Sound Off: Whidbey should say no to taxpayer-supported airport


Why are our public officials signing on to using tax money to “support” the Monroe Landing airport, which the Port of Coupeville is trying to purchase? Why are our public servants putting taxpayers on the hook for “sustaining” this airport? Why is local government competing against private enterprise? Why is the port, county, the Oak Harbor City Council getting into the business of business? Government is not supposed to compete with private business and it is certainly not supposed to pick winners or losers. So, why are they doing this? Who benefits?

I suspect that 90% of the residents of this island will never get any direct benefit from this endeavor. So why are we allowing our hard-earned tax dollars to be spent on making this airport “sustainable”? If it is sustainable, why shouldn’t a private owner benefit from his investment? If it is not sustainable, why are our elected officials putting our money into it? None of this makes any sense to the common person. All the talk is about “sustainability” and “support” but little at all about how we, the taxpayers, benefit.

Currently, we are blessed to have easy access to air transportation without having to invest our own tax dollars. There is SeaTac, of course, and, closer by is Paine Field in Everett. There is also Bellingham and, closer yet, Skagit Regional airport. We have the advantage of these easy-to-access airports without putting our own money at risk — or taking any responsibility for an airport, environmental impact studies, pollution clean-up, etc. Why are our public officials willing to put public (our!) money into what should be a private business?

All talk about the airport centers on “why the port feels public ownership would provide the most sustainable future for the airport.” Sustainability, support … but nothing that makes a sound case for putting taxpayers on the line for this business. The airport was once, could and should be again, a private venture, leaving the taxpayer out of the airport business and off the hook for future expenses and uncertain economic fluctuations.

A few pathetic reasons have been put forth regarding the need for “public ownership.” One is to “preclude the eventual upheaval of a private owner passing away.” Really? Owners of businesses pass away all the time — should the county, city and port purchase all businesses to “preclude” such upheavals?

A second reason thrown out is that, in case of a natural disaster, somehow this tiny airport will come to the rescue of tens of thousands of Whidbey residents. Really? We already have the Navy with its large transport planes and longer runways. Who are you fooling? Again, who really benefits?

In short, someone, somewhere is getting a good deal (and local officials are getting more power and control over us and our pocketbooks) at our expense. As was published in the April 8 News-Times, “the port intends to fund its purchase by partnering with the county (and Oak Harbor), and then using the money provided for contingency studies once it owns the airport.” This does not sound like a solid business plan for the average taxpayer, but it sure sounds like a good deal for someone. But who? Who benefits?

Councilmember Bryan Stucky had the right idea early on when he was hesitant about supporting the interlocal agreement. But the port’s presentation “made him feel more at ease.” Of course it did; that’s what good rhetoric does when it makes a case for itself. Our local officials need to do their own study and their own thinking, for themselves and on behalf of us, the residents and taxpayers, instead of taking the word of the groups that are in favor of this move. “After hearing from the port, plus a number of general aviation pilots,” our elected officials feel better about the port’s “vision for the property.” Gosh, I am so glad. It’s good to know at least one group that is going to benefit because, for the life of me, I can’t see that I or my neighbors will get much benefit, at least none that wouldn’t come from private ownership, leaving my tax money out of it.

Peggy Shekem lives in a rural area of Coupeville on a small “farmette” and has a strong interest in environmental and political issues.