Issue labeled 'petty' by one commissioner
Airport Commission chairperson Eric Hansen spearheaded an informal open discussion at the commission's regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13. The conversation topic was the recent happenings surrounding the commission's request for an exemption to the alcohol ban in Aviator Park.
Phil Shinar represented the Airport Commission with a letter to the City Council, which he read at the Council's meeting on July 15. At the time, Shinar was the elected secretary of the commission, but the verbal response by Councilmember Kim Nixon immediately following his request prompted him to resign his post two days later.
Hansen acknowledged Tuesday that the City Council as a whole did not provide a formal response and that Nixon spoke of her own accord.
The discussion was the only item on the commission agenda. When chided by City Manager Greg Garrett, who was in attendance, for not focusing on economic issues, Hansen responded by saying he thought it important to "clear the air."
Mayor Phil Smith also attended.
Hansen opened the subject with an apology.
"It was kind of in your face," Hansen said about the letter. "I want to apologize to the city and the people of Tehachapi for being kind of blunt on that."
The chairman said he tried filling out a special use permit and found it to be "unwieldy." He then suggested using an alternate registration system for Aviator Park, but the idea was quickly dropped.
Jerry Koszyk, the commission's vice-chairperson, was absent from the last airport commission meeting when the members decided to submit the request to the City Council. During the course of Tuesday's meeting, his opposition to the request became clear.
"The whole thing seems very petty to me," he said. "Of all the things we can discuss, I think this is very petty."
Garrett expressed a similar sentiment.
"It takes $250,000 more per year to run this airport than it brings in," he said. "It's really tiring to hear this petty stuff."
"But it's important to us," airport business owner Ken Hetge said in response to Garrett. "It's not a pilot's job to promote the city's economic development. It's your job."
"I'd like to be able to do more of what we're charged with doing," Hansen said.
In other comments, he stated his desire for the commission to spend more time focusing on how to bring in more business to the airport and help it grow.
The mayor played the arbitrator as the meeting wound down. He said he applauds the volunteers at the airport who helped build Aviator Park.
"Volunteerism makes this airport shine," Smith said. "I think this thing with the beer has been blown way out of proportion... The police officers aren't going to say, 'Here's a ticket, there's the beer.' You're just not going to get someone doing that."
Smith reiterated how city taxpayers are the owners of both the airport and its park.
"The public out there spends a quarter million dollars a year [on the airport] that could be spent on potholes, recreation, or whatever else," the mayor said. "My point I'm trying to make here is, you're on the inside of the fence looking out... But try to pretend the fence isn't there and we're all one big community."
After the meeting, Smith summed up the outcome.
"Everyone left shaking hands," he said.