Lack Of Public Confidence Doomed Airport Expansion

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Commissioners in Gwinnett County voted 4-0 on Tuesday to not move forward with plans to privatize the county’s Briscoe Field.  The heavily Republican county northeast of Atlanta had been considering a public-private partnership which would possibly lead to commercial passenger service from the airfield, acting as a reliever airport to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson.  The vote appears to close that option for the foreseeable future.

Supporters of the initiative had urged a delay in the vote, noting that one seat on the board is currently vacant in the wake of last week’s guilty plea and resignation from Commissioner Shirley Lasseter.  Lasseter was implicated in a scheme involving bribery for favorable zoning votes along with her son, who served on the Gwinnett Zoning Board Of Appeals.

Much of the public opposition to the plan to bring a second passenger airport to Atlanta was based on arguments from nearby neighbors over customary noise and congestion concerns.  But the public faith in elected officials to turn one of the county’s prized assets over to a private entity must be considered in the lack of support.  Lasseter, after all, is only the latest commissioner to be implicated in a public corruption scandal.

Just two years ago, Commissioner Kevin Kenerly was indicted for allegedly receiving up to $1 Million in bribes related to various land deals, as well as a few counts of failing to disclose relationships with a company that successfully sought two rezoning requests.  Those charges are still pending.  At the same time, Commission Chairman Charles Bannister chose to resign his position in exchange for the D.A. agreeing to not pursue an indictment.

Gwinnett residents have also been given reasons to doubt promises made by their commissioners when sold the benefits of public-private partnerships given the promises made when the county purchased land and constructed a stadium for the Atlanta Braves AAA minor league ball club.  Commissioners approved the land purchase in 2008 and ultimately spent $64 Million of taxpayers’ funds, promising that the project would pay for itself with revenues from the stadium and new tax dollars from surrounding development.

Instead, the stadium is not producing significant positive revenue, and the plans for upscale residential and commercial space have not come to fruition.  Instead, zoning requests to convert much of the adjacent land to apartment development are proceeding.  The debt service is now primarily covered by a new 3% car rental tax.

Brett Smith, CEO of Propeller Investments, is clearly agitated with the Commission’s decision to shut down the process.  His company, which operates 37 airports, spent 3 years working on the project and submitted a 600 page proposal outlining their plans to invest $110 Million at Briscoe.  His opinion is that “the whole process was handled disgracefully” by the commission, and that “the shenanigans in this case were way off the charts”.  The commission blocked Propeller from making its proposal public to help win public support.

But Gwinnett’s citizens are right to be skeptical of a commission that has repeatedly demonstrated that close working and financial relationships with those seeking votes trump concerns of the citizens and county as a whole.  The growing lack of faith in government and its public servants has a message that can easily be projected statewide.  Propeller’s timing is unfortunate in that their proposal landed just as an unconvinced public has tuned in to the lack of appropriate separation between local officials and those seeking to influence them.

Average Georgians continue to grow frustrated with public officials who grow more and more dependent on the relationships with moneyed interests seeking favorable legislation and votes.  Elected officials continue to act with indignity when questioned if greater controls are needed, and feign surprise when yet another is exposed to have crossed ethical and legal lines.

At the state level, the concern will be registered on the July primary ballot with a question whether gifts from lobbyists need to be capped at $100 per occurrence.  While likely to receiving overwhelming public support, that solution alone will not fix the problem.  At the state level, there is no oversight.  State officials largely police themselves, which means most often there is no effort to police bad actions at all.

Propeller may have had a worthy proposal.  It is irrelevant due to a lack of confidence in the government that would have to take the initiative to implement it.

There is cost of public corruption.  It is much higher than the dollars involved.  It is the cost of undermining our very system of government.  Gwinnett is but the latest example of a degenerative illness that many state leaders still refuse to treat.  As such, the costs continue to rise for us all.

51 comments

  1. Will, the Winner! says:

    Dummies, they should have tabled it our postponed it. That would have been good for everyone. It would have increased county revenue and likely lowered property taxes. Most of all one day we may have flown out of there instead of Atlanta. But you can’t fix stupid!

    • Harry says:

      NIMBYs are bad for economic development, but they don’t care. I suspect most are on social security and pensions anyway.

      • Brett Smith says:

        When we started this “adventure” (for lack of a better term) a friend who runs Farnboro; one of the primary General Aviation airports outside of London, told me that the mind of the NIMBY can not be changed because they are unwilling to even listen to any point of view but there own. It took a while for me to get it as I thought if I could just spend some time with them…. I reached out to the leaders of Better Gwinnett on a number of occasions and they never even responded. Someone who claims to truly care about there Community, you would think, would want to explore options and then make decisions. The real issue is that more of the main stream, general population needs to get involved or people who have to much time on their hands and special interests end up affecting decisions that effect us all.

        • Brett Smith says:

          Oh bye the way this experience has certainly taught me a lesson, never try and do a public initiative again, life is too short. In the business world we sit down, evaluate a project, make a decision and move forward or punt. In politics and government it seems that all that happens is evaluate and then evaluate and then maybe some CYA and finally try not to make a decision until its absolutely necessary. The fate of Briscoe Field could have been decided in a few months one way or another. What a waste of time, money and emotions.

