Newly elected District 2 City Councilor Joel Miller is passionate about the Colorado Springs Airport.
He used to serve on the Airport Advisory Commission, and with good reason. He's an Air Force Academy grad, active-duty pilot and still flies for the reserves, as well as for his employer, FedEx.
So when Mayor Steve Bach pulled all staff support from the ACC recently, Miller was upset.
Bach also thumped out former airport director Mark Earle and said he, Bach, would handle negotiations with the airlines and other issues involving the airport.
As might be expected, Miller's complaint led City Attorney Chris Melcher to issue an opinion.
And also as might be expected, Melcher came down on Bach's side. His opinion, released Monday, concludes:
Beyond the adoption of the Airport Budget, the operation of the Airport is reserved to the Mayor and the Aviation Director. Council may request the Mayor or his appointees to provide support to the Council established AAC, but the manner and extent of support to be furnished is within the reasonable direction of the Mayor.
Read the entire opinion:
But Miller isn't slinking away quietly. He sent Melcher a response to the opinion, which hammers on the ACC's role in land-use review and notes:
While I realize land use items are usually innocuous, I know of at least one instance in which AAC review and discussion with airport staff on a land use item kept an entire housing development from being built—that development was passed through the Planning Commission even though it sat squarely in the path of what are now called Accident Potential Zones and would've presented a hazard to citizens living there and a detriment to the growth of our airport.
He goes on to say he hopes the city will "comply with the spirit under which code is written and go even further to actually do what is right by the citizens of our city."
Then, Miller suggests that Melcher's opinion "may give the impression that the executive branch does not value the conduit our ACC provides."
As if that wasn't enough, Miller issues another slapdown:
"It's obvious from reviewing media coverage that there is already some public perception that the Mayor is not forthright with information. I would hate to have that perception grow...."
Read the entire letter:
In a formal statement sent via e-mail, Miller tells us:
The opinion weakens the Airport Advisory Commission, which is the conduit between the airport and the citizens who own it. When combined with the Mayor’s policy that airport staff no longer attend AAC meetings, it gives the impression our executive branch isn’t interested in the transparency this board provides. It also sets a precedent about the level of support other boards and commissions might be given.
Because of time management issues, I suggested that airport staff attend only meetings that are required by code, but so far that suggestion hasn’t gone anywhere. I’ve always been a great supporter of our airport and I believe we’ll hear good news soon about additional air service. Any new air service is the result of the hard work of airport staff over many months, even years, and that hard work is appreciated by me and, I’m sure, most of our citizens.
Something tells us this isn't over yet. Stay tuned.