Sunday, November 28, 2010
Abuse of Power was published in the December 10, 2010 Smithville Times. It included some rather amusing editorial additions.
At the last two Commissioners Court meetings, Judge McDonald, in his very affable manner, quietly announced a change in order of the agenda. The new order, moved the Citizen Comments which are routinely scheduled for the top of the agenda to the end after most other Court business had been tended to.
Citizens who have made the effort to come to the Courthouse to participate in their ‘representative’ government deserve better than to be sent to the end of the line. Some who come to speak take time off work to do so and lose income in the process. By adding an extra burden of up to an hour wait, the Court shows an insensitivity to and lack of respect for anything us ‘ordinary folk’ might have to say or the effort it takes to get there or the financial loss it might incur. It seems to be their not so subtle way of saying ‘go away and stop interfering with our usual bureaucratic routine’. It could also be interpreted as an attempt to silence opposition to the proposed Central Texas Airport.
Well, we will not be intimidated or silenced!
Keep in mind that even if the agenda is followed, each speaker only gets 3 minutes which flies by in a heartbeat. Go past three minutes and you are unceremoniously ‘terminated’.
The Judge has also noted on several occasions that the Court will not respond to questions during the comment period but that the Court will carefully consider what has been said. Well, after months of offering comments to the Court, there has been ZERO indication that anything we have presented has made one bit of difference. So please, either engage us in dialog or stop pretending that what we say matters.
The 381 Agreement which was only presented to the public as a fait accompli and the charade of Citizens comments illustrates a pattern that could easily be interpreted as an abuse of power.
As our elected representatives, the Commissioners are supposed to be working with us and for us. They do not ‘own’ the Court nor are they its ‘rulers’. But that’s exactly what it feels like from where we sit. An attitude readjustment from the Court is in order and overdue.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In a March 25, 2009 email to members of the Commissioners Court, James Carpenter indicated that:
“The 65 DNL noise level is the level at which land use is considered potentially affected.” Reading further, Mr. Carpenter indicates that “the 60 DNL level is considered safe for all uses,” and that “only a small area is included just outside the property boundary.”
This is patently untrue because the “noise study” that Carpenter & Associates are trumpeting was done at the Wiley Post Airport outside of Oklahoma City. This airport has been in existence for over fifty-years and the study was done to facilitate an expansion of the airport, as was the Addison airport near Dallas. The 65 DNL is fast becoming obsolete and may be replaced with 60 DNL as uninhabitable, with 50-55 DNL as the new minimum standard for habitability of structures.
Land elevation or “topography” makes a large difference in sound levels, as it will near the Central Texas Airport. The Wiley Post airport is on flat ground, but the CTA lies in the basin of the Colorado River with surrounds averaging 150 feet higher than the runway. A 737 flying at 500 feet above ground level (AGL) produces 115 Db. of sound, while the same aircraft at 650 AGL produces less.
Background noise is also a factor in urban areas, as the higher the background noise, the less apparent difference between a noisy aircraft and the traffic and other background noise. In the suburban areas surrounding the CTA, the background noise levels are much less, so a multi-engine 737 flying at 150’ AGL will seem orders of magnitude louder than in an area with more population.
Mr. Carpenter also plans to change the DNL contours as he states in this same letter, “Our actual noise contours will ultimately be remapped once we have signed up our based aircraft and establish our operating requirements and rules for utilizing CTA runway and airport facilities.”
The recognized standard for aviation noise-level contours in the FAA’s Integrated Noise Modeling program which should be used on this site and should include a complete list of the largest cargo-aircraft that may utilize this facility, and the expected frequency of flights, which Mr. Carpenter has pegged at 250 per day.
Anything less is a deception.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The Bastrop City Council voted a resolution of non-support for Carpenter’s legislative efforts in 2009 the day after his big presentation at the Commissioners Court. Davis McAuley covered this too.
Bastrop City Council says no to private airport proposal
By Davis McAuley
April 14th, 2009
Bastrop, Tx–Austin developer James Carpenter won no Bastrop City Council support Tuesday for his plan to develop a 2,000-acre site west of town for a private general aviation airport and plots for related businesses. In fact the council instructed the city manager to prepare a resolution of non-support for the project, which will be forwarded to the state senator and state representative whose districts include Bastrop County.