          If the process is not fixed the quality of our elected officials will continue go down the drain and nothing will ever get done.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            I don’t know if you should necessarily not try and do a public initiative again, it’s just that some of the dynamics that accompanied trying to do something like that at an airport like Briscoe Field were not necessarily all that favorable to something like that succeeding at that particular location.

            The population density characteristics while seemingly favorable to a potential market for commercial flights in heavily-populated Gwinnett and Northeast Metro Atlanta also worked against any plan to commercialize Briscoe Field as the airport sits in relatively densely-populated area with relatively dense residential development less than a mile from the historic downtown area of Lawrenceville, an incorporated city of nearly 30,000 that serves as the seat of government of a fast-growing and quickly-urbanizing county of over 800,000 residents.

            Just the fact that that airport sits in a densely-populated area with relatively dense residential development alone seemed like that would make any proposal to possibly increase air service a great challenge.

            Add in the increasingly ethically-challenged history of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and the bad timing of the board’s scheduled vote on the privatization proposal coming only a week after yet another one of the commissioners had resigned in the midst of a corruption investigation after admitting to accepting a bribe from federal agents and all of the potential challenges to privatize and potentiall commercialize Briscoe Field proved to be insurmountable when added together.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            There is no question to the need of a second airport on the Northside of the metro area to provide much-needed relief to the world’s busiest passenger airport at Hartsfield-Jackson.

            But with the density of population and existing development and the increasing density of new development, especially residential development combined with the ongoing ethics and corruption issues in Gwinnett County government, Briscoe obviously was very much likely not the best airport in which to proceed on that type of endeavor of privatization and possible commercialization.

            There are other airports in the Greater 28-30 county-plus Atlanta Region that are in sparcely-populated areas with more stable county governments that might be better candidates for privatization and possible commercialization and eventual expansion than Briscoe Field which is located in a heavily-populated area with relatively-dense nearbly residential development where local resistance was going to be a given, especially after witnessing the effects that ever-growing Hartsfield has had on the area immediately surrounding it in South Metro Atlanta.

            Hartsfield has obviously had a VERY good overall effect on the quality-of-life of the overall Atlanta Region and North Georgia.

            But the effect of that the mega-airport Hartsfield-Jackson has had on the area immediately surrounding the airport has not necessarily been all that great with the constant noise, vibration and fumes from airplanes landing and taking-off at the world’s busiest airport taking its effects on those nearby communities, especially those who live directly in the or even remotely close to the flight path of the busiest runways on the planet.

            It is these well-known effects that Hartsfield has had on its surrounding community that people who live around Briscoe Field are understandably fearful of.

  2. Jackster says:

    It was the politically expedient thing to do. Here you have a bunch of citizens who are engaged, funded, and are on message.

    What’s the best way to kill the uprising? Kill whatever the controversy is.

    And that’s just what they did.

    What better way to go into a primary, right?

    • Brett Smith says:

      Jackster, I will give them that they were engaged, clearly well funded and always on message; didn’t matter that there message was not based on any fact or logic whatsoever. He who screams the loudest wins the day?

      You know Charlotte Nash was more interested in getting this off the decks than being a leader and really figuring out a way to take advantage of the opportunity for the County. I wonder if she recognizes that the decision she made on Tuesday was probably one of the biggest ones she ever made or will ever make in her career i.e. the ability to create lasting positive change for generations to come? I guess it was easier to appease a few hysterical constituents then worry about future of the County 20 years from now. I would bet big bucks that Wayne Shackelford would have been very disappointed to see how this unfolded and its ultimate result.

  3. elfiii says:

    They were smart to dump it. Besides the citizens being up in arms (which doesn’t count for much when the local airport has been the recipient of FAA grants), the conditions of which take precedence), the proposed privatization plan was long on sizzle and short on steak.

    • Brett Smith says:

      Elfiii,

      The FAA set this up in a format so that a government entity would pick a team to work with from the RFP process and then once selected, work on an ultimate plan and negotiate terms that fit all all parties needs. It would be virtually impossible to come up with a turnkey proposal in this situation. I am guessing you haven’t other proposals in this field before (unless of course if you are in the airport business) if you take a look at what was proposed in other situations you would think we put to much in actually…

      • elfiii says:

        Um Hm.

        Actually, I served a term on the PDK airport advisory board as CEO Levitan’s appointee, I am a CPA and in my previous younger life I was an avid skydiver for 15 years so I am knowledgeable (though not an expert) on airport operations not to mention a “friend of aviation”.

        I direct your attention to troutbum70’s post below:

        @troutbum70 – “The memo concludes: “Based upon the minimal detail provided in the technical and financial portions of the Propeller Proposal as well as the concerns noted previously, the Department recommends rejection of the Proposal.”

        Over all the proposal scored a 51 out of 100. In case you have forgotten, that’s a “failing” score. ”

        Put too much in? It is apparent you left too much out. 😉

        • Brett Smith says:

          Ok now that you mention that you were a sky diver I am more concerned with judgement 🙂 . Elfiii, question, have you read the proposal?

          PPP proposals of this nature are meant to be a process, something that the County had no apparent interest in doing otherwise they would have had more than one meeting. To say that our team is not capable is disingenuous at best.

