Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When policy disagreements attack....!

The LO email box was the recipient today of a link to Oregon Aviation Revealed, sponsored (and presumably written) by Miki Barnes and her husband David--although their names don't appear anywhere on the site. Miki sent the email to us, and when we inquired about the owner/propietor of the site Miki told us that it was herself and her husband.

If you click the link, you can see that Mrs. Barnes claims that Senate Bill 807 is an inconsiderate piece of legislation which allows public funds to be used to "subsidize" private aviation:

Oregon Senate Bill (SB) 807, sponsored by Senator Betsy Johnson, makes provisions by which surrounding communities may be taxed on behalf of rural airport owners and operators eager to line their pockets at public expense by engaging in flight training, aircraft sales and maintenance, helicopter and fixed wing scenic tours, and various other for-profit aviation activities. This legislation gives no consideration to residents in both urban and rural communities who are opposed to loud, intrusive, polluting aviation activity as well as the safety and security risks that are direct result of aviation growth and expansion.

That the legislature would even seriously consider taxing surrounding communities for airports many residents don't even want and that serve the private owners and operators rather than the public good is galling beyond belief.

Among the provisions in Senate Bill 807 is a section that allows for the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department to "enter into agreements providing for a partial rebate of new property tax revenues to the airport sponsor that operates and maintains the airport within the airport tax increment financing district."

Barnes also takes a swipe at Betsy Johnson:

Senator Betsy Johnson was highly instrumental in establishing the Oregon State Department of Aviation (ODA) as separate from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Since its inception in 2000, the (ODA) has funneled more than $66 million into the aviation industry - a substantial portion of which came from federal tax dollars. ODA also receives money from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

According to its website, the purpose of the ODA is to advocate for the growth of airports in Oregon and to provide "assistance to aviation constituents, airport owners/sponsors and aviation system users throughout Oregon."

In other words, Oregon has an entire government department designed to channel public funds into private aviation business interests.

What will the Oregon Legislature come up with next --a department to fund golf courses, country clubs, and yachting events?

And then this gem:

Transwestern Aviation, a business founded by Johnson and now run by her husband John Helm, sells fuel, offers sightseeing tours, and provides aircraft maintenance. It is located at Scappoose Airport, a facility that has positioned itself on the receiving end of more than a half million dollars of ODA funds over the past 5 years - $144,000 in 2006, $72,000 in 2005, $10,000 in 2004, $59,041 in 2003, $110,000 in 2002, $150,000 in 2001. Clearly Johnson and Helm have benefited greatly from creating a department of government that uses taxpayer dollars to underwrite the private aviation interests of themselves and their cohorts. But they are not alone - other GA airports throughout the area that have also profited from this arrangement include Aurora - over $3 million, Mulino - $823,000, Hillsboro - over $15 million, Troutdale - $695,000, and McMinnville - $1,419,000.

No word from Barnes as to exactly how the measly $100+k per year that Scappoose Airport got from the ODA was used. Perhaps to fill potholes in the runway? Perhaps to repair or replace damaged equipment? These are PUBLIC airports, after all.

I'm not in a position to necessarily defend or negate the points of SB807. But I tire of these lame attempts to link Johnson to some sort of nefarious activity that benefits her and this laundry list of cronies--when its clear that this is not the case.

Especially when Barnes' issue isn't about the money. Its about noise.

Barnes apparently doesn't like airports very much. In fact, she's gone out of her way to make herself heard on the issue repeatedly.

Barnes doesn't want airports expanded and economically stable because they're NOISY.

So this is a policy disagreement having nothing to do with unethical or corrupt behavior by Betsy Johnson.

Interestingly, Willamette Week's error-problemed yanked piece, built part of the piece's premise on the question of whether or not public money should be used to promote rural aviation-related businesses.