Aug 27, 2010

Partisan board member attacks those who question airport finances

A letter to the editor in today’s edition of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus from a member of the allegedly nonpartisan Livingston County Aeronautical Facilities Board has more cheap, partisan political shots than facts.

You will recall that a couple of weeks ago the Livingston County Democratic Party pointed out that, according to county budget reports, the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport has lost $4.7 million over the last 10 years. The director of the airport Mark Johnson and board member Richard Pine objected to that claim, and promoted Pine, the wife of the former chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, to write the poison letter. At least he didn’t threaten to rip anyone’s “balls off.”

Pine claims, “Judy Daubenmier is wrong about the airport, which isn't surprising. While Democrats understand spending (that's how you buy votes), they don't understand investments anymore than they understand how to stimulate the economy.”

Someone should tell Pine that the Bush recession, the worst since the Great Depression, created this mess and how the stimulus is helping lift us out of it, despite the stalling tactics by members of his party. I disagree with him that you should “buy votes.”

The county and the airport was my beat for a few years beginning in 2000, and I actually agree with Pine when he says the “airport is a great asset for the future of this community.” However, I can assure you that many of his fellow Republicans on the Howell Township Board and people who live, actually once lived, near the airport, do not share that view.

This is a great statement from Pine: “Recognizing its potential, the federal government has invested about $30 million since 2000 to expand the airport. Those funds come from airport users, not taxpayers.”

Really; it’s not tax money? Great, then he should have no problem raising the gas tax because, after all, it comes from users, not taxpayers. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I don’t necessarily object to the use tax, but it is a tax.

Pine also claims that “The decision to expand the airport back in 2000 wasn't made lightly, but it was made. It was an investment in infrastructure. Even with the present economic downturn, the airport generates enough cash to pay back its loan and then some. When economic conditions improve, the airport will attract business and the county will make money. That's what investments are about.”

So, how is that investment by county and federal tax payers any different than the loans to GM and Chrysler or the stimulus in general?

Now, that may be true, but there is absolutely no way of knowing that. Kelly Raskauskas, D-Genoa Township, a candidate for the Livingston County Board of Commissioners made an excellent point.

“If the airport received $30 million in federal and state grants over the last 15 years, why hasn't this income been shown in annual county financial reports,” she said. “The airport website has zero financial information. Why make it so hard for county residents to figure out what's going on with their tax dollars?”

The revelation by the Livingston County Democratic Party earlier this month that the county taxpayers may be on the hook for $101 million in bonds in danger of default because townships used the full faith and credit of the county for special assessment districts (SAD) to build sewers for developers. The county was not very forthcoming with the information, and the newspaper ignored the story, even though a national newspaper had the story. It was the county party that really broke the story locally.

Pine says “The airport expansion wasn't a partisan issue at the time, so it's strange to see it made a partisan issue some 10 years after the decision was made.”” Really? The airport wasn’t losing millions of dollars when this began. There was plenty of opposition then, and I fail to see how pointing out the wasting of taxpayer money is a partisan issue.

But here is where we really understand what Pine is really all about: “But if I were a Democrat, I would be looking to divert attention away from the present economic mess and the trillions of dollars Democrats have added to the national debt. Our national debt isn't an investment, and the only way it will be repaid is through higher taxes and/or inflation.”

He seems to forget that it’s the Democrats that are getting us out of worst recession since the Great Depression created by Republican polices, and that Bush took a budget surplus and created a huge deficit. The Democrats have added to the debt in trying to stimulate the economy, not on a useless and unnecessary war and tax cuts for the rich that did nothing to stimulate the economy. Funny, when sainted Ronald Reagan created a huge deficit it Dick Cheney that said “Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.”

Why do they matter so much now?

But perhaps Pine can tell us what this has to with local races for County Commissioner.

“The question voters have to ask themselves is this: Would we be better off if the federal government behaved more like Livingston County, or if Livingston County behaved more like the federal government?”

The answer is there is much more transparency in the federal government, a huge Capitol press corps in Washington to expose waste and a federal government trying to fix the problems caused by the party that controls the government in Livingston County.

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