          Come on, some people may have been against the initiative, that’s a different issue…..

  4. troutbum70 says:

    So I’m a dummy for not wanting an airport around the corner from where I live? Sorry, I don’t think so. This was a red herring if there ever was one. Read what Gwinnett County put out in it’s statement from the Transportation Department. Lacking in detail other than the subcontractors. And it showed that once again, Gwinnett taxpayers would have to take another one up the shorts and foot part of the bill. This is directly from the County:

    Propeller’s proposal also lacked sufficient detail to address concerns regarding the validity of the financial projections including:

    No pro forma or even high-level financial plan to show how anticipated revenues would support the financing.
    Limited information on the major capital improvements of the planned facilities including location, acquisition of current leases, timing, and sources of funding.
    Lack of supporting information on expected traffic volumes (enplanements) and timing of anticipated traffic levels.
    Lack of supporting information on anticipated revenues (amounts for parking, car rental, food sales, retail sales, fuel sales, etc…).
    Conroy also noted several other potential issues with the proposal including the fact the county would not see any direct revenue from the arrangement for four years. The forecasted sales tax revenue projections were also called into question.

    “While primary or significant funding may come from FAA Airport Improvement Program Funding and GDOT grant funding for airport improvements, it appears from the Proposal that Propeller would expect GDOT and possibly County assistance for roadway access improvements to the airport. It is difficult to estimate the infrastructure improvement cost due to lack of information regarding the proposed terminal location and access points,” Conroy added.

    The memo concludes: “Based upon the minimal detail provided in the technical and financial portions of the Propeller Proposal as well as the concerns noted previously, the Department recommends rejection of the Proposal.”

    Over all the proposal scored a 51 out of 100. In case you have forgotten, that’s a “failing” score.

    And do you honestly believe the county would have lowered property taxes based on the airport revenue???? Ha!!

    Now we see Brett Smith threatening a lawsuit because no one wanted to play with him and his toys. So if there are other counties out there interested in working with him, watch out, he may sue you if you change your mind.

    Word has it that he plans to now go after Chamber members and people from the opposition group.

    To think, all he had to do was go someplace and buy up some land and build himself and airport. But seeing how he was highly involved with EOS Airlines, I doubt it would have worked for him.

    • GaDad says:

      Very well said Troutbum… I absolutely agree! I’ve been through this before. If you want to see the results of airport expansion, head on down to the “City” of Mountain View and take a look around. The secondary and incidental “unforeseen” damage was tragic (pollution, traffic, noise, clear cutting); added on top of corruption (sound familiar), resulting in the city charter being revoked by the Georgia General Assembly in 1978.

      Of course the “developers” are upset! What better time to try and seize private property through the use of eminent domain than when prices are so severely depressed. and if you didn’t think that would be the next step, then you are seriously naive or delusional.

      The airport expansion would have put a giant diseased boil in the center of Lawrenceville. Who cares about promised revenue when our environment, homes and way of life are destroyed…. oh, yeah! Don’t answer that, I know the answer!

      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        “Who cares about promised revenue when our environment, homes and way of life are destroyed…. oh, yeah! Don’t answer that, I know the answer!”

        You’re clearly not down with the “Shady Land Deal” state-of-mind. Shame-on-you.

        How dare you not want to sell YOUR soul so that someone else (NOT you, but unscrupulous developers and unethical politicians) can line their already deep pockets with more truckloads of money.

        …You really need to get your priorities straight.

    • Brett Smith says:

      Funny, facts obviously mean nothing – right I was highly involved in the demise of EOS; hilarious. I was asked to come in and rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. I am not sure who you are but for the record I was asked to come in two months before the Company went into bankruptcy mode to try and save it. That’s the fact. I know, I guess it makes some people feel better to put someone down and be a critic, always easier to do that than to actually come up with ideas and create.

    • Brett Smith says:

      So let me get this straight troutbum70:

      Given the ethically challenged government leadership situation in Gwinnett you are suggesting that the recommendation by the County should be taken at face value? Are you serious? I can’t imagine that there can not be a question in your mind based on the track record over the past three years, which has been less than stellar.

      Quite frankly it is offensive the way Propeller has been treated and doesn’t set a very good tone for Companies considering doing business in the County. It would have been more appropriate for the County to say thanks for considering our community, we appreciate the good will but its just not right for us. Instead we are faced with a situation of adding insult to injury, its just not acceptable and something which I would imagine would be of great concern.

      The reality (whether you choose to believe it or not) is that the Propeller Airports RFP response was under the direction of some of the most experienced firms in the industry. Proven professionals who have substantial airport planning experience dating back over four decades and included personnel and companies that have recently been contracted by the County. Our firm and our partners know how to fill out airport RFP responses and not just for small airfields.

      GBOC Staff said the team of subcontractors was sufficient. Sufficient is hardly the appropriate descriptor in this case. Aéroports de Paris, ATKINS, CDM Smith and the other subcontractors on the Propeller Airports team are highly experienced at airport operations, development and planning at some of the biggest and most important airports in the world.

