We we need to look at old problems in new ways if we want to get things done. I brought creative thinking and action to the Airport Community Advisory Team, and I’ll bring the same to the Airport Board.
An Entire Region
I will push for community investment that benefits the entire Tahoe region, not just areas local to the airfield.
Right now, our spending-without-strategy makes it difficult to ensure that all those who invest in the airport via property tax dollars are equally represented.
But this will become easier once we stop thinking about solving small problems, and start focusing on regional solutions, like forest fuels reduction, aircraft carbon offsets, transportation and more.
Aircraft make noise—this will not change. The airport has done a lot to address noise, but we can do more, without sacrificing safety or unduly restricting pilots.
Here are a few options:
- Further educate our pilots and tower controllers, not just about the how, but about the why.
- Diversify flight paths to reduce repetitive overflights. Now that we have a tower, we can do this safely.
- Consider longer-term airport modifications to help keep aircraft away from populated areas.
Nothing is off the table. We need to stop thinking we’ve done all that we can do. We also need to stop thinking that just because a problem couldn’t be solved years ago that we can’t solve it now with fresh ideas.
Rethinking Property Tax Dollars
Our airport is funded, in part, through property tax dollars collected from Placer and Nevada counties. The Airport Board returns some of those funds to the community through investments, sponsorships and purchases.
While community support is essential, without clear strategy and structure to govern how those tax dollars are distributed, folks line up at Board meetings like the airport is an ATM. Non-profits shouldn’t have to worry that they’ve filled out the correct forms in time, or rely on hope that they catch the Board in a generous mood.
We should also be thinking about larger scale regional investments that will benefit all of Tahoe and Truckee. Let’s look into pooling resources with other area districts and agencies, so we can really move the needle for our region. A few million from us; a few million from them—before you know it, we can afford to solve some serious problems.
And we need to save money, too. Future noise mitigation and other efforts could be expensive. If we start saving now, we will have money when we need it. We won’t have to rely on bonds, and we won’t dismiss good ideas just because we don’t have the cash on hand.
I spend airport money like it’s my own. My ACAT record shows how seriously I take the use of public funds.
I am 100% in favor of our year-round control tower. Our tower has not only improved flight safety, it is a required resource for future safety and noise solutions.
If you’re unsure about the benefit our tower provides today, imagine this:
You’re driving on Interstate 80 during heavy traffic. The lane stripes disappear, making lane determination a free-for-all. The center divide vanishes, leaving no barrier between your side and the oncoming traffic. And just when things couldn’t get worse, a group of bicycles, pedestrians and radio controlled toys enters the highway.
This is what the skies over our region would be like now without our tower. We’ve got planes, gliders, helicopters, sky-divers, fast jets, slow ultralights—and now we have drones, too.
But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be creative about thinking of our tower as an asset. Maybe we can streamline operating costs. Or maybe we can make the tower a mentoring facility for local folks interested in careers in Air Traffic Control.
The full benefits of our control tower have not yet been realized. It will help us improve things. In the meantime, flight safety is not negotiable.
Air Traffic on the Rise
Long-time residents tell me there are many more airplanes flying in the area than there used to be. They are correct.
Air traffic has increased threefold since 2005. This trend continues for the same reason vehicle traffic has increased: more people want to be here.
We can’t refuse any air traffic, regardless of aircraft type—FAA regulations see to that. And we can’t ask people to stay away—our local economy depends on tourism.
What we can do is plan for that expected traffic and noise increase now, before our options become limited and more expensive.
I want to work with our airport staff and regional communities to create a 10-year action plan for addressing air traffic and the noise that will accompany it. Some solutions will be easy, while others might require tough battles, and be expensive. But we need to have the discipline to prepare and act.
Pretending that folks will stop wanting to visit Tahoe and Truckee is not a strategy. I’m confident we can adapt to increasing traffic without contributing to community annoyance. But the longer we wait, the more difficult this will become.
* Chart based on airport-collected data.