One thing we can agree on when it comes to the possible privatization of Briscoe Field is that it's become a polarizing topic that knows no middle ground. The pro and anti sides continue to be entrenched, so much so that this paper could simply run the headline "airport" on its website and generate numerous comments, split between how good it could be for the county and how loud and destructive it would be for those who live in Briscoe's vicinity.
The passion that comes out during this debate is obvious. Whether at local meetings or through posts on our website, it's clear where each person stands. It should be the same with our commissioners.
That's what makes last week's developments with the Board of Commissioners so disappointing. An official vote was only taken after a behind-the-scenes "consensus" decision was apparently reached by three commissioners, moving the privatization process forward. Chairwoman Charlotte Nash chastised the move as being done "outside the light of a public setting" and First Amendment specialist Hollie Mannheimer said that while she wasn't sure if it violated the state's sunshine laws on open meetings, it could create that perception.
With what has happened over the past year -- the former chairman resigning to avoid a possible perjury charge, another commissioner indicted -- that is a perception the BOC does not need and cannot have. Nash, who has preached about the need for openness since running for the position left open by Charles Bannister's resignation, was not happy and understandably so.
"This is a bigger issue than just the airport to me," she said. "We are falling into a trap of doing things the way that has been done in the past. The least you can do is hear it publicly, so no matter what people think about the issue, at least they don't have to say it was done in a back room."
The three commissioners who reached the "consensus" -- Shirley Lasseter, Lynette Howard and Mike Beaudreau -- supported moving forward in May. But their seemingly behind-the-scenes decision to move forward not only rankled Nash -- "No one had the courtesy to discuss the situation with me," she said -- it more importantly gives more ammunition to an electorate feeling disenfranchised by the deeds of previous commissioners.
The saying "perception is reality" is at work here, with the slightest slip-up being jumped on by residents already leery of their leaders. Which is again why this group of commissioners needs to hold itself well above the fray, avoiding the perception of back-room dealings.
As the privatization debate moves forward, we can expect that the pro and anti sides will stay firmly entrenched. It's not too much to expect that our commissioners remain open, voicing their opinions in the light versus making deals in the dark.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.