      GBOC Staff said there was minimal detail regarding operation, development and planning. However Propeller Airports comprehensively responded to everything requested in the RFP. Since the contractor team was “sufficient”, why did staff not engage the team in a meaningful and good faith dialogue? Shockingly, the County’s current Airport Manger, the County’s Director of Transportation nor the County Manager were present at the only meeting that GBOC Staff held with the Propeller Airports team. Further, none of the County airport consultants were present. This is just not logical.

      Propeller Airports, at great expense, flew in Aéroports de Paris and other airport experts from as far away as Europe and South-East Asia, all in our effort to be responsive, as we have throughout this entire process. Instead of meaningful good faith dialogue with people in the room who know and understand airports the format of this one meeting with County Staff was more akin to a military tribunal. Without question, Staff created this unfortunate situation. It was not possible for more information to be provided by Propeller Airports regarding operation, development and planning (i.e. Transition Plan, Community Relations Plan, Operations and Maintenance Plan and Short Term and Long Term Development Plan) unless the County had allowed Propeller Airports to engage in real discussion with airport management and county management staff and gain access to critical information about the airport topography and facilities which was held only by the County. The GBOC apparently does not permit this and therefore has created an untenable situation. Furthermore these plans / our proposal are suppose to be iterative insofar as after consultation and dialogue with staff, future versions would have been produced involving FAA and Environmental Assessment work. This shows an inherent lack of understanding by County staff on how airports are planned and developed under FAA and NEPA guidelines and jurisdiction.

      GBOC Staff noted that a lot of the proposal was a justification for air carrier service at Briscoe field implying that this justification was adequate. The county staff criticized the RFP response for not including forecasts and Pro-forma financials yet neither the RFP nor GBOC Staff’s follow-up questions requested a forecast or pro-formas. Propeller Airport’s forecast and Pro-forma’s were available and would have been provided had the County requested them. Most of the financial issues sited by staff could have been solved if staff would have entered into good faith negotiations with Propeller Airports, which was not requested and something that was essential to the process. To say that the team of subcontractors is sufficient means that with good faith common sense dialogue Propeller Airports and the County staff should have been able to come to a place in which good decisions were made and everyone won.

      The economic impact of the privatization of Briscoe Field – direct, induced and indirect – is the greatest benefit of the project for the County and its citizens yet GBOC staff is bizarrely silent on this issue. Why is that?

      The elephant in the room is that County elected officials and County staff are duty bound and have a fiduciary responsibility to do things for the welfare and best interests of the entire County and its citizens and, in this case the greatest benefit to the County and its citizens – economic development – was ignored. I could go on but I think the point has been made. The process was not done in good faith and the County did not have the common decency to be decisive and either end the process or do it the right way. What a shame and waste of time for all.

      • Common Sense says:

        Mr. Smith, I don’t know the entire content of your proposal, and frankly I don’t care. I did see one claim somewhere of 20,000 jobs. Are you kidding me? Talk about outlandish claims!

        For the sake of argument, let’s just say the claim of 20,000 jobs is correct. If that is correct, then it seems your company could get a group of investors together and buy out all the homes within, let’s say, a 5 mile radius of the airport. If home prices will indeed rise as a result of the airport (as has also been touted by proponents) then this seems like a good investment. Buy the homes, sell them at a higher price right? This is not unprecedented. The developers that built the high rise office buildings around Perimeter Mall bought out home owners, at a premium price, in order to build their buildings. They had the courage to put their money where their mouth is.

        Didn’t hear this proposal from your organization. Did not hear one word about any sort of remediation for the folks whose lives would be RUINED by 737’s buzzing their homes. Admit it Mr. Smith, this would have been a financial boon to you and your group, with very little chance of a benefit to anyone else in the county. And when it failed, you would have walked away, leaving the citizens holding the bag.

        And one more point, no matter how the commission voted, your proposal would NEVER have been implemented. The issue would be in court from now until kingdom come. The BOC voted the will of the people. Folks did NOT come to Gwinnett to listen to 737’s fly overhead. If the people don’t want it, then it doesn’t happen. Irrespective of what you and a small special interest group might desire.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          “Folks did NOT come to Gwinnett to listen to 737′s fly overhead.”

          What are you talking about? OF COURSE people move into (what used to be the quiet semi-rural exurban setting of) Gwinnett to listen to 737’s fly overhead, just like they moved out to Gwinnett so that one day they may live next to exploding meth labs in a county with political leaders that would sell their mothers to the devil and their souls for a dollar.

          (…Or is that “sell their mothers for a dollar and their souls to the devil”? Oh well, doesn’t matter as whatever it is they would more than likely shamelessly sell it to the highest bidder just to make a quick buck.)

          And you are just flat-out wrong when you say that 20,000, no 30,000, no 40,000, no 999,999,999,999 jobs (or in their case, 666,666 jobs) is an outlandish claim as 20,000, no 30,000, no a zillion invisible jobs is just as good as creating a bunch of real jobs.

          You shouldn’t get upset just because your tax dollars would have been going to help create a bunch of new jobs that you can’t actually see as all of the new jobs that would have been created from Propeller’s very profitable deal (for them) at the airport aren’t the kind of jobs that are actually meant to be seen…They’re the kind of jobs that are not visible to the naked eye.

