Monday, November 8, 2010

Bait ‘n Switch

StopCTA presented these comments to the Bastrop County Commissioners Court on November 8, 2010 during the Citizens’ Comments period.

Today we’re going to get technical. Really, really technical. Let’s see just how Carpenter & Associates managed to outwit, outplay and outlast everyone else at the 381 Agreement negotiating table.

For many months we’ve been trying to get answers to what should be very easy questions relating to aircraft size and cargo service in the 381 Agreement. Members of the Court have insisted that neither large planes nor cargo would be allowed. Yet, not one member of the Court or its agents would (or could) point to anything in the 381 to support that claim.

Thanks to Carpenter & Associates spokesperson T.R. Reid, we now know that aircraft as large as 737s will indeed “not be barred from landing at the proposed airport”. You can bet that’s what they’ve been planning all along. Here’s exactly how we think they accomplished their goal of creating a cargo hub without arousing any suspicions.

For this to work, Carpenter & Associates had to overcome several formidable obstacles:

1. Top of the list was to find a way around having to obtain an Airport Operating Certificate under 14CFR Part 139 rules. Why is that important? Because the current siting of the airport fails to meet the safety requirements spelled out in those very rules. If the rules were in play, the FAA simply would not approve airspace access to the CTA in its current unsuitable and very dangerous location.

2. Multiple tactics were used to avoid the 14CFR part 139 rules. ANY federal funding would have made adherence to the rules mandatory. So Carpenter & Associates made a big deal about the CTA being a PRIVATELY funded airport. Privatization had the bonus of eliminating the requirement for an Environmental Impact Study and other federal regulations so it was a two fer. The second tactic was to prohibit flights of 31 or more passengers. The rules are optional for flights of 30 passengers or less but mandatory for 31 or more.

Even then, the Court could have required that these rules be mandatory. But instead an exemption was written into the 381. Just how did that get-out-of-jail-free card slip by the Court and its legal advisors!?

3. The next challenge was how to open the door for CARGO service to the proposed industrial complex. The 381 carefully states that “the Airport is limited to charter and general aviation flights and cannot be used as a full-service commercial airport.” That sounds restrictive and reassuring but it’s actually an invitation. The operative word is ‘charter’. Who needs ‘commercial’ service when there is a thriving global, cargo charter business!?

4. The final hurdle was how to avoid restrictions on really big jets like 737s from using the airport. This was accomplished by simple misdirection. Although there is a clear limitation on number of passengers in the 381, there is not one reference to the actual SIZE of aircraft anywhere in the document.

None of us looking at the 381 after the fact can really know what went on behind the scenes. But we suspect that the Court was given assurances that somehow never made it into the 381 – quite simply, it was a very clever legal bait and switch. It’s like you ordered a Happy Meal at the drive thru and were served a Turkey Surprise at the other end. It’s time to wake up and smell the con.

We all want what’s best for Bastrop county. If there are indeed fatal flaws in the 381 that put the county and its citizens in jeopardy, they need to be addressed forcefully and immediately. Carpenter & Associates may be your financial partner but we the people are your partners in democracy. Working together, we can make this right.

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