Something stinks at the airport again

23 Sep

Airport Commissioner BT Chapman signed this letter which ran in the Enterprise Record last week.

Just a quick update on the effort to bring back airline service to Chico. The grassroots group, JetChico, has been meeting monthly, and is working hard to develop the ingredients necessary to attract an airline to Chico. Community forums are being planned to move forward with the effort and educate the public.

Redding’s recent addition of a route to Los Angeles demonstrates that airlines are returning routes to small communities, and the situation is improving for cities like Chico to re-establish service. What is needed is community support, and vision from local government and business leaders.

The upside of returning airline service to Chico and Butte County is huge. We have lost businesses and jobs because of the lack of service. Our major institutions such as Enloe Medical Center and Chico State University have trouble recruiting the best people because of our lack of connectivity. Right now, the city of Chico loses $1 million per year in Airport Improvement Fund and Passenger Facility Charges because we don’t have commercial air service. That is tax money that goes straight to other communities, but not to us.

Please stay tuned for more information, and support the effort whenever possible. Everyone is welcome to join the JetChico effort and participate in the monthly meetings, which are held in the Chico Municipal Airport conference room on the second Thursday of the month, at 6 pm.

— B.T. Chapman, Chico

But he didn’t write it. When I wrote to airport manager and commission liaison Sherry Miller asking her to forward some questions I had to Chapman, she responded,

Norm – please see the below email.

Juanita – Norm is the original author of the letter so I’m forwarding on to him.

“Norm” being Chapman’s co-commissioner Norm Rosene. 

I wondered why the deception, and when I got Rosene’s response later that day, I realized – Rosene is a founder of JetChico, the “non-profit” group that is trying to convince the city we should pay a million dollars a year to guarantee air service for the benefit of less than 15 percent of the population. People might wonder how he got on the commission, a guy with a personal agenda. 

They just kicked Steve Breedlove off the airport commission for grinding his personal agenda when he was supposed have the general welfare of the town as his first priority. I don’t see any difference here, and after my conversation with Rosene, I wonder if he should be removed from the commission as well.

It all started with the letter, and these two questions:

  • Please provide names of businesses that have specifically listed lack of Air Service as their reason for not locating in Chico
  • As to your claim that Chico State and Enloe Hospital have trouble recruiting employees because of lack of Air Service, have these agencies been asked to put up the $250,000 guarantee money for the airlines?

At first Rosene was eager to talk, thanked me for my interest.

Hi Juanita-

Thanks for your interest in JetChico and bringing back commercial air service to Chico. As one of the JetChico founders, I often am the one to respond to inquiries and put out information.
 
We started JetChico almost four years ago after Chico lost airline service. Our goal is to bring back reliable and modern commercial air service. We are not affiliated with the City, though Sherry attends our meetings. Everything we do is volunteer, and have not cost the City any money. We periodically report to the Chico Airport Commission, and also the City Council so that everyone is aware of where we are in the process. Our meetings are open to everyone, have been advertised several times in the newspaper, and are held on the 2nd Thursday of the month at the airport conference room. We created a website to post relevant articles and information.
 
Regarding your questions, two examples of businesses that left Chico in part because of the lack of air service were Google and Facebook. Google was running it’s “Loon” project at the Chico Municipal Airport, in a hangar at the north end of the field. I was fairly involved with their project, having facilitated their coming to Chico and using the hangar. Prior to Chico losing air service, one of their team leads told me that if we lost airline service, they would likely find another airport to do their testing. We lost airline service in December, and they stopped their operations at Chico the following Spring. The Facebook distribution center is another example. Facebook was using the Mach 1 building as a highly secure location to store and distribute laptop computers and cell phones. When they left, one of the reasons they stated for leaving was the lack of commercial air service. 
 