        • Brett Smith says:

          OK first of all we never said we would not do any of what you mentioned; that’s the point of a “process”. Again, if this was handled as a real process to truly explore the options then the County would have done what was in the best interest of the citizens and sat down and figured out options with us, if it was not possible to come up with a solution that fits all parties then hey we tried and it didn’t work. Instead the County did not make an honest effort and if it wasn’t going to make an honest effort it should have stopped this a long time ago for everyone’s sake.

          A PPP is not like procuring pencils or toilet paper, its much more complex than this. And Common Sense, to say that there would not be any benefit to anyone else is not being intellectually honest and anyone with any common sense (pun intended) knows that, come on you do too…. (Curious, why are you being so confrontational for crying out loud, especially since you “frankly don’t care”?)

          Anyway, its also pretty one sided to say that it would be a boon, um our fund was taking the risk with NO RECOURSE to the County, PERIOD. What would be the worst case here? We fail and the County gets a redeveloped airport with over $100M in improvements? Yes, believe it or not, that is the way it could and would have been structured.

          Oh and one more thing, you mock and say that jobs would not be created, so your saying that a redeveloped Briscoe with commercial service would be different than every other airport in the world that does crate jobs? Why is that exactly? Propeller has never given a definitive number, what we have said is UP TO 20,000 jobs. No one can say that precisely x amount of jobs would be created. What you can do is look at airports all over and a range can be determined. This is not rocket science. Take a look at the countless economic reports that exist and you will see that what we claimed is accurate.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            “Instead the County did not make an honest effort and if it wasn’t going to make an honest effort it should have stopped this a long time ago for everyone’s sake.”

            Dude, Gwinnett County wasn’t trying to make an “honest effort. The BOC was trying to drag this out until public resistance waned somewhat so that they could finally push your proposal through for a small fee…in the form of bribes and kickbacks like they do on most, if not all, of their shady land deals and highly-questionable contracts.

            The only reason why your proposal was voted down at all was because Commissioner Shirley Lasseter had just resigned after admitting to taking bribes and offering to sell her vote to approve the privatization of the airport.

            With Lasseter just recently resigning after admitting to trying to sell her vote on the airport, taking bribes and conspiring to ship illegal drugs and finding out that the Feds and the DA are investigating former commissioners and undoubtedly closely watching current ones in an ongoing corruption probe, did you really expect the Gwinnett BOC, a governing body with a well-known reputation for questionable, shady and unethical dealings, to either postpone their vote or approve your proposal?

            In the midst of the latest developer-politician shady land deal scandal yet (with the possibility of more to come), what other outcome did you really expect but a unanimous vote against your proposal? Which in light of recent and ongoing events was the most likely scenario so that the Gwinnett BOC would not appear to be trying to holdout to hit you up for “cooperation fees” (i.e. bribes and kickbacks) to guarantee passage or your proposal as has obviously been an all-too-common occurrance in Gwinnett government over the years.

          • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

            Mr. Smith, even though many may disagree with your proposal, I know that you still put in a lot of work to put together your proposal and you are obviously extremely disappointed right now.

            Even though I may not necessarily agree with the prospect of commercializing Briscoe Field, I would be very disappointed, too, if I were in your position of just having put in lots of time, money and effort into a proposal or project only to have it all fall completely apart due to circumstances completely beyond my control.

            But, in light of recent events involving yet even more revelations of bribes, kickbacks unethical dealings and an ongoing corruption probe within Gwinnett County government involving the Feds, if I were you I might be content to just quietly let this go and be happy that I hadn’t gotten any deeper into a business relationship with a county government which appears to be headed for what could be a really bad end that likely could potentially involve even more arrests, prosecutions, fines and prison terms for government officials and their associates.

            In the increasingly toxic environment that is Gwinnett County politics, you would probably be well-advised to not keep the talk about this thing going, especially just after a county commissioner resigned after admitting to accepting a bribe from a federal agent and expressing interest in being paid for more votes.

            If I were you I would put lots of distance between myself and anything or anyone affiliated with Gwinnett County government and keep a low profile right about now because in case you haven’t noticed, there is an ongoing criminal investigation into corruption involving the Gwinnett BOC, the same Gwinnett BOC which you have just dealt with.

            As painful as the rejection of your proposal may be to you, what is going on in Gwinnett is not about the airport anymore, but instead has become about how many people involved in the Gwinnett political scene may go to prison.

            The PR campaign for airport privatization is over, but the criminal investigation continues with possibly more shoes to drop in Gwinnett, so if I were you I would just let the griping over the airport fade away, as no one will likely be talking about Propeller or Briscoe Field in a few days as that chapter is done and there are plenty of political issues to keep the public’s attention (like the polarizing T-SPLOST referendum and corruption and lack-of-ethics in state government).

            And I most certainly would not be on one of the state’s most prominent political blogs keeping my name in the public eye while the people that I just had extended, yet unsuccessful, business dealings with (the Gwinnett BOC) are investigated with a magnifying glass and their affairs are examined with a fine-tooth comb by the DA and the Feds.

          • Common Sense says:

            Mr. Smith, no I don’t care, and still don’t. If you remember correctly some years back we went through this and people didn’t care then what the proposal was. The damage to the qualify of life (which is why folks moved to Gwinnett) was not worth what might be gained from the airport commercialization. Money isn’t everything. If you want to call me NIMBY, go ahead. But I bet if someone from miles away wanted to put a toxic waste dump on your block, you wouldn’t want that either, now would you? That’s the way I feel about it, and that’s the way 95% of my neighbors feel.

