I had decided to wait until the accusations subsided before writing this. However, it seems that a few people have decided to inflame this issue with unsubstantiated accusations for a long time to come. Therefore, I am led to write this column now.
Anyone who attended the Airport Privatization Review Committee meetings would know that we could not have come to consensus on the issue of commercialization. There were attempts on the part of the pro-expansion members to derail our task more than once, starting with the blindside resolution to dissolve this committee back in December of 2011. The pro-expansion members knew of the plan well in advance, and those of us who are against commercialization had no idea until we walked in the door of the Gwinnett DOT facility where the meetings were held that December day, and were given the resolution.
Several times pro-expansion members blocked discussion of pertinent information, factual information, by moving to stop discussion and move to the next issue on the agenda. They also referred to the Boyd report as biased, even though staff chose this group as the airline industry expert. Another expert was chosen by staff, Thomas Kinton, and he agreed with the bottom line of the Boyd report -- a commercialized Briscoe is not viable. Now it seems, led by Fly Gwinnett Forward and Propeller Investments, a few people are taking "shots" at us, even claiming that Delta Airlines wrote the Final Report/Recommendations and that we are on Delta's payroll.
I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when we planned the date of this April 30 meeting, no one had any idea a final report would be put forth. I am sure Commissioner Lynette Howard's feelings were hurt because this took place while she was out of town attending a government training session. This was out of our control. We did not resort to the politics to which Mike Beaudreau referred to. To make that insinuation is beyond insulting to this committee.
The report was sent out to all committee members around 10:30 a.m. on April 30. I don't know about others on the committee, but I checked and rechecked my emails every Monday until I left to attend our meetings, as I did last Monday. It is disturbing that others did not do the same.
What is truly bothering me is this: In October, when we got the list of appointees it was obvious that there were at least two or three well-known pro and two or three well-known opposition members on the committee. All members were appointed by the Board of Commissioners. Since October, committee members have not only sacrificed every Monday evening to meet, but have sacrificed literally hundreds of personal hours to gather information, interview experts/pilots/airport managers/write reports/generate power points. We did not arrive at our meetings on Monday, leave and do nothing until returning the next Monday. We were given a task which we took very seriously, and we were committed to seeing it through. Had we not been serious, we would not have, in our Minority Report last December, requested the BOC to reinstate this committee.
To have the very commission that appointed this committee attack us in the manner shown in the media is a blow below the belt. All that needed to be said was, "We thank the committee for their work. We will consider the final report in our decision" There was no reason to demean us or our work. In spite of all the negativity, Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and Commissioner John Heard took the high road and thanked the committee for its work and passion concerning this important issue.
Everything the BOC asked for and Commissioner Howard's specific requests are contained in the final report and recommendations. I personally took part in this amazing process because of the threat to our property and quality of life. In the process, I learned so much more -- about aircraft, runways, opening airports, fuel flowage, financial risks, airport management and the list could go on and on.
However, with the reaction from some BOC members shown in the media, it will be a long time before I ever get involved with any BOC process again. It is not worth the time this committee spent, mainly the sacrifices their families made (late dinners, not having mom or dad at the game, missed time with elderly parents, endless personal time on the computer, etc.) only to have our work diminished by Commissioners Howard and Beaudreau.
In closing, all I can say is that this report is a thing of beauty. It includes everything we ever discussed in our meetings, all of the expert testimony given, all of the reports presented, reasons for our findings, suggestions to improve the airport -- everything the BOC asked this committee to do has been done. We gave it our all, and we are satisfied with our product.
I make no apologies to any member of the board, to the public, to staff, or to any committee members. We have done due diligence. I wish the commissioners the greatest of wisdom and insight as they work on this major decision. I hold no grudges; however, I am disappointed in the reaction from some members of this board, and frankly, from the pro-commercialization members of this committee.
Gaye McNeil is a retired teacher who taught for more than 30 years. She and her husband Andrew have lived in Lawrenceville since 1975.