Scottsdale Council ousts Airport Commissioner over FAA letter

In case you weren’t aware of the politics associated with our nations airports this article ought to show you how bad it can be. The Scottsdale Mayor ought to be ashamed and embarrassed.

Where’s the Enforcement?
Scottsdale council ousts airport commissioner over FAA letter
By Edward Gately
The Arizona Republic

A divided Scottsdale City Council Tuesday voted to remove a city advisory-panel member from his position because he lodged a complaint with federal officials over the council’s vote to allow an apartment complex near Scottsdale Airport.

At Mayor Jim Lane’s request, the council agreed to consider removing John Washington from the Scottsdale Airport Advisory Commission. Lane was joined by Vice Mayor Linda Milhaven and council members Suzanne Klapp and Ron McCullagh in voting for his removal. Council members Lisa Borowsky, Bob Littlefield and Dennis Robbins voted against the move.

“After a 6-1 council vote, (Washington) chose to usurp or undermine, and go back to the Federal Aviation Administration … with a request to administratively interfere and potentially overturn this council’s vote,” Lane said, referencing the council’s vote on the apartment complex. “It’s just not an appropriate way to go. There’s nothing personal here.”

Borowsky said Lane took an “autocratic approach” by seeking to have Washington removed as commissioner.

“I read (Washington’s) letter (to the FAA) and it was not a complaint,” she said. “It was an inquiry, stating facts and … asking for clarification. I appreciated his concerns.”

Lane first asked Washington to resign after he filed his objection with the FAA, which responded by raising concerns about the apartment plans. Washington refused to step down.

“For me, it’s not an issue of whether I’m fit to serve,” Washington said after the vote. “It’s the airport, I care about the airport and I care about the city. I did what I felt like I needed to do.”

On Oct. 18, the council voted 6-1 to approve a non-major, General Plan amendment, rezoning and amended development standards for the Residences at Zocallo Place, a four-building, 240-unit apartment complex about 3,600 feet northwest of the airport runway. It could attract an estimated 543 residents.

Washington sent his complaint to Anthony Garcia, compliance specialist with the FAA’s Airports Division for the Western-Pacific Region.

In his response, Garcia said with residents moving in nearby, the airport likely would have to introduce noise mitigation measures at some point, and “these measures can have a negative impact on the airport’s utility, its economic viability and its status as a community asset.”

The letter, however, did not suggest the FAA planned any intervention in the matter.

The airport commission recommended the council deny this proposal and two others for apartment complexes near the airport because they would lead to problems with residents complaining about airport noise. The city Planning Commission recommended approval of all three.

The council has since approved a second apartment proposal near the airport, and on Tuesday voted to delay consideration of the third.

Of the four airport commissioners who recommended denial, Washington was the only one who was “exceptionally disrespectful” to the council, Klapp said. He then “thumbed his nose” at the council by going to the FAA and trying to get the council’s decision overturned, she said.

Littlefield said Washington’s removal tells all commissioners “don’t even think about having a dissenting opinion because we might dump you.”

“We’ve always before respected dissent in people who have differing opinions,” he said. “We just punished him for having a dissenting opinion, and that’s un-American. This is an outrage. Jim has really, totally gone off the deep end on this. This is insane.”

Numerous residents spoke in support of Washington. Deanna Shaffner said the council should be thanking Washington instead of seeking his removal. Jim Haxby, a Scottsdale resident and pilot, said Lane’s mayoral platform was promoting “openness,” but when someone does speak up “he does just the opposite.”

Also at the meeting, the council voted 5-2 to postpone until Dec. 6 consideration of a proposal for a 605-unit apartment complex south of Hayden Road and west of Northsight Boulevard in the airpark. Borowsky and Littlefield voted against postponement.

Michael Curley, an attorney representing property owner Joe Cardinale, said his client would like to get more information from the FAA. Gary Mascaro, the airport’s aviation director, said he is not expecting any further correspondence with the FAA.

Littlefield said it’s clear that there is not enough support on the council for this proposal, so the applicant hopes to convince another council member to support the plan.

Calpilots Editors Note: It is almost laughable that Mayor Lane would state that “there’s nothing personal here” – of course it was. And it was political too, you can bet on that. The next question is why is the Mayor so adamant that this project go forward?

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