            You made a calculated risk trying to get this proposal through. You might have been better off doing a little more due diligence in gauging the opposition to ANY plan to bring heavy jets into Briscoe. Sorry you lost your investment. Maybe I am wrong about you, maybe you are sincere in what you say. But the way I look at it, you were trying to do this project at my expense.

            What is your response to the issue I mentioned about remediation? If you had had a plan for that it might have been better received.

  5. Max Power says:

    For the thousandth time Briscoe simply isn’t suitable for commercial operations without a significant runway lengthening and a ILS upgrade. I’m convinced the plan was to get the ppp established and then get Gwinnett tax payers to foot the bill for the expansion.

  6. Harry says:

    The fact remains, it would be convenient for most everybody to have limited commercial operations at Briscoe Field if the deal could be funded without massive taxpayer involvement.

  7. wicker says:

    As far as the Gwinnett Braves are concerned, you have to remember the context. The original strategy was to have the minor league teams (baseball and hockey) succeed so well in Gwinnett that it would convince the pro sports owners to move the Braves, Falcons and Thrashers (but curiously not the Hawks, hmmm!) from Atlanta for suburban pastures. It was a huge part of the urban/suburban warfare that reached its zenith during the Bill Campbell years, but has died out ever since Atlanta elected less divisive mayors (Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed) and more importantly since the suburban GOP has ceased to be “led” by Atlanta baiters like Mitch Skandalakis (the guy more responsible for the election of Roy Barnes than Barnes himself), Bob Irvin and Matt Glavin.

    The reality is that the second airport in Gwinnett or someplace else in north Georgia would have been a great idea (for everybody but Delta that is). It would have brought a ton of money – and leaders with money and ideas – to the region, and given the suburbs a tangible economic asset and engine that they currently lack, and added to Atlanta’s great advantage of being a transportation hub. However, it should have been done 20 years ago, when the land was much cheaper and the region was far less (congested) developed. Instead, that great opportunity was wasted on “leaders” who were more interested in wresting control of MARTA, Grady and Hartsfield and doing more things to harm the city for no reason other than not liking who the city residents chose to elect as its leaders (and by the way, whom many of them forfeited the ability to help choose those leaders by fleeing the city in the first place) than building an airport and doing other things of substance (no, the Mall of Georgia – remember when Jim Wooten claimed that it would transform the state? – is not “substance”) themselves.

    This isn’t unique to the Atlanta suburbs, by the way. In plenty of suburbs, a combination of NIMBY/misguided fiscal conservatism/being more “against” the urban core than “for” anything else has kept them from doing anything substantial that would help the suburban areas maintain economic and social vitality. Instead, they are content to rely on the things provided by the heavy lifting of the very urban core that they complain so much about. That is why suburban areas so often go through the cycle of growth, boom, decline and bust. There really isn’t much reason to believe that the north Georgia suburbs will be any different, and plenty of reasons to believe that they won’t be.

    I supported this idea – or some form of it – even if it probably was too little too late. But its failure – and don’t think that you are ever going to get anyone to risk making a serious proposal for Gwinnett in the future – will be just another footnote in suburban Atlanta’s decline, along with the upcoming T-SPLOST rejection. The small government/low tax crowd will celebrate it as usual without giving 10 seconds to realize that the failure of a second airport and workable regional transit will just be two more big reasons for companies – and the highly skilled workers and innovative leaders that they bring – to choose Tampa, Charlotte or Dallas over Atlanta. Of course, those folks will just find a way to blame the Atlanta mayor – or the federal government – for their declining fortunes just like always.

    • Harry says:

      The inner city Atlanta isn’t in any way superior to the Atlanta suburbs. We’ve all got our problems. But you may have a good point about the timing of the Briscoe Field proposal. There are quite a few successful suburban airports around the country, but they were all established years and years ago.

      If the Briscoe proposal were to cause substantial taxpayer burden, then we don’t need it. Taxed Enough Already.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      You make some very good points, but neither the highly-flawed regional T-SPLOST referendum or the incomplete airport privatization proposal are examples of anything that could be considered as being anywhere near remotely “workable” or “serious” proposals for Gwinnett or any other suburb’s future.

  8. Jane says:

    The tax payers should not be paying for the private pleasure of a handful of rich pilots. If they will not let the private sector run the airport,then shut it down and save the public a great deal of money.

  9. Better Gwinnett says:

    Let’s at least get the basic facts correct, Propeller does not operate 37 airports. Propeller is a start up company which has never operated an airport. Aeroports de Paris does operate 37 airports, the two majors in Paris, but also some of their airports are grass strips in cow pastures.

    Members of Better Gwinnett did meet with Brett Smith on two or three occasions. We ask for, but never received, the economic impact study to support the claimed $1.25 Billion annual economic impact and the 20,000 jobs to be created. Later the forecast jobs to be created grew to 30,000. Interesting that these studies were not included in the bid submitted to Gwinnett County.

