Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 25, 2014

At least some officials support continuing autocross at airport

As a regular out of town participant in the Cumberland Airport autocross series for the past few years, I have been following closely (and with great disappointment) the attempts of certain local officials to ban the event.

It is worth noting how the rationale for this action offered by the naysaying Allegany County Commissioners, led by Creade Brodie, has shifted, bobbed and weaved over the course of the debate.

Apart from the well documented economic and community benefits brought by the events, the facts are that they DO NOT require taxiway or runway closure; the race is stopped and participants yield to all aviation traffic.

Another set of facts is that the airport is underutilized, has no scheduled commercial service, and really operates only to serve the few private citizens and corporations who can afford private aircraft.

If general aviation operations are not hindered, what’s wrong with allowing concurrent use by other honest taxpaying citizens (albeit perhaps less wealthy than private aircraft operators) that directly benefits the community, and generates revenue for the airport? As for liability, everyone signs waivers, and the events are insured.

To this frequent traveler to Cumberland, the decision appears to be the result of the arbitrary whim of a few officials expressing some sort of personal agenda, and an overweening need to be “right” in the face of overwhelmingly good reasons to the contrary — even an engraved invitation from the FAA to apply to allow this use.

These folks were wrong about the grant conditions, they were wrong about the regulations, and they are wrong about paved areas “outside the fence,” which are too small and in too poor a condition to be a meaningful option.

When elected officials start behaving like oligarchs instead of public servants, it may be time to send them back to their day jobs, where they can thumb their noses at common sense and the will of the public without harming the communities they are supposed to serve.

It is very gratifying that West Virginia officials (in whose jurisdiction the airport actually lies) and others (including Cumberland Councilwoman Nicole Wagoner) appreciate the rich racing heritage of the airport and the economic benefits of the autocrosses, and fully support this shared use of the facility.

I applaud Delegate Gary Howell for calling for an inquiry into what really lies behind the decision (“W.Va. lawmaker wants review of airport authority’s autocross denial,” June 23 Times-News, Page 1A). He is correct that the stated reasons simply do not hold water. They never have.

Ben Lambiotte

Washington

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