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MITCHELL AIRPORT An anti-regional maneuver
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
- Thursday, March 23, 2006
RESLER, Staff: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
If a college political science class is looking for a classic case of how not to accomplish something worthwhile, the proposal to create a regional airportauthority fits the bill to a T.People who should have known better, namely private business interests and state lawmakers, missed the runway by a mile. In drafting the proposal tocreate the authority, they needlessly burned political bridges and, in effect, thumbed their noses at local democratic representation.When state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) and Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) proposed the authority inDecember, they argued that Mitchell International Airport, run by Milwaukee County, is an economic regional asset and therefore should ideally begoverned on a regional basis.This idea has merit. But some Milwaukee County supervisors asked why, if the county had done a good job running the airport, they should turn over the job to a regional authority. They also felt the lawmakers and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce were trying to push the county out of thepicture.The county has indeed done a good job of managing Mitchell, but we suggested earlier that the supervisors should think regionally. A recent article by Journal Sentinel reporter Larry Sandler on how the legislation to create the authority took form casts a whole new light on the matter,however. The results are disquieting.Based on Sandler’s interviews and e-mails and documents obtained by Supervisor Richard Nyklewicz Jr. under an open records request, Sandler foundthat more than three years before the public knew about it, business lobbyists were drafting a bill to create the authority that would wrest control of Mitchell from the county."One reason, "Sandler wrote, "for cutting supervisors out of the issue and barring the governor and county executive from appointing any elected officials tothe authority’s seven-member board was the business leaders’ fear that elected officials could block future airport expansion that would likely requirebuying and bulldozing nearby homes."Nyklewicz and other supervisors are furious. County residents, especially those who live near the airport, should be, too. Supervisor James White,chairman of the Transportation Committee, called the move "the most anti-democratic proposal that has come through here in a long time." We agree.Stone and Tim Sheehy, president of MMAC, say the intention was not to circumvent local elected officials or their constituents, adding that the authoritycouldn’t levy taxes. But it would still be a public agency.