BY WILLIAM F. HUGHES
Friends and neighbors in Hailey and Bellevue, and those in the north valley willing to consider the interests of the working class. It is spring! It is time to rise from your COVID-era coma and apply that newfound energy to changing a valley with a ‘new normal’ recently posited by my favorite local poet. “A new normal of division, waste and deception, selfishness, discord and greed? Neglect, ambivalence and apathy?” Yo, Badger! Way too depressing, get off the pity pot. It is time to shake up a self-serving and self-dealing valley establishment! I need everyone to step up hard, and step up now!
From recent reporting (IME 4/9) regarding the remote tower element of rapidly accelerating airport expansion efforts—“allowing controllers to view live flight activity side by side with air traffic radar on a panel of monitors.” Many residents of Hailey and Bellevue have the capacity to closely “view live flight activity” out their kitchen windows, soon with much greater frequency, as demand for both commercial and private air service will increase exponentially with the large influx of wealthy COVID refugees—vacation travel a priority for the affluent. Then there are all the family and friends visiting from the places they departed.
An airport established in 1932 was never intended for the current level of air traffic, much less the inevitable tsunami on the immediate horizon. To anyone suggesting I am simply projecting, mostly unregulated capitalism assures that if there is money to be made, supply will always be created to meet demand, a lesson clearly learned from the perpetual war on drugs. To the idiots who will say I shouldn’t have bought a home near the airport in a narrow valley, please, just shut up! If you live in the north valley or out Indian Creek, or elsewhere, your lives are not directly impacted by all the noise and fumes. Your opinion has very limited value.
For almost thirty years, former Friedman manager Rick Baird, and every County Commissioner and Hailey City Council member serving on the FMAA Board, provided assurances and PROMISED citizens larger aircraft would NEVER be allowed to fly into Friedman, indicating the runway would not accommodate the weight of larger aircraft. So, if all of these officials are not to be made into liars, the only alternative would be to increase dramatically the number of flights. Citizens of Hailey and Bellevue do not want the surging population of billionaires further tightening the screws of the torture rack of noise and toxic Jet-A fuel stench from Friedman they are currently suffering under. The black residue on everyone’s window blinds is also accumulating in the lungs of all the children in Hailey and Bellevue.
I strongly believe the pending purchase of the Eccles property to the south to accommodate expansion at Friedman is simply the beginning of an evolving agenda ultimately concluding in the extension and hardening of the runway, resulting in even more flights, with larger planes no longer prohibited, literally in the backyards of citizens of Hailey and Bellevue, entirely unacceptable.
The wealthy and powerful always get their way; 20 to 30 minutes additional ground travel not a sacrifice they will be willing to make, perfectly acceptable to throw the underclass under the bus once again, as they have been doing for forty years, destroying the quality of life for those who have worked hard to earn their place here.
In the summer of 2008, site selection for moving the airport was in its final stages, focused on BLM lands south of Timmerman with considerable room for parking both aircraft and vehicles, negotiations with the Sho-Ban over archeological considerations on the upcoming agenda. Considerable documentation and minutes from meetings produced by this process compiled by the FAA and FMAA would be readily available to provide a starting point to resume relocation efforts.
This effort was derailed by The Great Recession, an event clearly exposing a completely corrupted economic paradigm of parasitic capitalism, aggressively engineering the upward redistribution of wealth, manifested in mortgage securities fraud committed with complete impunity, devastating the nation’s economy. An economic system for four decades about nothing but the extraction and accumulation of unearned investment wealth for the economic aristocracy. Subsequently, Dick Fuld, of Lehman Brothers, making news in the local press.
The decision has already been made to move the airport, an objective only abandoned as a result of economic realities. NOW is the time to resume the process of moving the airport! I believe Sarah Michael resigned as Blaine County Commissioner as a result of the abuse she received from north-valley interests for her conscientious support for moving Friedman, clearly understanding the health and safety and also quality-of-life concerns of residents of Hailey and Bellevue. Such genuine compassion as exhibited by Sarah will apparently never prevail over greed in the octagon of human motivation.
The real estate industry, resort interests, and wealthy residents and second homeowners drive the local agenda. “We, the people” are irrelevant, absent representation, systematically pushed south, with many pushed completely out of the valley. No one in my neighborhood and beyond has ever been stupid enough to buy into the SVED “what-is-best-for-business-is-best-for-everyone” B.S., trickle-down lies, conveniently ignoring realities which have further widened the separation of socioeconomic stratification in the valley, real estate interests and north-valley businesses flourishing while small businesses in the south valley fall like dominoes.
Officials have made decisions promoting malignant growth predicated on personal relationships, cravenly butchering municipal statute, to force working taxpayers to pay all the future costs of impact mitigation and infrastructure upgrades for the projects of wealthy, connected developers, profit privatized, risk socialized. With a large transmission line running overhead down the bike path just outside my back gate, I have been forced to pay to bury a redundant line to the north valley to accommodate the sensibilities of the economic aristocracy, when informed, credible sources have identified that line as completely unnecessary.