    Our approach to this issue was never a NIMBY perspective. I even told Brett personally that if this were a properly sited “green field” project we would probably support it. To which Brett responded he had no interest due to the time it would take to build such a project – environmental would have been a problem. At a later date I suggested Propeller partner with Hartsfield to develop the 15,000 acres owned by the City of Atlanta near Dawsonville. Again no interest to my suggestion.

    If this project were such a good idea why did two consulting firms say Briscoe was not a viable alternative to Hartsfield? Why did two aviation industry analysts advise the Citizens Review Committee that Briscoe expansion had a near zero chance of success?

    The reality is the airline industry is in an extended period of contraction, every major carrier has gone bankrupt. Where there used to be seven major carriers there are now only four. Regional carriers are gone, out of business. Airlines have reduced routes, planes, seats and employees. Regional airports are losing carriers, as airlines retreat to larger hubs to reduce operating costs. Several airports are sitting empty with no passengers or airline flights – MidAmerica (St Louis) and Worcester (Boston) are examples.

    This project did not fail because of a lack of faith in government or elected officials it failed because a large number of citizens realized it would not be successful and that taxpayers would ultimately be responsible. Additionally citizens recognized it would also negatively impact our quality of life, which we value, and voice our will to the Commissioners.

    This is a case of the Commissioners making the right decision, but I agree it took far too long. This proposal could have and should have been dismissed two years ago.

    • Calypso says:

      “Our approach to this issue was never a NIMBY perspective.”

      What a crock of horseshi!t. It was nothing BUT NIMBYism cloaked under specious tales of taxpayer obligation.

      • gordon7 says:

        NIMBY? All proponents of commercialization at Briscoe need to ask themselves this question…AND answer it HONESTLY.

        Would I be happy about 737’s landing one mile from my front door?

        • Charlie says:

          I live less than a mile from the runway at Dobbins ARB and have advocated here a number of times that it should be the location of a second airport for Atlanta.

          Now, HONESTLY, Atlanta has been talking about a second airport for over three decades. Was Gwinnett Briscoe there when you bought your house?

          • gordon7 says:

            There is a substantial difference between Dobbins and Briscoe. Air Force jets compared to prop planes?

            Yes, Briscoe was there when I moved in twenty years ago. Before I bought my house I called both the Gwinnett Planning Board and the people at Briscoe to ask about what sort of planes used Briscoe. Both told me the same thing. “Sir, Briscoe is just a little country airfield. We don’t have jets there.”

            I grew up a few miles from Hartsfield. I have no desire to live in those conditions again…..even to a lesser degree.

            • Charlie says:

              The substantial difference between Dobbins and Briscoe appears to be that you live next to Briscoe.

              You thought enough of the concern about air traffic there that you thought to call the airport 20 years ago, but you then assumed that the clerk that answered the phone had the power to assure you that everything would stay the same for decades?

              • gordon7 says:

                If you truly live near Dobbins then you know what a ridiculous comparison that is. Commercial jets would be an improvement compared to the military ones using Dobbins. Commercial jets would not be an improvement compared to the prop planes using Briscoe.

                And why wouldn’t I expect an airfield to stay the same if it has been declared as such by the planning board? If one moves near a convenience store should he assume that one day it will become a regional mall?

                • Calypso says:

                  “If one moves near a convenience store should he assume that one day it will become a regional mall?”

                  Unless you’re a moron, yes, that is a distinct possibility.

                • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

                  “And why wouldn’t I expect an airfield to stay the same if it has been declared as such by the planning board?”

                  Because you live in a county wholly controlled by greedy land speculators and corrupt politicians who wouldn’t hesitate to sell their mothers if it meant making a quick and easy profit?

            • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

              “I grew up a few miles from Hartsfield. I have no desire to live in those conditions again…..even to a lesser degree.”

              I know the feeling all too well as I used to live less than 3500 feet from the end of TWO runways at Hartsfield.

          • Better Gwinnett says:

            Charlie I can give you Brett Smith’s phone number if you’d like to call him. Perhaps he can help you with converting Dobbins. But since you don’t live in Gwinnett and would not have been financially responsible when expansion failed, why don’t you leave this decision to Gwinnett residents.

            We have spoken. We didn’t want passenger aviation 20 years ago, this week, or 20 years from today. Perhaps you and others should accept this as a fact and know that anytime someone attempts to resurrect this project it will again fail due to citizen opposition.

            • Charlie says:

              And you’re also making the assumption that I support the expansion. As I said above, and have written here previously, I don’t think Gwinnett is the best option.

              But that also doesn’t mean that the opposition wasn’t based, as Gordon7 mentioned above, on the desire to not have a 737 landing a mile from his and your home.

              There is not enough public information to have determined if Propeller’s proposal was worthy or not. But NIMBYism and a lack of faith in this commission to do what’s best for the county and not their self interest are the chief reasons, no matter how you choose to cloak it.

              • rrrrr says:

                Brett – Yes I have read your proposal …. I think… including post vote items from Gwinnett County airport website.
                (Sourced from CBS 46 PDF – I can’t legally confirm its your work product RP022‐10 )
                Page 29
                D3.0 FIRM FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
                In as much as PA was formed specifically for this project we have no audited financials available.
                4.0 LETTER DETAILING FINANCIAL CAPACITY
                The financing capacity is covered above in section D1.0 and in the proceeding documentation. The PA has very strong financial institutions standing by to fund this project and has sufficient cash to meet immediate needs.
                D5.0 FIRM CREDIT RATING
                PA is not currently rated by any of the nationally recognized credit rating services as PA was recently formed for this project. Therefore, there is no “credit rating” as the term is typically used.

