Don't ignore voters on Chandler runways - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Don't ignore voters on Chandler runways

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Posted: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 2:24 pm | Updated: 3:47 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: The Chandler City Council would make a terrible mistake if it heeded the advice of businesses near the city-owned airport and stripped voters of their control over any proposed extension of the airport runways. But perhaps the council should consider trying again to get public support for the idea.

The Chandler City Council would make a terrible mistake if it heeded the advice of businesses near the city-owned airport and stripped voters of their control over any proposed extension of the airport runways. But perhaps the council should consider trying again to get public support for the idea.

The Chandler Airport Alliance, made up of about a dozen aviation-related businesses, is about to submit to the city a comprehensive plan for changing operations at Chandler Municipal Airport intended to boost its contributions to the local economy. Tribune writer Ari Cohn reported last weekend that among the alliance's recommendations will be to finally lengthen both runways.

For a number of years, the Tribune Editorial Board has advocated for modest extensions to the two runways that would provide more stability in Chandler air traffic. Small corporate jets and other aircraft that flock to Chandler in the winter are absent during hotter summer months because they can't take off safely.

However, a collection of airport neighbors and activists has loudly decried the possible extensions, claiming the result would be more airplane noise and pollution over Chandler as a whole. These critics have held enough political sway that they forced the City Council more than a decade ago to promise that voters would have the final say. And Chandler voters rejected longer runways in 2000 and again in 2007.

Frustrated and worried that voters will never understand, Cohn reported the Chandler Airport Alliance now wants the council to rescind its promise and to act on its own to make the change.

Such a step would be a severe breach of public trust and would undermine democracy in action. Instead of insulting voters, the council should trust their judgment by continuing to make the case for longer runways and picking an appropriate time for a new election on the matter.

This has happened before, as Chandler went to voters several times before getting approval to use public debt to build a new city museum. Chandler had to revise its explanation and refine the proposal, but the voters eventually agreed that Chandler should do a better job of preserving its history.

The city should pursue a similar, wiser course for the airport instead of locking out the voters and risking a political backlash that could wind up crippling the airport's future.

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