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"Four Tracy airport commissioners quit"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 23 Oct 2006 01:53:29 -0500
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Four airport commissioners quit
By Sarah Ostman
The Tracy (CA) Press
Frustration turned to action this week when four Tracy Airport Commissioners
turned their resignations into the City Council.
Following months of tension between the Tracy Airport Commission and city
officials over a plan to expand the financially troubled Tracy Municipal
Airport, four of the seven commissioners have resigned.
Chairman John Howard, Vice Chairwoman Susan Gilbert and members Vincent
Nastro and Jaime Locquiao quit last week, and resignation letters were
received by the City Council on Monday.
Commissioners and city representatives said tension has been building for
"There has been frustration from the airport commission because they have a
very aggressive vision for the airport, and City Council has been moving at
a slower pace," Councilwoman Suzanne Tucker said.
She said she hasn't talked to the commissioners about the resignations, but
City Manager Dan Hobbs seemed unsurprised.
"I had sensed maybe a different vision between what (the commission) wanted
to do and what's practical at this time," he said. "I know they wanted to
make a lot of improvements, but the business case wasn't there to justify
it. They had moved into almost an advocacy role, rather than an advisory
In October 2005, the commission presented its goals for the airport to the
City Council, such as a plan to extend runways to accommodate larger planes.
In response, the city requested that The Boyd Group, an aviation consultant
firm, review the commission's strategic plan.
But Boyd's report, released last May, called for only modest expansion. It
suggested additional hangars at an estimated $3,000 each, the reclamation of
fueling rights to the city, and the sale of the New Jerusalem Airport.
But the report opposed runway expansion, pointing to the neighboring
aqueduct and industrial parks as geographical barriers.
The city has backed The Boyd Group's recommendations over commissioners'
protests. The City Council also refused to forgive the airport's debt of
more than $994,000 to the city's water fund and general fund.
Commissioner Asghar Shah said he knew of Howard's plans to resign but said
he had been unaware until Wednesday of the resignation of the other three
He recognized the commissioners' frustration.
"We are never going to get an extended runway, never going to get a sewer
system; we can't sell the airport because of FAA money," he said. "Each time
the commission would recommend something, staff would come back with the
Shah suggested that the proximity of a proposed water park and housing
development was a factor in the council's decision to back the Boyd
recommendations to limit expansion.
"There's a lot of politics going on," he said.
Howard declined to comment on his resignation because he said the council is
trying to resolve the conflict.
Gilbert also declined to comment, calling her resignation a personal
decision. Nastro and Locquiao could not be reached for comment.
Maria Hurtado, director of Tracy's Department of Parks and Community
Services, said she was taken aback by the resignations.
"I'm really surprised. I had just met with (Howard) a week and a half ago.
We had a discussion about how to improve the way we were doing business,"
she said. "He seemed satisfied, and we both walked away happy."
Tucker said she hoped that an agreement would be reached with the council to
bring the commissioners back.
The airport, operated by Tracy Flight Center, sees about 50 private planes
touch down on two runways each weekday, said a flight center mechanic.
Roughly 10 of those come to a full stop, most often to refuel.
Unlike neighboring airports in Livermore and Stockton, Tracy's airport is
unequipped with an instrument landing system, making it impossible to land
in poor weather conditions.
Employees at the airport were unaware of the resignations at midweek but
said they had witnessed the tense relationship between the airport and the
"(The city) bought new overhead lights for our shop but haven't installed
them because they can't find anyone to install them for cheap enough," the
mechanic said. "That's what happens. People come in with fresh ideas and
everyone thinks 'this is great' - and then the bureaucracy hits."
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