                Brett
                One can promise partnerships with subcontractors and their resources, even to draw in the extensive resources of a parent corporation, but the actual contract would be with PA itself. But just like with a train, the power remains with the engine. Gwinnett would have partnered with the caboose and THAT entity would be the only recourse, if things went astray. A bank’s letter(s) reflecting interest is NOT a track record of operations.

                Why wasn’t this proposal submitted under the corporate structure with a deeper history of documented cash flow of some sort? I somehow believe if the French firm had been the prime here, it would made things a little more interesting.
                It seems numbers in the millions were forecasted but the source detail of how those were calculated didn’t seem to be there. ( PLEASE post a COMPLETE 700 plus page copy or point to a link you sponsor)

                This result is/was pure business NOT NIMBY. Quality of life claims seem to be dismissed easily but finances, not so much.
                And one must ask having worked so closely with the BOC, even assisting with the development of the original FAA application, why does the commission’s dysfunction surprise you to such an extent now? You were here throughout the turmoil. Was any background research done related to the 1991 and 1994 failures of a similar measure? Since your firm was the ONLY response, didn’t that raise a red flag within your “groups”?

                You were obviously aware of procurement rules from the beginning and even engaged locally with the population at large on numerous blog sites well before your “formal” proposal was submitted. One is left questioning why those concerns of the so called “ill informed” where NOT hit head on and CLEARLY defused within your RFP, unless there was no solid way to do so. Advising someone to sound proof a home THAT didn’t require it before is NOT a winner.

                As to reaching out to leaders of Better Gwinnett, as mentioned in those blogs were questions, forums and other things suggested or that would be provided by you – that didn’t come to fruition and reasons were not explained but issues just died. Many of us would have listened to you directly but it just never happened.

                As to special interests I believe you are considered one in this scenario.

                The original author’s premise is correct; the leadership has cast a shadow along with the economy, the perfect storm. We’ve had: Trash service litigation, SDS litigation, baseball stadium surprise, indictments, and personnel cutbacks.

                Fact is we don’t believe we can afford to lose any more at this point; the well of “good will” is very low if not dry. So if we suspend belief in the input supplied by independent outside consultants with track records longer than 5 years, maybe some simply want a break from life altering projects right now based on recent past performances.

              • gordon7 says:

                Geez…If you want to put a negative spin on my wanting to protect my home, my investment, my health and my family’s health by calling it “NIMBYism” then go ahead.

                It’s my job.

  10. Better Gwinnett says:

    Another observation regarding one of Propeller’s major financial backers – Del Mar Asset Management. Does anyone recognize Peter Smith? He is one of the principals at Del Mar, a director for Propeller and Brett Smith’s brother.

    Since Propeller had no audited financial statements, was not rated by any major credit rating firm, and had to rely on a family member to provide something less than a “letter of credit” how wise of a business decision would it have been for the county to sign 50 year lease with Propeller?

    • Brett Smith says:

      Peter Smith is not my brother. Further Mr. Regan, I would think you would have better things to do with your time than continue to find some way to disparage me. How about coming up with ways to create rather than criticize? What ever you end up doing it would be highly advisable not to slander people for no other reason than sport, it may just come back to haunt you. Just sayin….

  11. A Gwinnett Resident says:

    Brett,

    I have read the RFP, your proposal and the county staff scoring rejection and compared them. The proposal was a bad deal for the county. This proposal was the opportunity to backup the claims that you had made for two years instead you just restated the claims without backup. No government is going to act on just what you want to predict without backup . If you wanted them to consider information then you should have included it in the proposal. That was your best chance at getting it approved. Also the county requested a General Aviation plan and instead got plan for commercial passenger service. Also it was stated in the proposal that as soon as a contract was signed you could move forward with plans to turn it into commercial passenger jet service without any approval from the county. Propeller wanted to not pay Ad Valorem taxes and not pay for road improvements which is our tax money as is the FAA and GDOT money. As to the name calling it went both ways throughout the process. You called citizens who live in Gwinnett County that did not want this stupid, uneducated, uninformed, etc. We are the ones that would have been affected in many ways by your dreams for Briscoe Field. Many of us spent hours researching on our own time and wth our own money (wish we could have had some of the funding like you think we did instead of digging in our own pockets and begging for donations) and long county meetings, missing work and spending Saturday at Festivals talking to people about the airport. We found many things besides quality of life (those could be backed up too) such as declining regional airports and lack of interest by carriers in those airports. Briscoe Field as other posters have said is too dense of an area to develop into a airport with commercial passenger jets. I agree that it should have been settled a long time ago. You should have given up when the two main commissioners that were for this (Bannister & Kenerly got in trouble). I seriously have trouble figuring out where you spent $2 million.

  12. dede00 says:

    For the people, by the people! We stood strong and won! So sorry for the loss of 2 million that was poured into it, but so thankful that I have quiet community.

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