I strongly support workforce housing efforts, but in the past, when they could have easily afforded a place in Woodside, as a struggling homeowner I have had to subsidize affordable houses much nicer than mine for people with significantly more income than me, who were enjoying international travel, new vehicles, season passes, and often dining out. I am responsible for paying the National Guard to provide security for a conference of multi-billionaires. And then there are the minimum revenue guarantees to the airlines, which subsidize $100 seats not just for visitors, but for wealthy second homeowners who could easily afford market-rate tickets. Yeah, life can be difficult, and life isn’t fair or means-tested, I get it, but these intentionally engineered economic inequities appear absolutely absurd in a valley filled with many ‘players’ and elected officials deceitfully identifying as liberal and progressive (D).
In the arena of social injustice, “classism” apparently gets a pass, simply because it is not based on the color of the skin and ancestry of the affected and oppressed. There will be massive resistance to moving the airport by the wealthy and powerful. “No, wealth isn’t created at the top. It is merely devoured there.” —Rutger Bregman
It will be argued that the money isn’t available to move the airport, when there are a couple of dozen individuals with palaces in this valley who could pay to move the airport by themselves, without even noticing any discernible diminution of their mountains of unearned investment wealth in an era of avaricious tax avoidance by the economic aristocracy, the “elite charade” of philanthropy simply an attempted distraction from institutionalized economic injustice.
Money is cheap to borrow right now, and revenue from an infrastructure bill perhaps available from the feds. Adding costs to airline tickets and additional fees to private aircraft at a new airport would pay for the move over time; that is how healthy capitalism works. The parasitic, profit-privatized, risk-socialized variety of capitalism practiced over the past four decades, and on steroids in this valley, has half the population of this country circling the drain. “Trickle-down” that drain, baby!
Past dreams of a fair and just society, along with environmental idealism as a priority, were summarily tossed in the toilet by the best and brightest, self-absorbed boomers, who sold out completely, now the natural systems of our planet perhaps moving past potential recovery, destroyed for mountains of unearned investment wealth delivered by unfettered greed to a tiny minority.
The true value of working citizens in the low-paying, often seasonal-service employment of a mountain resort is finally being realized after kicking the can of affordable workforce housing down the road for two decades. Local officials have been frustrated by the attorneys of wealthy NIMBYs and the conservative courts of a private-property state, a situation exacerbated by their mindless accommodation of and subservience to the real estate industry, common in Western resort areas.
The powers that be should embrace the objective of moving the airport after watching the elephant of gentrification rampaging down the valley for over twenty years. There is a golden opportunity in doing so. Rather than wasting so much time and energy lamenting, fighting about, and defending lawsuits over the issue of workforce housing, after the airport is moved, the powers that be could then provide 100-year leases on lots at the airport for one dollar, to incentivize businesses willing to build housing for their employees, for once relieving me from having to pay for benefits to those with way more money than I will ever have. Similar to what the Forest Service has done in the past for cabins constructed on public lands they administer.
Get loud, people! Do it NOW! With the statistical probability of an aircraft pancaking Hailey Elementary to soon increase significantly if the airport is not moved, keep calling the following public servants until a ‘Stop Work Order’ is issued for expansion efforts at Friedman.
- FMAA (Manager 208-788-4956 ext. 106).
- FAA (1-866-835-5322).
- County Commissioners (Jacob FMAA Board Chair 208-788-5500 ext. 1176; Angenie FMAA Vice-Chair ext. 1173; Dick, who I gave a heads-up on this, 208-481-0259).
- State Reps (Muffy 208-806-1895, Sally 208-934-8114, Michelle 208-726-8106).
- Idaho’s congressional delegation (Crapo 202-224-6142 & 208-734-2515, Risch 202-224-2752, Simpson 202-225-5531 & 208-734-7219).
- USDOT (Secretary Pete Buttigieg 202-366-4000).
- White House (202-456-1111 & 202-456-6213).
Use a stamp and WRITE LETTERS every month to the USDOT and FAA, addresses online, and of course President Joe Biden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Keep calling ALL numbers EVERY week and be extremely polite, saying something like “Airport expansion efforts at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho, must be stopped immediately. The Federal Aviation Administration must resume relocation efforts abandoned in 2008.” Leave a voicemail if no one takes your call. Keep calling and calling and writing until the FAA and FMAA announce they have stopped expansion at Friedman to reengage the relocation effort, even if it takes a couple of years. “Don’t Give Up! Don’t Ever Give Up!”
People, we can do this. I believe it is time to finally stop trashing the lives of so many for the convenience and financial interests of the few, when there is an ideal airport site twenty or thirty minutes south. With all the wealth, power, and privilege the economic aristocracy and their minions in local government possess, they will aggressively fight against moving the airport away from Hailey, using B.S. trickle-down propaganda about not biting the hand that feeds you, and the wisdom and reward of bending the knee to the Lords of Mammon in their Gulfstreams… know your place! NO MORE CAKE FOR YOU, NEXT!
William F. Hughes