A Better Plan(e)

The year was 2004.  Mayor Luken signed & City Council passed Ordinance 167-2004 effectively prohibiting the City from soliciting commercial service providers to Lunken.

The year is 2013.  The City Administration has recently been in talks with Allegiant Air about doing precisely what ordinance 167-2004 says it cannot.

The campaign trail has introduced me to so many new people who are experts in their field.  It is clear to me that one thing Cincinnati is NOT short on is knowledgeable citizens.  This is good news for us – we never need to hire consultants because our citizens have most of the answers.  This knowledgeable citizenry has greatly aided me and my fascination with Lunken.

One of Linwood’s community leaders has been very gracious to lend me support in my Lunken studies, and has helped provide me documentation for my perusal along the way.  I begin this post with a very appreciative shout out to Alex Linser.  Thank you, Alex.

And now back to the topic at hand.

I add the following to my official policy platform.  That is, once elected, I promise to stand firm in my position that I do NOT support Lunken’s FAA status being changed to allow for commercial carriers.

For Lunken to to bring Allegiant Air to town, they would have to change their FAA status from Class IV to another status.  Lunken’s current status, Class IV, is defined by the FAA Website, as “an airport certificated to serve unscheduled passenger operations of large air carrier aircraft. A Class IV airport cannot serve scheduled large or small air carrier aircraft.”

Translation:  scheduled passenger flights and/or commercial flights cannot come to Lunken.

“What’s so bad about passenger flights/commercial flights leaving from, or coming to, Lunken,” you rightly ask?

Nothing, really.

However. . . .if Lunken’s status is changed, then the City will have NO authority to restrict the amount of commercial traffic that comes in & out of the airport.  No authority.  Why?  Because the type of FAA status Lunken would need to bring in Allegiant Air would prohibit them from denying landing privileges to any carriers.  Furthermore, much of this conversation has been happening without the oversight of the Lunken Airport Oversight and Advisory Board (created in 2000 by an ordinance & charged with the duty of overseeing operations at the airport).  Where has the LAOAB been?  To be frank, nowhere really.  Fred Anderton, the airport manager, has effectively & slowly eroded the board’s authority to the point that many members simply stopped showing up to meetings.  Furthermore, the mayor did not appoint replacements for these members when their term limits expired.

So why the secret talks?  Why the sense of urgency? Why the seemingly deliberate disintegration of an oversight body?

The answer can be found in a recent Cincinnati Enquirer article from August 29th, 2013 titled, “Lunken Wasted Thousands of Dollars, Says Audit.”  The Airport needs a new revenue stream, but at what expense?  Whose fault is their current state of affairs?  Surely it is not the citizens in the “Lunken Neighborhoods,” i.e., Linwood, Mt. Lookout, East End, Columbia Tusculm, and others.

You see, it is THESE citizens that will hurt the most if Lunken changes their Class IV status.

In other cities where this type of expansion took place, property values dropped by 40%.  Many middle-income families have most, if not all, of their equity tied into their home.  The expansion of Lunken would be devastating to those families around Lunken and create even MORE poverty in a City that has far more that it can handle already.  Furthermore, the City only actualizes around 30% of its revenue from property tax anyway – a drop in values would hit core services on the City-wide level as well.  At the end of the day, the destruction of livable communities in the Lunken Neighborhoods would have an adverse effect on EVERY community.  I repeat, 52 equals 1.

Lastly, just to be clear, this issue is NOT the same as the runway expansion project at Lunken.  I support the expansion as it would allow corporate jets to take off and land with tanks filled with enough fuel for no-layover flights to Asia.  This would serve to not only retain many companies that provide numerous jobs in our City (P&G to name but one), but it could also potentially attract MORE businesses to locate here in Cincinnati.  Additionally, these flights would not open the door to an uncontrollable amount of commercial flights coming and going all day long as Lunken would be able to remain Class IV with the runway expansion.

All of that said, Lunken Airport still is in the midst of a financial crisis.  This I recognize and is why I have reached out to a coalition of Lunken Neighborhood Leaders and asked for a seat at their table.  They are designing an economically viable plan for the airport that is not a detriment to the quality of life to the neighborhoods.  I am currently learning from them, and fully plan to bring a feasible alternative to the stake holders at Lunken that will have come from those with the most knowledge – the citizens.  I, like the citizens of the Lunken Neighborhoods, do not want to impede progress, but feel that the plan for Lunken’s future should incorporate the neighbors affected by a potential change in status, and not just pushed through by an administration that is effectively at risk of violating a City ordinance.

To all East Side Lunken Neighborhoods – I hear you.  To all other neighborhoods – quality of life is at the forefront of my mind, and all 52 of us need to rally around each other and see to it that every one of our neighborhoods is as livable as the next.