Gwinnett commissioners have lost the trust of their constituents. When they took office, they pledged to uphold the Code of Ethics for Gwinnett, which states: "to give to the performance of his/her duties his/her earnest effort and best thought, to seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished, make no private promises of any kind upon the duties of office, and uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust."
As the privatization/expansion of Briscoe Field is being "considered" by the commissioners, they have forgotten the "public trust and earnest effort and best thought" part of their oath. They continue to lend deaf ears to the neighbors surrounding Briscoe, and even to the mayors of cities close by. In spite of petitions, phone calls, letters, e-mails, editorials and mayoral statements in opposition to the airport's privatization/expansion, the commissioners have chosen instead to apply to the FAA and pursue partnerships for privatization, bringing subsequent expansion one step closer.
We built our home in Gunter Estates 34 years ago. Nestled in a quiet, serene neighborhood only two miles from Briscoe, we fled DeKalb County to avoid the urban decay that came with the expansion of Peachtree DeKalb Airport. We can't believe that we are faced again with the same situation.
Although several issues contributed to the decline of the Skyland Drive/Buford Highway area, the major culprit was the expansion of PDK. This area was once a thriving section of small, successful businesses and closely knit neighborhoods where children were raised in quiet but active communities. However, with the expansion of PDK came a decline, ultimately resulting in vacant homes and boarded up businesses.
We don't want this fate for our area. Those of us who live "close in" to Briscoe already experience our share of noise from private jets, small aircraft and helicopters, not to mention the gridlock on Ga. Highway 316 all day long and the odor of aircraft fuel. The expansion of Briscoe would only exacerbate these problems.
What about our property values? They're already on the decline. Expansion would certainly leave us with little to nothing in equity in our homes. Our commissioners were charged with serving the public interest with our best interests at the forefront of their decisions. Jobs may be created, biotech may evolve in Gwinnett -- but at what cost to its residents?
Gwinnett County appears to be in debt to the FAA for improvements made to the airport to the tune of about $40 million. Our commission would have us believe that the FAA will forgive that debt if the airport is privatized/expanded. Upon further investigation, we've been made aware that as long as Briscoe remains an FAA airport, the debt does not have to be repaid. The privatization/expansion has nothing at all to do with this debt to the FAA. A pertinent question is then: Why are the commissioners pushing so hard for this change in spite of little support from Gwinnett residents?
Although the cost of privatizing/expanding Briscoe Field can be measured in dollars and cents (our tax money), our quiet, peaceful communities and the joy they give us are priceless. We are blessed with a safe, clean environment in which to raise our families. We aren't ready to sacrifice what we (and countless others like us) have worked so hard to establish. How can this be "best" for our county?
We encourage anyone opposing this privatization/expansion of Briscoe Field to attend the Sept. 21 open commission meeting at the Justice/Administration Center at 7 p.m. We'll be there to defend our neighborhoods. Will you?
Gaye McNeil is a retired teacher who taught for more than 30 years. She and her husband Andrew have lived in Lawrenceville since 1975.