input in the CIC was evident in the first paper we received at the AAB. My main problem with the CIC was that unlike our meetings theirs were not public and not publicized. They also got the draft Scope of Work weeks before we did and we were tasked with perusing and approving it in the matter of a couple of days and a single meeting. We shot that down, even though it meant delaying the Master Plan. At the following meeting a month later, we got a better document and amended it, including the removal of CARE from the CIC.
Around the same time, CARE complained to the FAA that the Table Mountain Association wasn’t part of the CIC. Their response was quite interesting (emphasis added). (Full disclosure: while I work for the FAA, it’s a completely different branch and we have no interaction whatsoever. I have no influence over them and vice-versa, nor have I ever contacted this branch about this process)
“The FAA has no position as we are not aware that the City of Longmont has excluded any person or public group from the public involvement program for master plan update. I would guess membership was limited to keep the CIC to a manageable size but you’ll need to discuss the matter with the city. I’ve received no complaints and based on what I heard at the September Airport Advisory Board, the city is going beyond anything the FAA would require for public involvement in a master plan update. It appears there will be many opportunities for individuals and organizations to participate in the master plan process.” “Typically, master plan updates at GA airports involve two or three public meetings and an appendix to the master plan that summarizes public concerns and the airport sponsor’s response to these concerns. The very fact the City of Longmont has included the public in the management of the master plan study is unheard of and I give the city credit for trying to involve the public at such an early stage. I’m more concerned that the city is focusing so much time and energy involving the public that the concerns and needs of airport users and tenants will be overlooked.”
You can guess CARE’s reaction to this: the FAA can now be added to the list of “bad guys”, or “enemies of CARE”. They also tied the consultant working on the Master Plan, Jviation, to the Gulf Oil Spill or some such nonsense, and said the fact that one of their members skydived in Longmont is some kind of conflict of interest. Yes, this is how low they are willing to go – and I’m only scratching the surface. Maybe in another piece I’ll list all of the ridiculous things they have claimed. Actually, just look at previous airport related pieces on this site and you’ll see some of it.
For my motion, I got called “rogue” from perennial council clown Sean McCoy – nevermind I got a unanimous vote from the AAB – and he got NO support from his own council. Who’s “rogue” again? I’m sure he was seeing red, er, rouge. He is the definition of the “small, fringe element” he once called others. CARE should be proud to have him as their lone city council advocate.