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An ugly betrayal on the issue of Paine Field


Last updated 11/3/2017 at Noon

Voters in Snohomish County Council District 4 will be picking a leader for the next four years next Tuesday. As I reflect on the past four years, it becomes abundantly clear that the incumbent, Terry Ryan, does not deserve another term. He does not display the integrity or judgment required for this position for the following reasons.

For over the past decade, he consistently and enthusiastically opposed the introduction of commercial airlines to Paine Field while he was a Mill Creek councilman, the mayor of Mill Creek, as a county representative to the Puget Sound Regional Council and early in his County Council term. He actively supported the city council resolutions of all the south Snohomish cities (Mukilteo, Mountlake Terrace, Bothell, Brier, Lynnwood, Woodway, Edmonds, and Mukilteo) that to this day still oppose commercialization.

He spent hundreds of hours in public and private civic meetings planning, strategizing, and coordinating activities opposing commercialization while promoting the appropriate use of Paine Field as an engine of aerospace excellence (Boeing, general aviation, business aviation, aircraft repair, etc.).

In short, there was no more staunch and effective ally in the battle opposing commercialization.

However, after at least a decade of actively opposing commercial service at Paine Field, Ryan has suddenly reversed his position and was the swing vote in March 2015 to allow Propeller LLC to build a commercial airline terminal! People were absolutely stunned. To say that this was a most shocking and unbelievable betrayal of civic trust is putting it mildly.

No one could figure out why Ryan would do such a thing. And his attempt at a justification was almost embarrassing and it parroted the exact same shallow generalities used by the proponents of expansion. For example: "...[It]..helps to grow existing business…” and “…helps in recruiting new companies…” plus “...economic development creates jobs...”.

This was for a county that consistently rated in the top five in the nation for economic growth without commercial flights!

At what cost to the surrounding area? Yup, some real in-depth analysis there. And the recruiting claim – never proven. On top of that, he added: “Additionally, Paine Field is dependent on FAA funding for needed capital projects at the airport. I cannot jeopardize future federal funding for Paine Field.” The second sentence is an outright lie because the county was already dealing in good faith with Propeller, and the FAA funding was never in jeopardy!

So again, why would Terry Ryan “flip” on neighbors, friends, and colleagues?

Many believe that the answer can be found in the list of Ryan’s current campaign contributions (available at WA Public Disclosure Commission). It is chock full of money from real estate developers, builders and trade unions. But the most telling contribution in the list came from…you guessed it…the CEO of Propeller, LLC.

Make no mistake, allowing this airline terminal will forever alter the peace and quiet of south Snohomish County – the only question is just how bad it will be. This decision cannot be reversed. Any restrictions on flights would be voluntary ones by the airlines (good luck there…).

The occasional airliners we hear now are relatively quiet because they are going in and out of Paine Field for maintenance, and are not loaded. But, in the future, the jets will be fully loaded and much louder. It is an established fact that airports and residences do not coexist well – noise affects property values. We saw a good example recently around SeaTac. Thus, we can bet that a significant increase in noise will not be kind to our property values.

To add insult to injury, the Propeller, LCC lease agreement that Ryan voted for is an unbelievably one-sided document. Because there was no meaningful due diligence done, we have no idea who is really behind Propeller, LLC. Nor does the county have any control over transferability or assignability. The lease and its renewal options could run for up to 50 years.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Review the lease yourself – you’ll see even more problems.

In conclusion, Terry Ryan has placed his re-election and personal interest before the interests of District 4 residents. By his actions alone, his self-proclaimed “boy scout” image is a myth. His integrity and judgment are seriously flawed and, for this reason, he is not fit to serve again.

Jim Shelden is a former Mill Creek resident who has followed the Paine Field debate since 1988. He has more than 40 years experience in the airline/aviation business.


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