The state lawmakers previously indicated they will not support creation of a special municipal utility district for the proposed airport without the endorsement of the city council and county commissioners. That suggests the council’s action Tuesday could doom the project, at least for the current legislative session.
Monday the Bastrop County commissioners held a hearing on the same topic but postponed any action on the issue, pending further public input which has been largely unfavorable so far.
Council Member Dock Jackson said the council action Tuesday came because of too little available information about the airport plan. Other council members voiced similar concerns both before and after a presentation by Carpenter about what he called a “massive economic development project” which could create thousands of well-paid jobs.
“There’s a lot more we need to learn,” said Council Member Julie Hart.
There’s likely too little time left during the present legislative session to work through the complex issues presented by the Carpenter proposal, said Council Member Joe Beal. “We’re hearing this for the first time (tonight),” Beal said Tuesday.
By state law the Legislature will adjourn at the end of May.
Davis McAuley’s report on Jim Carpenter’s initial presentation to the Commissioners Court on Monday, April 13, 2009 is very informative and well worth a read.
Monday airport hearing yields high drama
By Davis McAuley
April 14th, 2009
Bastop, Tx - Monday’s 7 p.m. hearing before Bastrop County commissioners was a sterling example of how exciting local political theater can be in these parts. The issue was whether the county should endorse a private general aviation airport proposal put forward by James Carpenter of Austin-based Carpenter & Associates. The proposed site is north of the Colorado River across from the new Cedar Creek High School and the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa.
For building dramatic tension and emotion-releasing resolution, I don’t recall such a riveting show in years, though we’ve seen some pretty good dust-ups in that time. Even the famous Austin City Council marathon hearings have seldom matched the intensity and clarity of Monday’s impromptu theater in Bastrop. And it took less than two hours from start to finish.
The protagonist, of course, was Carpenter himself with his ample silvery hair. It’s not clear yet, however, whether he was the hero caught in an unexpected ambush or merely acting bravely in the face of looming disaster. Think, perhaps, of George Armstrong Custer with his flowing locks at the Little Big Horn River. I must stop short, I think, of comparing Bluebonnet General Manager Mark Rose to Crazy Horse or some other Sioux war leader, but by the end of the evening Monday he certainly counted coup on Carpenter.
Here’s the deal. Carpenter & Associates wants the Texas Legislature to created a special municipal utility district (MUD), perhaps with enhanced powers, to aid the creation of the private airport and associated business/industrial park proposed for a 2,000-acre site between the Colorado River and the intersection of FM 969 and FM 1704 southwest of Elgin.
Monday, November 22, 2010
StopCTA presented these comments to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court on November 22, 2010 during the Citizens’ Comments period.
For months, your constituents have been trying to bring the flaws in the 381 Agreement that are not in Bastrop County’s best interests to your attention. Unfortunately, our efforts seem to be falling on deaf ears. It has become quite apparent that this governing body rules by proclamation not participation.
We know you’re in a pickle with the 381 but ignoring those of us who want to help you fix the problem is so wrong on so many counts. Members of the Court have been circling the wagons and dialog has shut down. Just what is going on? My phone messages to Commissioner Klaus and Beckett have gone unanswered. Commissioner Dildy and I had a lengthy conversation several weeks ago but the Commissioner’s earnest promise to get back to me in a few days never materialized. Commissioner, is your word always so reliable?
So just who is responsible for the 381? Well, technically the attorneys representing the County’s and the Company’s interests.
But the FOIA documents make it perfectly clear that the 381 Agreement fiasco rests squarely on the shoulders of you Judge McDonald and you Commissioner Dildy. You were the only members of the Court who were part of the ‘working group’ which also included Lisa Smith (County Auditor) and Ronnie Moore (County Engineer). The other members of the Court weren’t even a footnote to the negotiations.
The exchange on the non-negotiable items was quite instructive. I can now understand why you ‘thought’ you had protected the County. Unfortunately, we all now know that the ‘protections’ are insufficient to prevent the CTA from becoming an active international cargo hub.
I honestly can’t see why you bought into what Carpenter was selling. His glowing descriptions of this project and financial shell games should have been enough to send any thinking person running as fast as possible in the opposite direction! It is schemes like this that are bankrupting the county!
I’m hoping that the FOIA to the State of Texas, specifically, Governor Perry, Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Senator Hegar, and Rep. Kleinschmidt, will shed some light on what other influences might be in play. Stay tuned.