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"Christmas trees come down at Sea-Tac, controversy rises"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas trees come down at Sea-Tac, controversy rises
Some want airport decorations put back up
The Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer

Christmas still might have a chance at Sea-Tac Airport.
Amid the growing controversy over the Port of Seattle's decision to remove
Christmas trees from the airport, many agree on one thing: Packing away the
trees could have been an overreaction.

The port's staff took down the trees Thursday after commissioners learned a
lawsuit could be filed the next day if they didn't allow an 8-foot menorah
to be displayed beside the largest of 15 Christmas trees throughout the

"In hindsight, we probably should have handled this in a more deliberate and
thoughtful manner, but at the time we were given a very short timeline,"
Commissioner John Creighton said Sunday evening.

The five port commissioners will meet Tuesday evening, and though they have
a crowded agenda, Creighton said he wouldn't be surprised if the issue is

"I can think of at least three out of five commissioners who would like to
see the trees back up," he said, adding that how the commissioners deal with
being more inclusive at the meeting remains to be seen. 

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky of Chabad Lubavitch organization in the University
District threatened a lawsuit after his request for a menorah display at the
airport didn't move forward as quickly as he anticipated.

Bogomilsky said his organization wants to diversify the airport's display,
but removing the trees was not its intention. 

Chabad Lubavitch provided menorahs for public display in more than 20
locations statewide, including at the Seattle Center. 

The organization's request is usually met with enthusiasm, Bogomilsky said.

"This whole thing is just beyond me -- I'm so appalled and disappointed," he
said. "By no means did we want to remove these (trees)." 

A representative from Chabad Lubavitch started talking with airport
officials in October, and a lawyer informed them of a possible lawsuit at
least a week ago, Bogomilsky said.

But airport officials said the threat of litigation was much more sudden.

"It was either, 'put up the menorah,' or they would go to federal court and
sue us 18 hours later," Port of Seattle Commission President Pat Davis said.
"They wouldn't wait."

No matter what happens, Chabad Lubavitch has no intention of filing a
lawsuit anymore, Bogomilsky said.

Commissioner Bob Edwards said he hopes that after Tuesday's meeting, the
trees will go back up along with decorations that represent other holiday

"It's an international gateway -- why not celebrate other cultures?" he

If the trees do stay down, maybe airport officials will consider a different
kind of decoration, Edwards joked.

"Imagine if we had a blow-up of the Grinch to greet travelers," he said. 

"The airport that stole Christmas."

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