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Letter to the Editor: Airport Committee 'Gave It Our All'

We were given a task which we took very seriously, and we were committed to seeing it through.

Dear Editor:

I had decided to wait until the accusations subsided before sending you this letter; 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 letter 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 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 in the paper. 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, 2012. 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 2 or 3 well-known pro and 2or 3 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 Board 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. Interestingly enough, comments thanking this committee for its dedication and work by Chairwoman Nash and Commissioner Heard were somehow left out of the GDP article on Wednesday.

Everything the Board 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...) 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 Board 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.

Kindest regards,

Gaye McNeil

Lawrenceville, Ga.  

North Georgia Weather May 03, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Gaye, first of all I'd like to thank you and the committee members for all of the hard work that was put into your report. I hope all of your efforts are not in vain. I am under the belief that several commissioners have their hands in someone else's pocket. Reckless behavior by the BOC is the very problem we have with politics in this country right now. Politicians, that once elected, believe they have more intelligence than anyone else in the world and will just do as they please because they can. Or because something is in it for them, which I truly believe is the case here. And if they are so intelligent, why in the world can they not understand ANY facts??? These are more than just opinions that this committee put together, they are FACTS. How can they NOT understand that??? When an intelligent person ignores the facts and proceeds to act without apparent reason, we should be concerned, there IS obviously a hidden agenda that we don't know about. There is overwhelming public support against the airport, all the facts point against what a few commissioners want, I don't understand why Beaudreau has such a hell-bent attitude toward pushing this through. C'mon Mike, you read this stuff, quit being chicken and face your constituents like a man.
Sabrina Smith May 03, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Hi Gaye: There are a lot of people who appreciate the time that ALL committee members put into this project. I am disappointed that an elected official who asked private citizens to participate would attack you because of the results. Average citizens feel that elected officials have no respect for them. Perhaps this will spur more people to show up for the next election and voice their opinion at the ballot box. Sabrina Smith
Jimmy Orr May 03, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Gaye, your letter to the editor in Dacula Patch was an excellent piece of journalism. Same was well thought out and well written and as NGW and Sabrina have expressed their appreciation to you and the committee members, I would like to do so likewise. I trust that perhaps you have submitted your letter as a letter to the editor at the Gwinnett Daily Post for inclusion in their newspaper. After the below the belt remarks you along with six of your fellow members on the committee took from Commissioners Lynette Howard and Mike Beaudreau as well as some other members on the committee, I feel that the Gwinnett Daily Post is morally obligated to print "the other side of the story" in their newspaper. As the young folks would say, Gaye, your letter to the editor in Patch ROCKS!
Henry Plainview May 03, 2012 at 11:48 PM
I'm sorry, its a nice piece of fiction that you write above Ms. McNeil, clearly you came to this committee with no bias "because of the threat to our property and quality of life". Are you kidding me? Ms. McNeil you have been quoted regularly over the past two years as being against against it , thus being predisposed. The committee should have had people on it that have never expressed there opinions one way or another. On a separate but related topic, It is mind boggling that the anti side didn't even give their fellow members an opportunity to read what had been written, what was the rush, at least you could have given them 24 hours? What was the rationale?. As a matter of procedure the way things like this normally work is that a committee votes on its decision and then writes a report, not the other way around. Please DO NOT insult the intelligence of the citizens of our County by pretending to not have an agenda. Oh and thanks for nothing other than having your agenda filled, what you have managed to accomplish is destroying an opportunity which could have helped our children and the generations to come, irreparably! Glad to hear that you will no longer serve.
M.K. OSBORNE May 03, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Look on the bright side ,you can still go to Athens and catch a flight .
Sabrina Smith May 04, 2012 at 12:41 AM
You must not feel comfortable with your position if you won't use your real name as you attack people.
Henry Plainview May 04, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Ms. Smith, I am not sure what you mean. My real name?
AgtOrange May 04, 2012 at 03:35 AM