As to Enloe Hospital and Chico State recruiting faculty and staff, both institutions would tell you that it would be easier to recruit if we (Chico) were more accessible and had direct flights to Chico. Young professionals look at connectivity and ease of travel as one of the many items they consider when taking a job in a new location. Neither has been asked to donate any money towards the revenue guarantee program, but both have supported our efforts so far. The Chico State Construction Management program provided a cost analysis of a new terminal building, and a construction schedule and calendar. You can view the conceptual design on our website (www.jetchico.org). All of the design work was donated.
 
We will be holding public forums in a few months to educate the public about what needs to be done to bring back air service  and the rationale for doing so. No dates have been set, and as an all-volunteer organization, we tend to move slower than I would like. However, we have good expertise and knowledge in the group, and are steadily working towards a challenging goal.
 
Again, thanks for your interest.
 
Best regards,
 
Norm Rosene

JetChico

There you see, he signs himself, not as an airport commissioner, but as a representative of JetChico.  At the time that didn’t bother me as much as a couple of things he claimed in his e-mail, so I asked him a few more questions.

Hi Mr. Rosene,

Thank you for your prompt and courteous reply.  I have more questions that aren’t answered on your website, I hope you don’t mine. 

  • How many people did Google and Facebook hire in Chico to work at their airport operations, and what was their local payroll?
  • Where do you think you might get funding for the $250,000 guarantee the airlines are asking for?

Lastly, I feel it necessary to point out that Sherry Miller is a salaried city employee and her attendance at your meetings as a liaison to the city is paid for by the city taxpayers. 

Thanks for your anticipated response, at your convenience, Juanita Sumner

I asked the first question because this town needs jobs, good jobs. I asked the second question because I’d seen that $250,000 figure in a recent push piece by Enterprise Record shill Laura Urseny. Rosene responded, 

Hi Juanita-

I am unsure of how many people were part of the Facebook group. I toured the building after they left and I would estimate the number of work stations, and offices at 30 to 50. I do know they were well paid jobs, and that Facebook spent a lot of money in the remodel of the building. I have no idea of their payroll.

The Google Loon project used to send ten to 25 people up (from the Bay Area) for a week at a time. They stayed in local motels and ate at local restaurants. For a time they were speaking with the City about building their own hangar. I helped facilitate their meeting with Brian Nakamura, who was City Manager at the time. When we lost airline service, their interest waned, and they then went away.

The revenue guarantee fund number that we will be looking to achieve will be one million dollars. That is the standard amount that small communities must fund in order to get the attention of an airline. Many communities have done exactly the same thing that we are attempting to do, and one million seems to be the magic number. 

We expect local businesses and residents to contribute to the fund. That is what other communities have done. There is also grant money to apply for which can be utilized to attract air service. None of the above is unusual, but is actually quite typical to attract air service. Redding has used a similar strategy to increase their routes.

Thank you for pointing out that Sherry is “on the clock” for the City at our once per month meetings. As attracting air service was one of the goals when the City hired her, I think that the time is well utilized, especially since JetChico volunteers have probably donated tens of thousands of dollars in time and effort. Just the conceptual drawings for the terminal would normally cost several thousands of dollars. So, the City has been more than compensated for the hour she spends with us every month.

Please feel free to e-mail with more questions.

Best regards,
Norm

Unsure? But you helped these people establish their businesses? Based your estimates on empty work stations, but you can’t remember whether there were 30 or 50 – that’s a big difference of 20 less people employed.

And I’m guessing none of them were hired locally – “The Google Loon project used to send ten to 25 people up (from the Bay Area) for a week at a time.” 

But they stayed in local motels and ate at local restaurants? So that’s the kind of jobs we’ll get out of air service? Build their own hangar and import more employees who will likely keep their homes in the Bay Area rather than live and pay property taxes here. 

And then he floored me with “The revenue guarantee fund number that we will be looking to achieve will be one million dollars. That is the standard amount that small communities must fund in order to get the attention of an airline. Many communities have done exactly the same thing that we are attempting to do, and one million seems to be the magic number.”

I read a report on the JetChico website earlier this year that indicated airports in towns of our size will never pay for themselves. The million dollar figure will go up every year.

