Sunday, February 6, 2011
A truncated version of this article was published in the Bastrop Advertiser on February 4, 2009.
By Phil Cook
Jim Carpenter, the developer, claims that he intends to build a “green” airport and industrial park on land in far western Bastrop County bounded on the north by Hwy. 969, where it meets Hwy. 1704, and on the south by the Colorado River. Dismiss Carpenter’s “green” claim out of hand: airports are, by nature, highly polluting. The jet fuel, the lubricants and chemicals needed to service the aircraft, the exhaust from the planes, the noise, the runway and airport lighting, the increased traffic, all are polluting. The pollution and disruption caused by an airport are by no means limited to the site itself. Its effects will be felt well south of Hwy. 71, almost to Elgin to its north, into Travis County to its west, and at the Hyatt-Regency Resort and the McKinney Roughs Nature Park to its east and southeast. Although Carpenter has yet to indicate the position and orientation of the runway, almost any north-south orientation that would fit on the site would aim almost directly at the new Cedar Creek High School, about four miles away.
Carpenter claims that the airport will attract many clean industries and thousands of jobs, but he has produced nothing of substance to support his claims. For example, he claims that a cutting edge solar energy facility will be built there, and that Bluebonnet Electric Coop has agreed to buy the electricity produced. Although the solar facility has been discussed and explored, he has produced no contract for such a facility, and as we learned from Mark Rose, Bluebonnet’s General Manager, in his 1/15 letter in the Advertiser, Bluebonnet has not agreed to buy the electricity produced by such a facility.
The developer claims that “a need” exists for a general aviation airport, that Austin Bergstrom Airport lacks the facilities to store and service all of the private and corporate jets that would fly in and out of Austin if facilities were available. I know of no one in Bastrop County that uses private jets as a means of transportation. Certainly, some residents use small propeller planes for travel, business, and recreation, but the Smithville Airport and other existing facilities can easily handle these planes. As for the rest of us, when we fly, we use the commercial flights at Bergstrom. The folks who want to use private jets can well do the same; no “need” exists.
To my mind, the most disturbing aspect of the airport saga is the way in which the airport was negotiated and supported by some of our local elected officials, and what is says about their disregard for the democratic process. Democracy begins locally, through our school boards, city councils, and commissioners court. These bodies have direct and frequent contact with the public; their plans can and should reflect the considered advice of the citizenry. The Bastrop County Commissioners Court has consistently failed to do this in planning for the airport. The Court has not acted corruptly or selfishly; I think that some members of the Court are so convinced of the beneficial economic development that the airport will bring has led them to disregard the previous land use and development plans for the county that they, themselves played a large part in establishing, and to downplay the negative effects that the airport will bring. Consider the following.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
This morning, February 3, four ambassadors from StopCTA and GUARD braved the frigid temperature to meet with Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt in his Capitol office.
Rep. Kleinschmidt, looking quite dapper in a lavender shirt and tie, had obviously been briefed, was fairly conversant with the issue and fielded our questions with the assurance and skill of an experienced politician. The atmosphere was relaxed and conversational. As any politician, he was careful to avoid taking a position and gave the impression that he will predictably follow the least controversial course.
Early on he quipped something like “when Carpenter comes to town, we keep a close eye on him”. But at the same time we were reminded that as a private developer, he can do pretty much what he wants. This is a mantra we’ve heard all too often from our County officials.
Wake up folks! The ‘private’ sector is running roughshod over public protections and the will of the people around the globe . . . all for profit in the guise of ‘economic development’.
We tried our best to explain the Wildlife Hazard issues but Rep. Kleinschmidt didn’t seem to ‘get’ it and kept deflecting the discussion every time we tried to come back to it.
Something however did seem to click when he was reminded first of the Joe Stack Echelon attack and then of the proximity of the CTA - which will only have ‘private security’ - to the state Capitol. The mention that 737s will be using the CTA seemed to take him by surprise.
He advised that should the bill for the MUD go forward, we need to watch closely, follow its progress in committee and make our concerns known at that time. He has not yet seen a copy of the bill.
But then he went on to explain that if certain conditions were met, the bill would be passed regardless of any citizen objections. Those conditions are a ‘green light’ from EISD, BCCC, BISD and the City of Bastrop. He was firmly reminded that those entities did not elect him. That the people of Bastrop County did!
And there’s the crux of the problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians asked, “What can I do for you” instead of telling us “This is how the system works and your voice doesn’t count for much” . . . except, of course, during the charade of cyclical, corporate-funded elections.
Ultimately, the only way to fix this is to put and end to corporate rule. Sadly, that may not come to pass until we as a species climb out of the rubble of corporate destruction.
That being said . . . we’ve gotta keep trying to take back our self-governance.
It’s time to take a stand!! Let’s get active and educate as many local officials as we can!! Maybe, just maybe, they’ll come to their senses and save the County from shooting itself in the foot.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Back in the day of real environmental activism, the acronym ‘NIMBY - Not In My Back Yard’ (or put that damned thing somewhere else) - was coined. A ‘NIMBY’ approach quietly (and rightfully) faded from the scene many years ago.
But recently, one of our local newspapers revived that unfortunate label to describe the Bastrop County citizens groups that are opposing the Central Texas Airport/Eco-Merge fiasco down on the banks of the Colorado River.
So, in honor of the ‘Resurrection of NIMBY,’ we now introduce ‘DIMBY - Develop In My Back Yard’ - to identify the politicians, groups, and individuals who want to destroy our county with dangerous and noxious developments that they think will turn into a pot of gold.
Here’s how to recognize the DIMBIES who walk among us. Let’s go pin the tail on the DIMBY!
A DIMBY does not really know what ‘environment’ means.
A DIMBY will believe anything a developer says, regardless of common sense.
In other words, a DIMBY is devoid of common sense.
A DIMBY believes that there is ‘acceptable traffic and acceptable noise’ as long as it brings in $$.
Note that a DIMBY probably wears a hearing-aid and doesn’t drive.
A DIMBY believes in giving tax breaks to corporations in hopes that increased tax revenue will support school districts.
In other words, a DIMBY believes in Santa Claus.
A DIMBY thinks that jet aircraft can fly through flocks of water fowl without damage (like Bastrop County’s Director of Planning & Development does).
A DIMBY believes that when an airport moves in, the surrounding residential properties increase in value (like the Bastrop County Commissioners do).
A DIMBY probably doesn’t live near the Central Texas Airport (like the County officials who cooked up this deal), but thinks it’s ‘all good’ for those of us that are in the line of fire.
A DIMBY believes that the County has ‘no authority’ to protect us but somehow can manage to find the ‘authority’ to sell us down the river in a heartbeat.
Sound familiar? Just how many DIMBIES do you know?