More and more in life I realize that ' no good deed goes unpunished". It's as shame because so many talented and educated people won't get involved in local government because of situations like this. Thank you for your service. It has not gone unappreciated.
Bonnie May 04, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Virtually every meeting I attended (BOC meetings, 12-Stone Church, CRC meetings), proved by the number of people expressing opposition to expansion of the airport, as opposed to those showing support of same, clearly indicate that the majority wants to stop the process of trying to expand Briscoe Field. After two years of mindless haggling, I call on Commissioners Beaudreau, Lassater and Howard to listen to the majority and finally vote this proposal down. TED TUCKER
Jim Regan May 04, 2012 at 12:37 PM
The report was distributed to all committee members and to the DOT staff via email. I received a copy at 10:39AM on Monday and it took me about 45 minutes to read it. The use of email as a form of document distribution has been a common pratice for this committee and I think many businesses. If some committee members failed to check their email or chose to ignore a communication, is it fair to blame others for their negligence? We will never know, but perhaps they just pretended not to have received the email to add "drama" and controversy. Here again several committee members, myself included, stated we could have taken all the time necessary for them to read and discuss the report during the committee meeting, there was no established ending time for the meeting. Perhaps you were unaware of this, but the persons who chose to abstain from voting declined this offer. There were things I would have stated differently and other items I felt deserved more emphasis but overall I felt the report covered the major topics and actually aligned quite well with the five areas all 11 of the committee members agreed on were the most important issues. Most members of this committee have been involved since October and were well informed of the issues.
Jim Regan May 04, 2012 at 12:47 PM
When you say "some members" had an agenda I guessing you're talking about the committee members that appeared in videos posted on Fly Gwinnett Forward's website touting the benefits of expanding Briscoe? You know the ones filmed at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's office. What you failed to mention is that two independent consultant reports clearly state Briscoe is not a viable site for a regional airport, for numerous reasons. Also that the committee had testimony from two independent aviation industry analysts which said the chances of successfully initiating passenger aviation at Briscoe are near "zero". This committee acted on "facts", not desire, belief, hype, or emotion.
Ken Clark May 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Henry, I’m glad you reminded me about being an insulted citizen. I’ve followed this issue over the last 9 months & my intelligence has been insulted by; Propeller “thinking” that running Eos Airlines into bankruptcy after only 5 years (& with only 5 planes) would not be considered a proposal-killing credential for them. Propeller stating at their website that Lawrenceville’s property values have come down by only 3% (Jul '11) or 10% (Hot Topics) in the last 10 years. Try 25-40%. Propeller stating at their website that passenger flights at airports like Greenville Spartanburg, Birmingham, Lexington, & Norfolk start winding down between 8-10PM. Those airports avg. 20+ commercial flights per night between 10PM-7AM. Propeller providing takeoff noise data at their website for Global Express, Gulfstream II, and LJ24 aircraft as “current” LZU aircraft, even though they hardly ever use LZU. But they leave out approach noise data for twin-engine regional jets that are consistently 15-20 dBA louder than single or twin engine prop GA aircraft. The County not allowing the CRC to review the draft RFP like the CRC resolution said or saying the citizens can’t see the proposal, even though Georgia law says only that they are not required to disclose the contents. Gaye and the CRC did a thorough, commendable job – especially under the circumstances. They got the facts despite pro-expansionists trying the kill the CRC, resigning, etc. etc. Thank you Gaye!!
Andrew McNeil May 04, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Good day, Plainview! I never said I came to this committee with no bias. I, like the majority of others, came with an opinion. If you are unhappy with the people appointed to the committee, I would encourage you to contact the Commissioners. They appointed people from both sides of the issue, and several who claimed no bias. Are you aware that three of the members serve on the board of Fly Gwinnett Forward? Do you think they came with no bias? One reason this committee could never have made unanimous decision was due to the fact that almost everyone had his/her own opinion. I agree that there was, and still is the great risk of "destroying an opportunity"; however, I see that as saving my grandchildren from paying for a failed airport as required by the FAA. Ah, well, we agree to disagree. I don't mind the personal stuff...it's actually my hope that someday you and others who see this issue differently and are so ready to whine, will get involved in a similar process...at least by attending meetings, if not being on the leadership end. And by the way, my husband, mom, and grandchildren are also pleased that the job of the committee is done!! They rely on me a lot, and have made numerous sacrifices to allow me to participate. Good luck in the future, Plainview...

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