And here’s where he puts the bite on the taxpayers. “We expect local businesses and residents to contribute to the fund.”  

And then he goes on a ramble about how much money he and his rich friends have put into this venture, as if the city hasn’t spent anything. I’ll have to remind him, in my next reply, that the city has spent about $500,000 on dead-end studies over the past four years, for suggestions like, put city staffers in pilot and stewardess uniforms and have them prowl the Saturday Farmer’s Market and other Downtown events.  I can’t begin to relate how insulting that particular suggestion was, but I will say, it’s deceptive, just like Rosene writing a letter and having somebody else sign it. 

This persistent pressure from a small entitled group has cost the city more than money and staff time ( same thing!), it’s taken the focus of the airport commission away from properly managing the airport. The airport continues to be in the red because of pilfering to pay salaries and benefits Downtown. We’ve lost federal funding because the city didn’t take proper care of the runways or the required water towers. We lost the fire planes for the same reasons. 

Furthermore, the city is a bad landlord.  I know people who own small businesses located at the airport, they employ dozens of people, and they’ve been unhappy with management of the airport for many years. The airport has lost big tenants – Move.com moved to Doug Guillon’s business park on the other side of town.  It seems to the tenants that all the effort is going into attracting air service for a miniscule and entitled segment of the population (as well as outsiders who don’t provide any jobs here), while the needs of the airport tenants are being ignored. A recent decision by these same commissioners has tenants really pissed off – they rent these crapped out buildings from the city, make the necessary improvements on their own dime, and then when the lease is up the city can just take all the improvements the tenant has made without any compensation. You can’t pull that kind of  crap in the private sector – SLUM LORD – but here the city gets away with it. People are pissed about that out at the airport.

They should also be pissed about the airport commission’s constant attempts to charge for parking at the airport without providing security of any kind for cars left out there at night. It’s all about getting money to keep the airport open, at all. 

This demand for air service is just a windmill tilt, at the expense of roads and other needed city services. 

I’ll post my further conversation with Rosene when he gets back to me. 

Lastly, I wrote to David Little as soon as I got the response from Miller, which I sent him. According to Little, you are not allowed to sign your name to somebody else’s letter.  A few years ago my husband felt strongly enough about something that he wanted to write a letter to the editor, but he’s a hunt and peck typist. I typed professionally, even typeset newspapers, so I volunteered my skills at keyboarding and spelling whiz. Little recognized the e-mail address and, without even bothering to call or e-mail us about it, round-filed the letter.

When it didn’t appear, I contacted him, and he admitted that he thought I’d written the letter myself and signed my husband’s name, so he threw it out.  I harangued him into running it, I shamed him into, I asked him, “what, you think a carpet layer is illiterate?” Let’s see Dave Little pass the contractors board exam, for ANYTHING.

No response, and then this morning I see Laura Urseny’s piece, yakking up BT CHAPMAN’S LETTER! What a couple of shills!

Yeah, I’m mad. So should you be, Sucka.
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2 Responses to “Something stinks at the airport again”

  1. Jim September 24, 2018 at 5:20 am #

    As far as I can tell the airport manager has accomplished nothing positive and caused a lot of negative hostility among airport pilots. If she is pissing off our people, she is probably pissing off the airlines too. Seems that she is only here to appease the ChicoJet folks.

    • Juanita Sumner September 24, 2018 at 5:46 am #

      I agree Jim, Miller has been a terrible Airport Manager and needs to go.

      She is also supposed to be liaison to the airport commission, but never has proper reports and can’t seem to figure out how to operate the video machine, so none of the meetings are properly recorded. When she failed to put a video tape of the Consultants presentation on the website, I had to go all the way to the airport to get the video which I found to be dysfunctional. Get a load of this, both times I went out there to deal with her she was dog sitting different dogs in her office. That was her excuse that she was dog sitting. I was not aware city employees were allowed to bring their pets to work.

      It’s true the city hired Miller to attract a new Airline service.The problem is, she is also the airport manager, but doesn’t take that job seriously. I don’t I think the city does either.

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